You want to know as soon as possible if they’re safe, but why should you never try to call a loved one who is in an active shooter situation?
Because that could get them killed.
In news stories following the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, worried parents talked about trying to call their children to find out if they were safe. That’s understandable, but those calls could have put their kids in more danger.
If someone you love is at a location where a mass shooting is in progress, the best thing you can do is to wait for law enforcement to get the situation under control before making anyone’s cell phone ring.
As helpless as that makes you feel, it’s the smartest and safest thing to do.
If you are the one in the location, don’t let your cell phone turn you into a target because it’s lighting up and making noise and therefore attracting the attention of the shooter. Either turn it completely off or call 911 then put the phone down so the police can hear what’s going on and get away from it.
These excerpts from How to Survive an Active Shooter explain why, if you can’t escape, you should get rid of your cell phone:
You should not draw attention to yourself. Do not scream. Do not exhibit broad movements that the shooter will see, or you will become a target.
If you can, get your cell phone out of the picture. It’s bad news for you through-and-through. I don’t care if you put it in a pocket and you turn it off—and I mean turn it off!—just get it out of the situation. If you don’t, it will light you up, it will make you buzz, it will play a song, or it will be mistaken for a weapon. It will draw attention to you time and time again! Your cell phone is bad news. Get it out of that picture as best you can, as quickly as you can. The more you can keep attention away from yourself, the better the chances you will survive.
You don’t want to be carrying that cell phone with an active shooter in the room. … Call the police, tell them what’s happening, where it is, who you are and give them your description. You don’t even have to do that last one in an active shooter event. They will have a million more questions for you that you don’t have the time to answer. So just put the phone down and let them hear everything. You are now away from the cell phone; it’s not going to light up and go dark, light up and go dark, attracting attention. It’s not going to light you up. It’s not going to be an attraction to the assailant—and thus it becomes a distraction, drawing his attention away from you—but you are feeding constant information to the police.
So again, don’t cling to the cell phone. If you have the opportunity to call 911, do it, and set the phone somewhere where it can just keep giving [law enforcement] data. Don’t keep it with you.
We are heartbroken every time a mass shooting occurs. We will let others discuss what might have been done to stop the incident and what could be done to prevent similar events in the future. Our mission with How to Survive an Active Shooter is to give you information and tools to help you survive should you find yourself in an active shooter situation.
She is the author of Words to Work By: 31 devotions for the workplace based on the Book of Proverbs and Finding Joy in the Morning: You can make it through the night. She is also the co-creator of several coloring books for adults.