Run hide fight

Run, hide, fight is a protocol developed in the United States to deal with that country’s persistent problem of “active shooter scenarios” in classrooms, workplaces and other public spaces. The idea is simple and easy to remember, by design:

Run if you can. The best-case option: rapidly and non-violently avoiding the danger.

Hide if you can’t run. For example, if exits are blocked or if running is too dangerous.

Fight if all else fails.

While the framework has engendered a fair bit of debate in the context of its intended use case, I have been thinking that it distills practical wisdom applicable far beyond the specifics of the epidemic of rampaging gunmen in the US.

It applies, for instance, to the case of poisonous social media spaces, such as Facebook – running away being the obvious course of action in such cases.

It applies to working life, where running is equated with quitting, hiding is equated with passive resistance in the form of “presenteeism” and fighting could mean, for instance, internal advocacy or a union drive.

And it arguably applies at the scale of empires, when individuals begin to realize the society in which they live has turned predatory, as has happened many times in human history. (In the recent book Freedom, which I have not yet read, America journalist Sebastian Junger uses a modified version of the framework – run, fight, think – to discuss responses to this type of predation.)

This formulation has received a fair bit of criticism, some of which seems fair – there is no mention for example, of negotiation, for example, and “freeze” is a universal response to danger in nature that may be hard wired into many of us.

But as an easily remembered shorthand for non-experts dealing with out-of-control situations on the fly it may be better than nothing. And as a broader provisional tool for beginning to think about a broader range of more abstract danger scenarios, it may provide a useful starting point.