You are a teenager. You are at services. There is a shooter. What do you do?
The father of injured 8 year old Poway Chabad Congregation Synagogue congregant Noya Dahan just gave a passionate statement to CNN on where he recounted the moments of horror that nearly took the life of his daughter. Choking back tears, he exhaled and said ‘there is no one really to protect us.’
You are living during a time where anti-Semitism and white nationalism have taken a foothold in this country. Ignorant, scared people who can only show their strength through the weapons that they carry are being encouraged over social media and their own psychotic urges to take Jewish lives.
What do we do? Do we hide in our homes and refuse to venture out? Do we refuse to worship where we choose? Do we refuse to engage our friends and schoolmates in classes and schools that have also become targets of hate? Do we just drop out of society? No, of course not.
What we do is become aware. Aware of our immediate environment. Aware of our rightful place in society as Jews, Americans, Israelis – whatever nationality or culture you belong to. Aware of what we can do to change the level of hate and ignorance.
Awareness is key*, and here are some things you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, your congregation, and your faith:
- Know your surroundings. When you enter familiar or unfamiliar territory, whether it is a synagogue, theater, restaurant or school, know where the exits are. Silently imagine that a shooter has entered, and rehearse in your mind what you would do. How you would take cover. Where you would go. This can save your life and the life of those with you.
- If you are startled by the sound of a gunshot, the natural reaction is to freeze. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, this reaction can be fatal. If your path is clear and you can safely get to an exit, then run. If you cannot evacuate immediately, you must have presence of mind to find a place where you can barricade and protect yourself and those close to you. In an open auditorium like a synagogue, this may not be an option. However, if you are in an office or school room, this may be what saves you.
- If you commit to running outside, be prepared to meet with police and first responders. Do not be mistaken for the shooter. Be sure to put your hands up and open showing they are empty. Do not stop running until you are clear of danger. Contact 911 and clearly report the location of where you heard shots. If you have information about the shooter, the weapons being carried, and how many injured, this will be valuable in assisting authorities to help others.
- If you are trapped in a facility during an active shooter and you are confronted by the shooter, then you have to assume that your actions are all that you have that will stand between yourself and great harm. If you are trapped in a school room or office, look for anything that may be considered a weapon. Search around you for sharp or heavy objects. Collaborate with those around you that may assist. Do not stop fighting if it means that it may save your life.
- The most important thing for you to do, whether it is to run, hide or fight – is to commit to that decision.
Those who can, should reach out to law enforcement and invite them to your synagogue so that they can instruct the congregation on best methods to insure their safety during an active shooting. Urge your Temple to engage security and monitoring technology and mass notification platforms.
Here are some useful links. We invite you to familiarize yourself with the following content. The lives you save may include your own.
Dept. of Homeland Security Options for Consideration Active Shooter Video
Ready.gov Active Shooter Page
What Should You Do If There’s An Active Shooter In Your Office
*The above steps were written in concert with recommendations by the Dept. of Homeland Security.