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Before, During and After: Staying Safe in Public Spaces

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Mass attacks in public spaces are not uncommon in the United States. This year the country has already experienced 267 mass shootings and several other mass attacks.

These types of attacks can be well thought out or random. Individuals may use a firearm, a vehicle, homemade bombs and other methods to cause mass casualties.

In the event of a mass attack, it is important to be prepared to protect yourself and help others.

Follow these tips to keep you safe in public spaces.

Prepare before:

  • Stay alert. Always be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • If you see something, say something to local authorities. That includes suspicious packages, people behaving strangely or someone using strange communications.
  • Observe warning signs. Signs might include unusual or violent communications, substance abuse, expressed anger or intent to cause harm. These warning signs may increase over time.
  • Have an exit plan. Identify exits and areas to hide wherever you go, including work, school and special events.
  • Learn lifesaving skills. Take trainings such as You Are the Help Until Help Arrives and first aid to assist the wounded before help arrives.

Stay safe during:

  • Seek safety. Getting away from the attacker is the top priority.
  • Cover and hide if you can’t evacuate.
  • Fight only as a last resort. When you can’t run or take cover, attempt to disrupt the attack or disable the attacker.
  • Take care of yourself first. Then, if you are able, help the wounded get to safety and provide immediate care.

Know what to do after:

  • Remain calm.
  • Keep hands visible and empty.
  • Report to designated areas.
  • Follow law enforcement’s instructions and evacuate in the direction they tell you to go. Listen to law enforcement for information about the situation. Share updates as you can with family and friends.

If you or someone you know experiences a mass attack, consider seeking professional help to cope with potential trauma. You can also find mental health resources through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.

For more information on how to prepare for a mass attack, visit