February 28, 2021

Active Assailant Response: Plan to Survive, by J.M.


Your personal safety, along with that of your family or your extended group of like-minded individuals, is probably a top priority for you. As a self-prepared individual, this is part of your nature. You are committed to ensuring the security of those you care about, not only in your normal day-to-day activities, but also in preparation for an unanticipated threat.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, an unexpected incident may include an attack on your place of work or a public setting you happen to be in at the wrong time. With the riots and looting taking place in so many of our cities, it’s not hard to imagine these vicious behaviors degenerating in the near future to include the use of more advanced weapons to carry out a widescale attack.

Although hopefully unlikely, such attacks are indeed possible, including one involving an active assailant or shooter. Preparing for one is an important step in defending yourself and those who depend on you. This requires you to stay aware, have a plan in place, and know when to run, hide, or fight. This article addresses actions and responses you can take to protect your life and the lives of others in case of an active assailant situation.

Stay Aware

Readers of this website are more cognizant than most people about the evil that men are capable of inflicting on the weak and unwary. As a precaution against such depravity, we’re all responsible for taking certain steps to make our homes, property, and personal workplaces as secure as possible. If this isn’t something you’ve already done, now is the time to act. There can be no more delay.

As an individual you have an important role to play. The first step to staying safe is being prepared and aware. Throughout the course of your day, it’s important to trust your instincts if something looks or feels wrong. Recognizing early signs of trouble may help to prevent a potential attack.

Being inattentive or indifferent to your environment is a dangerous mindset. Even the most experienced people can become complacent, especially when doing tasks that have become routine. To overcome this tendency, you should deliberately and consistently use situational awareness to be alert to any potential threat so you can react without being taken by surprise.

Color Codes of Awareness

Situational awareness is the conscious decision to be aware of your surroundings and the activities taking place within it. It is an important behavior to practice as you go about your day. Use your senses to look and listen for anything out of the ordinary. This doesn’t mean being paranoid or having an irrational fear. Instead, you simply maintain a general alertness that helps prevent you from being surprised by the unexpected actions of another person. You are relaxed, but remain aware of the people, sights, and sounds around you, better enabling you to more quickly recognize unusual behavior and potential threats. Because you’re alert and aware, if an attack or emergency suddenly arises, it should not take you completely by surprise.

Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper (founder of the American Pistol Institute, which later became Gunsite) developed his well-known color code to define one’s state of mind and willingness to act during the different levels of situational awareness. (This is not to be confused with the government’s color code that corresponds to the amount of danger it believes exists at that moment in time.)I advise you to research Cooper’s color code and make it a part of your daily behavior. I’ve summarized/paraphrased Cooper’s own words below to offer a brief overview.

White I am not thinking about my safety or surroundings at all.

In condition white, you’re unaware and unprepared. If attacked in this state, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy and ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, “This can’t be happening to me!”

Yellow I may have to defend myself at some point today.

In condition yellow, you’re in a state of relaxed alertness. There is no specific threat, but you are prepared to react quickly to any danger that might arise. You use your eyes and ears, and your body language shows that you’re alert. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, “I thought this might happen someday, and I know what to do.”

Orange I may have to defend myself from this specific threat that I am now oriented on.

In condition orange, something not quite right has gotten your attention and you shift your primary focus to it. Something is “wrong” with a person or object. Something may happen. You have decided that you may need to take immediate and decisive action. You set up mental triggers such as “If he does this, I will do that.” Or “If that happens, I will do this.”

Red I am now preparing to take (or am taking) immediate action against this threat to me.

In condition red, you have made the decision to act if the mental trigger from condition orange is tripped. You are no longer considering your options; you already have decided what you’ll do. When the moment comes, you will act with deliberate aggression immediately, either to attack the threat, evade it, or perform whatever action you’ve resolved to do.

Have a Plan in Place

While situational awareness can alert you to danger, it can’t always stop an unpredictable threat from becoming reality. When startled or scared, the natural human reaction is to freeze, leaving you vulnerable to an attack. But if you’ve made a plan of action, you can overcome this tendency to freeze. Your survival may depend on it.

The plan doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. It just requires considering your options and deciding in advance what you will do when faced with certain conditions. Depending on what’s happening, the appropriate action may be to run, hide, or fight. When deciding what to do, remember that your safety – and the safety of those depending on you to protect them – comes first.


If there is an attack, your best option may be to evacuate the immediate area if it’s safe to do so, moving with speed and purpose to a safe area where you can make a plan to fight back or continue escaping the threat. Plan in advance by identifying primary and alternate evacuation routes you can use if you need to run. As you go about your day, imagine what your escape route would be from the areas you most commonly live or work in. In public places, take note of the locations of the doors, emergency exits, or other avenues of egress.

If you ever need to flee, you’ll be a step ahead if you’ve already identified which path to take. If you decide to run, let other people know there’s an attack taking place and encourage them to escape with you. Once you’re in a safe place, call 911 and try to prevent other people from entering any dangerous areas.


If you can’t safely escape the vicinity of the threat, consider finding a place to hide if you have the opportunity to do so. Locate a secure room or conceal yourself behind large objects. Act quickly and quietly. Try to protect your hiding place the best you can. Turn out the lights, and lock and barricade the doors. Call 911 and silence your electronic devices. Remaining quiet and out of sight makes it less likely you’ll be noticed and targeted.

As part of your plan, practice reaching shelter locations that you’ve identified in different areas of your home or workplace. Determine if there is anything that hinders your access. Rehearse this regularly. During an emergency is not the time to test your plan.


In some circumstances, you may have no choice except to fight. If no alternative exists, fight the attacker with all your strength. Commit to action and act with aggression. Use the tool most appropriate to the situation that you possess and are capable of using effectively. For many, this will be a firearm, knife, or self-defense weapon. Do what is needed to survive, and don’t stop until the assailant is incapacitated.

Interactions with Law Enforcement 

When authorities arrive at the scene of a widescale attack, they likely will not know who the assailant is. Anyone can be considered a threat so don’t make sudden movements or rush towards the police unless you want to risk being shot. Instead, stay put, keep your hands in plain sight, and follow the instructions of law enforcement. If you have any information about the number of assailants, their location, or a physical description, tell them. Be aware that the first responding officers will not treat the injured or begin evacuation until the threat is neutralized.

Depending on your environment and the attitude of your local law enforcement community, it may be helpful to build personal relationships and an open line of communication with public safety before an emergency arises. Law enforcement also may be willing to come to your workplace to help draft an active assailant response plan or to offer training.

In Closing

Although an active assailant situation or widescale attack may seem remote and we all strive to prevent one from happening, we must always consider it a possibility. Remember to practice situational awareness as part of your daily routine. Be prepared with a plan so if an attack occurs, you can decide whether to run, hide, or fight. With the right mindset and a plan in place, you will be much more likely to avoid or survive a violent attack.

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