Video Encourages Viewers to Plan for Survival

Location: California By Becky Lewis Published February 2015

What would you do if the sound of gunfire disrupted your classroom?

Would you know how to immediately and safely get away? Would you know how to secure the classroom if your exit was cut off? If forced to confront an attacker, would you have a plan for success?

What would you do?

A new video produced by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Surviving an Active Shooter, not only asks those questions, it also provides answers. Using graphic imagery to depict simulated attacks on a college campus, in a mall and in a workplace, the free video (available for viewing at emphasizes the most important steps to take are to stay calm, think clearly and plan your actions in advance.

Sgt. Harry Drucker says the agency’s video production department began planning Surviving an Active Shooter after the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting in 2012: “We talked about how emotional impact causes people to remember what they see and used that as our guiding light. We used graphic imagery and staged our scenarios in locales where younger people tend to spend time. We would have preferred not to need to make the video, but these things are happening not just in the United States, but worldwide.”

Surviving an Active Shooter points out that on average, there are 20 active shooter attacks with four or more casualties in the United States each year. Although chances of being involved in an incident are still slight, it says “in the middle of a senseless attack, the why doesn’t matter. What matters is surviving.”

Drucker says after exploring various financial options, the department used special training funding to create Surviving an Active Shooter. A companion video for law enforcement, which will be available to vetted agencies on request, was filmed at the same time using the same locations: a mall food court after closing, a college campus during break and a warehouse after business hours. LASD used a mainly volunteer cast, although some Screen Actors Guild members were paid small amounts for speaking roles. The agency also received donations of food from local businesses to feed the nearly 400 volunteers during the on-location shoots. Members of the film industry donated time for post-production work as well.

In addition to being able to access Surviving an Active Shooter on the LASD website, law enforcement agencies and school administrators interested in using it as part of a training program can request a copy via digital download, download the transcript and find links to resources from agencies such as the American Red Cross, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The law enforcement tactics video will replace another training video created by LASD shortly after the Columbine shooting in 1999, because tactics have changed greatly since then, moving from waiting for reinforcements to the first officer on the scene going in to search for and confront the shooter. Drucker says LASD used experts in the field of tactics to develop the strategies used in the law enforcement video and to inform the script for Surviving an Active Shooter, which cautions viewers to be careful about running toward and reaching out to law enforcement, even if it is to thank them for being there.

“When law enforcement officers first arrive on a scene, their first goal is to neutralize the threat, not care for the wounded. If there is still shooting going on, their mission is to stop it,” Drucker says.

“We’re a law enforcement agency, but part of our job is to keep people safe, and part of that comes back to education. We try to educate the public in various ways, for instance reminding them around the holidays not to leave their packages from the mall in plain sight in their vehicles,” he adds. “With something like this, it’s like going back to fire drills. You hope it never happens, but if it does, you need to know what to do.”