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Safety and Security

Run, Hide, Fight!

Run, Hide, Fight!

Since at least 66 percent of active shooter events end before law enforcement even arrives, teaching response strategies can help save many lives. Here, I will discuss the most common method taught in the United States: Run, Hide, Fight (RHF). The Department of Homeland Security promotes the process as a simple way to train your employees and provide them with a strategy in case of an active shooter scenario. The three basic steps create a framework that people can easily use in stressful situations. By keeping the process to three simple steps people can easily remember how to act, even if their mental faculties are impaired due to stress and shock. Additionally, the process applies to a wide variety of situations and can be easily adapted to match the scenario at hand.   

While RHF is a viable strategy for approaching active shooter scenarios, it is not without its critics who assert that the method fails to address some variables. 

  • One concern is the process’ failure to address the “freeze” that typically paralyzes people and inhibits their brains during shocking situations. This could cause people to not be able to decide whether the best course of action is running, hiding, or fighting in active shooter scenarios resulting in a delay in our actions that would render this method obsolete. Training will help you overcome this “freeze” response.
  • Another concern is that the process is based on linear, sequential thinking. Choosing the best strategy in a dynamic active shooter scenario where conditions change every second is difficult and RHF should be interpreted to cover options (rather than sequential steps). Thus it can be adapted to encourage us to think outside of a linear fashion to ensure we do not ignore potentially superior strategies. Don’t think of RHF as a sequential list, think of it as a menu of suggested options.
  • Another downside to the RHF model is the individualistic focus of the process. Originally developed for businesses, the nature of the process is very difficult in a school setting where teachers are responsible for fairly large numbers of students who must act in concert despite their differing physical, emotional and critical abilities. Critics argue that these factors make RHF nearly impossible to pull off, especially for teachers of younger children. 
  • During an active shooter scenario, communication is key, so individuals can make an informed decision based on real-time information.  Information that will be nearly impossible to collect and disseminate quickly enough to be useful. Unless you are within close proximity where you can actually see or hear what is happening RHF might not be viable.

While no active shooter training technique is perfect, RHF is a useful framework and good for anyone to know if faced with surviving an active shooter scenario. Despite its shortcomings, RHF remains a process that could be lifesaving to someone in a certain circumstance by providing an alternative to a traditional lockdown and if having an alternative response can save even one life it should be included in a comprehensive response plan. RHF is really just a shift in policy that gives you the freedom to make decisive life-saving decisions.

      The key to successfully using RHF is to know:

  • RHF is optional.
  • RHF is situational, not linear. 
  • One might choose to FIGHT instead of RUN, HIDE. 
  • One might choose to HIDE instead of FIGHT, RUN. 
  • One might choose to RUN and then FIGHT. 
  • One might choose to HIDE and then FIGHT.
  • RHF is dependent on what you know.
  • RHF is dependent on what you can do.


Most emergency situations that involve a suspect with a weapon in or very near the school will result in a lockdown being declared and in most of those circumstances, you will respond by locking yourself and your students in the classroom.

Some things to consider:

  • Most planned attacks are very brief.
  • Most assailants do not successfully breach a locked interior door.
  • You are probably now in as safe a situation as you can be, under the circumstances.

You can make yourself even safer by:

  • Staying quiet and unseen.  Move away from windows and doors. Silence phones.
  • Turn off the lights to increase concealment.
  • Prepare to fight, improvise weapons or defense and be ready to react.
  • Barricade the door.  Quietly place large heavy objects between yourself and the likely source of bullets. They will make you harder to get to and provide cover & concealment.
  • Think linearly, and place objects against each other in a line from the door to the far wall to create a brace that an intruder cannot successfully push against.


You’ve made the decision to run, but how should you do that exactly?  You know how to run but do you know how to flee from danger? That’s different.

Before you decide to run, you have some things to consider.  

  • Your own physical ability to run and sustain a run as you flee.
  • All of your student's ability to run and sustain the run long enough to reach safety. 
  • Do not leave a student behind!
  • Your ability to react to changes in the planned route. Will you have alternative routes?
  • What information do you have? Will you possibly be running toward the danger?
  • Do you know what’s happening and where the gunman is?
  • Are the dangers in fleeing greater than staying? If you answered yes, then don’t flee.

Remember most planned attacks on schools are very brief and most attackers were not able to get past a locked interior door. Except in very extreme circumstances, your safest response is to hide behind a locked interior door.


Try to get as much distance between you and the assailant. Chances are the assailant will not be a practiced marksman. Even very slight mistakes in aiming become exponentially greater with distance. A small miss becomes a big miss with distance.  Don’t try to accomplish one continuous run. Run in short sprints from Cover to Cover.


Cover is any object that will stop or deflect a bullet. Getting as many things between you and the source of the bullets will increase the likelihood that the bullet will not reach you. You don’t need to stop and crouch behind cover, keep the cover between you and the assailant and continue to flee.  


Unlike cover, an object of concealment will not stop a bullet.  Concealment can still work in your favor, especially when combined with cover and distance. Concealment keeps you from being located or at least disrupts aim if you are seen or partially seen.


Fighting should be the most extreme and last resort.  In a fight, you are trying to disrupt their ability to effectively aim the gun. Disrupt their possession of the gun. Stop the killing.

Don't misunderstand, we are not advocating seeking out a fight with an armed assailant, however, if you are faced with no other alternative, choose survival and your best chance may be to fight.   

Disrupt the assailant’s aim.  

  • Aiming a gun effectively in a confusing situation is difficult.  Anything at all that creates a distraction makes it more difficult. 
  • Throwing objects, even paper, into the air can help disrupt their aim. 
  • Pelting the assailant by throwing heavy objects is even more effective. 
  • If you choose to go hands-on, continue to try to disrupt their aim by pushing the barrel of the gun down toward the floor.

Disrupt the assailant’s possession and control of the gun.  

  • Grab hold of the gun over the top of the gun and try to grasp the barrel. Get two hands on the gun if possible.
  • Push down to make their aim lower or at the floor.
  • Most guns are pistols. Most pistols are automatics. Grasping the slide of an automatic may do two things. The slide will move slightly back causing the gun to go out of battery (so it will not fire) or foul the firing mechanism of the gun if it is fired.
  • Grasping the gun by the barrel gives you leverage, use it to your advantage. Use both hands and grasp the gun solidly.
  • Let gravity do the work.  Once you have a firm hold on the gun drop to the floor. Either they will lose their hold on the gun or they will fall to the floor with you.

Control the assailant's Spine.

  • Your goal in grappling with the assailant is to control them by controlling the spine.
  • You may lose your fine motor skills so use large sweeping motions.
  • You can control the spine by grabbing the hips, head, or neck. It is best to go for the largest target - the hips.

Force multiplier

  • Maximize your strength by creating a team. Two or three against one is better than one-on-one.
  • Create a plan as simply as; “I’m going for the gun, you grab his hips.”

Don’t fight fair.

  • You are in a fight for your life and the lives of others.  
  • Commit to the fight. Do anything you can to win.
  • Bite, gouge, kick, stomp, twist, hit, spit, yell, scream, push, pull, grapple.
  • Get mad. Anger is a natural reaction that releases hormones to help you fight.  
  • Only winning the fight matters. You must win.
  • Do not give up. Keep going.

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