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You think you hear gunshots in a public place. How should you respond?

Korie Dean, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in News & Features

RALEIGH, N.C. — A chaotic scene unfolded at Durham's Streets at Southpoint mall in North Carolina in on Black Friday, when shoppers were startled by sounds of gunshots and instinctively ran for the exits.

The mall was quickly evacuated by police, who said three people were wounded, The News & Observer previously reported.

It's a scenario that no one wants to experience, but there are ways to be prepared for an active shooter situation, and it's important to know how to safely and properly react if you find yourself in such an event.

To learn more about how to react and respond if you hear gunshots in public, The N&O talked with Mike Clumpner, an expert on active shooter situations and the president of Threat Suppression Inc., a Charlotte-based public safety training and consulting organization with clients that include the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Here's what we learned.

Note: While it's important to be prepared for scary situations and think through how you would respond, Clumpner said, there's no need to live in a constant state of fear. You don't need to "live under a rock," he said, but you can stay aware and prepared by using these tips.


How to tell if you're hearing gunshots

If you're on a normal or routine outing in a public place, such as a mall or grocery store, you might not expect to hear gunshots.

That can lead people to have a sense of distrust or disbelief if they hear a loud noise in those places, Clumpner said. Instead of thinking that you're hearing gunshots, you might instead think it's a more "normal," everyday noise, such as a car backfiring or construction noise.

"Always remember this: We believe what our eyes see, we semi-trust what our nose smells and we tend to not trust what our ears hear," Clumpner said.


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