Critical Lessons a Kidnap & Ransom Response Expert Can Teach People About Surviving an Active Shooter Incident

By June 16, 2018 Newsfeed No Comments

In the current global threat level, individuals and companies need a definitive tactical advantage that will allow them to respond to and survive an active shooter event. Between 2017-2018 alone, the world has bore witness to far too many active shooter incidents that resulted in countless deaths and casualties. These senseless acts of violence continue to escalate and shake the very foundation of humanity. They have negatively impacted the survivor’s lives in a manner that is irreversible.

While there are many companies and “experts” that talk about active shooter prevention, a true tactical advantage is not derived by credentials, but by a mindset that is developed with training and continuous education.

Our mission is to promote the importance of active shooter preparedness to the public, sharing two lessons learned in very harsh conditions that directly address an active shooter event and how to survive one.

These lessons are applicable to everyone and the urgency of developing this security and survival mindset is absolutely critical for everyone in today’s society.

In the unfortunate event that you are ever in an active shooter situation, it will be unlike anything you have experienced before in your entire life. Within seconds, you will be both physically and psychologically devastated. Without proper knowledge based training, your response under this extreme duress will be the potential difference between life and death.

As the event begins to unfolds, you are confronted with the imminent threat, your body is alarmed and rapidly undergoes huge changes both physiologically and psychologically in an effort to survive.

This sudden reaction is the “flight or fight response”. Our ancestors through evolutionary biology had to develop certain traits that helped them survive the unimaginable threats of wild animals, disease and rival clans that wanted to kill them and or eat them.

Instincts that transformed them from prey to predator. Today, these same instincts are ingrained in our DNA and have been honed over millions of years as an early warning system of survival.

There is a huge difference in people that have had training to face life threatening stressful situations versus those without any form of training.

In the thousands of seminars and workshops we have conducted around the world, the reoccurring questions are; What and how should you react in a situation where an armed gunman enters your  environment?. The reality is that it all depends on the situation, there is hardly a ‘one size fits all’ answer.

With the required training, even when you are subjected to this type of cannibalistic stress, you have options for survival. Individuals that are un-trained will most definitely falter and freeze. With training, the instinct to survive and do whatever is necessary becomes the only option. The primary focus is to get home to your family and loved ones.

The emotion of fear is generated by some stimulus, for instance while at the movies or on campus, you hear what sounds like gunfire. You see a shooter with a black hood and body armour firing indiscriminately. You know based on previous accounts that he is probably planning to kill as many people as possible before the police arrive.

Your “fear” alarm has been triggered and the part of the brain known as the Amygdala picks up this stimuli and processes these signals by stimulating autonomic responses such as increased heart rate, increased breathing, pupil dilation, auditory exclusion, tunnel vision and shutting off non-essential body functions.

In response to this involuntary reaction, you freeze, unable to move. You are paralyzed by fear and cannot take action to run or thwart the attack. The part of the brain known as the pre-frontal cortex is responsible for our rational thought, but with the increase in hormones such as adrenaline, epinephrine and Cortisol in your bloodstream, you completely loss the ability to think rationally.

Like turning off a light switch, you completely shut down. Overwhelmed by fear, panic sets in making the situation even worse.

Our trainers who have long experience as mercenary operators and kidnap & ransom expertise, have witnessed firsthand, how extreme fear of death paralyzes someone rendering him or her inert and unable to respond.

And in a hot ex-filtration situation where people are shooting with extreme prejudice and where lives are on the line, the only thing that bridges the gap between being paralyzed and taking action is preparedness.

Our trainers make it a business to prepare and train under extreme pressure for combat to have an orienting response when danger strikes, but what about the ordinary person, say a college student, office worker, doctor, nurse, executive or other civilian that is simply going through the motions of their daily life, when suddenly an active shooter appears on the scene?

They have zero training or orienting response, so how do they prepare for this situation? How do they over ride that fear circuitry response and fight back to survive the attack?

99.9% of you are not kidnap & ransom response experts or mercenaries and do not have combat training or experience. So how do you as an average citizen learn to deal with an active shooter and other related incidents?

You learn right now that…

Winners are always prepared… and you can train to extinguish fear and replace it with the ability to respond faster and more appropriately to any situation by learning “visualization.”

When you visualize, you picture yourself in a situation with a stated purpose; almost like daydreaming, but much more intense. In order to train with visualization, you must first state the purpose of your visualization, in our case, an active shooter incident.

The first step is to place yourself in the situation so that you are the one responding to the active shooter. Proceed by reviewing this picture over and over again. Visualize everything, the sights, feelings, emotions, and the actions that you would take.

You might run, lockdown in place or you may imagine distracting the shooter by throwing things while others rush in to take him down. Whatever actions you visualize, run them over and over again in your mind. It is absolutely critical to picture yourself in the superior position and as the victor in the conflict.

Through proper repetition of this scenario with absolute victory, you should be at a point where it feels so real, that your physiology such as your breathing, heart rate and movement will coordinate and function as if you really experienced the event. By this point, you will also have undoubtedly created new strategies and tactics in addition to increased skills for combating and surviving an active shooter incident.

Our teams along with professional athletes, elite military units and law enforcement agencies have used visualization techniques for years with hugely successful results, which is why TRS International & Defense Coach University employs and teaches visualization in all programs as a powerful training technique.

Survival comes about when opportunity meets preparedness. As a kidnap & ransom response expert and tactical team leader, it is an occupational specialty to make sure the team get’s out alive and survive.

It is not about being good, it is about being flawless. You have to dynamically execute under the worst possible conditions and environments. Failure is not an option as it means the hostage or hostages would be killed.

How we do it? 

Knowledge Preparedness. We educate ourselves on our targets and the hostages. We gather Intel and learn what makes them tick. We study how they think, act and behave so that we can identify and then exploit vulnerabilities.

Educating yourself on pre and post active shooter events, how they behave prior to an event and then train how to respond prepares you to extinguish fear and replace it with an ability to respond faster and more appropriately to the situation.

The single most critical aspect to our preparation is mindset. Without it, we will not be successful in any of our operations.

Security must be our first mindset. It allows us to recognize potential threats before they became real threats. We have to establish a thorough understanding of the environment so that we could blend in to gather intelligence and conduct pre-operational surveillance on the targets. This require a great deal of situational awareness tradecraft.

You have to understand the “baseline” of an area of operations (AO). This could be where you work, live or go to school, but for some, it could be a hostile urban or jungle environment. In your AO, you need to know what is normal; the way people dress, the culture, what people do, how they act, what they eat and what defines their environment.

Once the baseline has been established, anything out of the baseline becomes more recognizable. This is then deemed a “status” change and it allowed you to hone in on a person or thing that is out of the norm.

Take another example, one that is very possible within your everyday life. You have a dental appointment one morning and were running quite a bit late getting to work. You pull into the parking lot and get out of your car and start walking toward your building, which is about 30 yards away.

As you approach the building, you see a person dressed all in black. They have a black hood on so you cannot identify gender or any facial features. They have a rather large bag slung over their shoulder and they are moving towards the front of the building.

Alarm bells are now going off in your head as you clearly recognize that this individual does not look like a fellow employee, student or co-worker. Because of this, your immediate action is to alert the police, employer or school authorities of the potential impending situation.

So the security mindset plays a great role in your everyday situational awareness for missions.

What Can You Do As a Concerned Citizen?

You may not have to consider the level of training and rehearsal that professionals do each day, but certainly with all what is happening in our world today, you can understand how critical it is to stay alert and employ situational awareness.

Visualization is one great way to begin your preparation, but there are certainly other critical elements such as the ability to recognize danger or threatening situations before they arise. This is more a skill of the mind than anything else and it has already been with you everyday of your life! Learn right now to trust that “little voice inside you.”

If you are confronted with an active shooter situation, most likely just prior to the incident, your “gut” feeling will tell you that something is terribly wrong. You may not be able to pinpoint “what” is exactly wrong, but your primal instincts are warning you that something bad is about to happen. You need to listen to that inner voice when it speaks to you and take appropriate action at that time.

Another key factor that helps you discern your surroundings and the people within it are what we call pre-incident behaviors. Things like a bend in the elbow could indicate a situation we call “felony carry” and it may signify that the individual is reaching for a gun, or a cell phone. It all depends on the situation. This is one of the keys to potentially preempting an attack.

Knowing what is “normal” in your environment is critical to understanding when something is out of the “norm.” In this way, if you recognize something “different” in your environment, be it a thing or a person, you can act accordingly to achieve a higher degree of safety. This security mindset, being aware of your surroundings and having the ability to identify potentially dangerous situations and people is crucial to minimizing your risk and thus exposure to an attack.

There comes a point though when we need to move beyond the security mindset. The situation sometimes calls for us to attain an even higher level of situational awareness and activity.

When we breach the compound or a door and come into direct contact with the hostage takers we also need a “survival mindset” so that we can complete our mission, get our “package” or hostage out alive and hump it back to the extraction point…intact! This is where the survival mindset comes into play.

The survival mindset is a winning mindset. When a trained operative breaches that first door, muzzle up scanning for threats, immediately encounters a hostage taker; almost close enough to touch. You Know you have caught him off guard, his rifle still slung over his shoulder. By the time he starts to bring his muzzle up, it is too late.

There are many hardships you can endure during each mission, but the importance of the survival mindset trumpes all of them.

Of all the training one gets, it is the survival mindset that gives you the greatest competitive advantage. In facing hostage takers in the dead of night, exchanging gunfire and knowing that any of you could be killed at any moment, you have to reach deep inside where strength truly lives to overcome the adversity. It teaches you that strength and courage are not something derived from the physical manifestation of what you can do, but rather from doing what you thought was not possible.

You must learn that your strength does not lie in the type of weapon you employ against an enemy, but in your mind, you must overcome any obstacle or threat that you face.

The survival mindset is the cumulative total of these 5 winning characteristics:

  1. Winners are prepared
  2. Winners don’t hesitate
  3. Winners act decisively to get whatever they want
  4. Winners use everything in the environment to gain a competitive advantage
  5. Winners NEVER give up

Why not choose to adopt the survival mindset by living these winning characteristics everyday? 

After all, the survival mindset,  like everything else in life is a choice. Choose the survival mindset, and be a winner. Believe in yourself and mentally prepare for the fight of your life.

Take control of your safety and act decisively and immediately with the tools you have with you…your mind! There are no rules of engagement in an active shooter incident when it comes to protecting your life.

True empowerment may not be polite or fall within the constraints of what society deems correct, but it sure levels the playing field when it comes to surviving an active shooter and it all stems from adopting the survival mindset.

Through appropriate preparedness and training people become more confident and aware that they are not helpless in a disaster.

For Expert Seminars, Workshops and Training in Active Shooter Defense, Travel Security, Anti Terrorism, Counter Terrorism, Anti Knife & Machete Violence, Counter Kidnap & Hostage Survival and Escape & Evasion, 360-Degree Situational Awareness and Hostile Environment Contact Training (H.E.C.T.)  Call us today and start preparing to be Ready For Anything!

In the U.S. and Latin America Call: +1.786.309.7037 or in the U.K. Africa and Middle East Call: +447472181995. Email: or

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About the Author

Kidnap & Ransom Response Specialist, global security expert, active shooter and terrorism preparedness expert, travel security expert, tactical team leader, high-risk environment close quarter combat instructor, professional educator, author, master defense coach and speaker. He has spent his life in the service of saving lives and protecting people, governments, corporations and organizations from dangerous situations and high-risk threats.

He is a subject matter expert (SME) advisor to governments, military, law enforcement, corporations, organizations, security professionals and people in matters of active shooter preparedness, kidnap & ransom and kidnap 2 kill, security, threat assessment, risk and crisis management, close quarter combat, travel security and covert surveillance.

He is founder / CEO of the TRS International Group, a highly successful private security, defense intelligence, risk management and training firm.

Together with the TRS International Group’s Director of Programme Development and Training, David Otto, recognized Counter Terrorism Expert, Certified Master Anti Terrorism Specialist (CMAS), NATO  Lecturer and Instructor, pioneer expert for Interpol Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, SME of Israel-USA Security, Intelligence and Defense (SECINDEF) International consulting and collaborating global analyst of Observation Against Terrorist Threat and Jihadist Radicalisation (OCATRY) Israel, David appears as a specialist on Counter Terrorism on Global Media channels and print newspapers including BBC, CNN ALJazeera, IBTIMES, NEWSWEEK, Sputnik, EXPRESS UK,, holds Master of Science (MSc) in Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime (UK) and a Certified Field Criminalistics, Bachelor (BA-Hons) Law and Criminology (UK)

Through TRSIG, Jeff and David have worked for governments, corporations, NGO’s, organizations and private parties around the world supporting a myriad of security objectives and low signature operations. Recently, this dynamic duo team is preparing to launch a new platform called Defense Coach that will empower people, organizations, corporations and government with a certification based training programme that is mobile that highlights security, protection and defense.

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