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Rapid response: ‘Hope is not a plan’

Train your communities to identify, call out and respond to active threats


People raise their hands as they leave a shopping center following reports of a shooting, Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Allen, Texas.

AP Photo/LM Otero

ALLEN, Texas — Hundreds of terrified people fled the Allen Premium Outlets, an outdoor shopping center in a Dallas suburb, after a gunman stepped out of a vehicle and opened fire, killing eight and wounding several more before being killed by a police officer.

Witnesses reported victims being trampled in the melee.

Top takeaways on the Texas shopping center mass shooting

After reviewing the video and stories from the tragic events in Allen, Texas, on Saturday, I was struck by two things: first, the persistent belief that “this can’t happening in my town” and second, the lack of preparedness that is rampant despite the fact that these MCI events are happening on an almost daily basis.

Following are my top takeaways.

1. Put as much energy into stop-the-bleed training as you do CPR training

As to the first point, this is going to happen in your town. As horrible, and as mind numbing and incomprehensible as that may be, active shooters are phenomenon that seem to be, at least in the short term, here to stay.

With that in mind, we need to plan and prepare for that eventuality. To that end, I encourage everyone to seek out a First Care Provider or Stop the Bleed class, or similar training that allows you to help yourself and those around you when an emergency strikes. Share these resources with your communities. In many communities, they are offered free of charge. They will not only pay dividends during an active violence situation, but during any emergency in which people might be injured.

Trauma is the leading cause of death for people from age 3-43 in the United States. We spend a lot of time, effort and energy learning CPR and teaching it to our community members. We should put the same energy towards learning how to take care of people in a traumatic injury situation.


Read more:

'We started running': 8 killed, 7 wounded in Texas outlet mall shooting

An Allen PD officer, who was on an unrelated call at the mall, engaged the suspect and neutralized the threat

2. Identify danger, get to safety, call 911 – training your communities to respond to emergencies

The second thing to deal with is that too many people are in denial about the frequency of these events, and do not formulate a plan prior to going into public spaces.

Educate your communities about personal safety, and if you see something, say something.

I do not advocate hiding at home. Go out and live your life; but be prepared. Walk into any public space with the mindset that you’re going to have to get out in a hurry, and not necessarily using the same way you came in. Look around, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and notice secondary and tertiary exit points that you might be able to use in the case of an emergency.

Also, look at the people that are around you. If you see someone acting strange, get away from them. Call the police; call 911. No one is going to blame you or accuse you of overreacting in today’s environment. If you see something strange, call it out. Part of the problem today is people don’t want to get involved. People don’t want to bother the police. Bother them! If you see someone who’s acting strange, like wearing a heavy coat when it’s warm outside, get yourself to safety, then call the police. We want to bring attention to that individual. You may save someone’s life, including your own.

The bottom line is to have a plan. After almost 35 years in emergency services, I know one thing for sure; hope is not a plan. Part of that plan has to be learning what to do in an emergency. Tell your communities:

  • Learn how to take care of yourself and others during a medical emergency. Take a First Care Provider or a Stop the Bleed class.
  • Go into any public building or public space with a plan to get out and not just one. Have two or three alternate exits in case your first is not safe.

These quick pre-thoughts or pre-plans will pay big dividends when trouble occurs. Many people are not capable of rational thought during these emergencies, but will react the way they’ve prepared and the way they’ve planned.

If you have not prepared and you have not planned, you’re leaving it up to fate – and fate is not a great plan.

Be safe; be prepared!

Additional resources on MCI response

Additional resources on community resiliency

Chief Rob Wylie is a 29-year fire service veteran who retired as fire chief of the Cottleville FPD in St. Charles County, Missouri. Wylie has served as a tactical medic and TEMS team leader with the St. Charles Regional SWAT team for the past 19 years. He is a certified instructor and teaches at the state, local and national level on leadership, counter-terrorism and TEMS operations. Wylie graduated from Lindenwood University, the University of Maryland Staff and Command School and the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Connect with Wylie on LinkedIn.