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Thread: Do certain large store layout encourage/discourage an active shooter scenario?

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    Campaign Veteran deepdiver's Avatar
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    I was wandering around the recently renovated Wal-Mart today looking for my bride when she was not where she said she would be when I returned with an item she sent me to get (I'm sure other married men relate) and I noticed that the lines of sight in the store are quite different now. In most cross aisles now and every front to back aisle one can see literally all the way across the Wal-Mart Super Store whereas before the layout was such that only the front cross aisle, the most rear cross aisle and most of the front-back aisles gave such a line of sight. As I continued searching for TW ("the wife) I started thinking about what I would do in an active shooter scenario. I'm not sure how far it is dimensionally across that Wal-Mart (and it is by no means the largest one I have been in) but I certainly would be a target to a rifle most anywhere in the store whereas there are plenty of distances where there is very little chance I am going to hit my target with any of my pistols.

    Well, this got me to pay attention in other stores as we were shopping. Sam's Club has large middle areas with offset aisles that break up the side to side line of sight although there are 4 large front to back aisles. Target has many more cross aisles and only has 3 aisles front to back and 2 across that offer full distance line of sight. No anchor store in the mall here has such long sight lines anywhere. Most aisles in Lowe's give full side to side/front to back lines of sight. Sears is more chopped up with aisles going varying directions giving IIRC 2 full length aisles in both directions but being unusual in having a side entrance/exit through the automotive department, with it's main doors and the many bays (while Wal-Mart and Sam's also have automotive departments off the side, their entrances are narrower and their the layout of the bays create more of a shooting gallery than an escape route if there were a BG in that area).

    Well, I'm sure everyone can see where I am going with this and even though the layouts of the above stores in their areas may be quite different the concepts do not change. Do other people think about stuff like this or was I just having a weird day and my mind was numbed from being dragged around Christmas shopping by TW? What sort of mental planning would you do for those stores with long sight lines vs more chopped up or shorter sight lines? Is there any defensive advantage to having such long lines of sight such as making it easier for us on the defensive to maybe have a better idea of where the shooter is located so we can better plan an escape or attack? Where would be the best place to seek cover in such a store? What typical merchandise would best provide cover rather than just concealment? Finally, is the layout of some of these stores more attractive to an active shooter than other stores, and if so, why and how (I'm sure some of the members who have formally trained in such tactics in the military and in LE can offer some especially informed insight into this matter)?

    Just some thoughts that were flying through my mind today and I thought, HEY, this might make an interesting discussion on OCDO. I'll have to post it later. So here it is. I'm very interested in people's thoughts on these matters as these are stores that I, and most of the population, frequent (and which I frequent a lot more than I want to since I have been married) with our loved ones.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    Very good discussion topic. These stories make a very hard target to contain an active shooter. Not only are the isles and displays tough, but they have numerous backrooms and storage areas in the rear. The toughest training I ever had was responding to an active shooter at a large high school. It is UNREAL how many "pods" and long hallways there are. If you ever get the chance watch the special (I think it was NBC, not sure) on the Columbine response, it's really an eye opener. Luckily most jurisdictions have changed there method of responding to these calls. I can't go into it because of OPSEC type of stuff.

    Back on topic- when you respond to one of those large department type stores, the store layout is one hurdle to overcome. The crowds inside that are scared are just as big a hurdle. Each situation is different from the aspect of LE tactical response. However, I personally think that a CC or OC person in civilian clothes already inside the store is the best hope for a quick resolution. There really isn't a great place for cover in most buildings, just concealment. I think straight up surprise is the best option (ie-CC'ing plainclothes).

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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    deepdiver wrote:
    I was wandering around the recently renovated Wal-Mart today...SNIP... I noticed that the lines of sight in the store are quite different now....SNIP...
    Do other people think about stuff like this or was I just having a weird day SNIP...
    Good topic


    If you are a thinking person with any sort of situational awareness you should be thinking about this stuff all the time. I know there are some here who do not run scenarios through their mind as they move through their day, but they are hopefully in the minority here.

    I too have noticed that some of the more recent remodels are producing longer line of sight than before. I cannot say if this is intentional on the part of the stores, but if it is I am sure it is related to theft control, and reducing the number of cameras needed to cover the store.

    Keep thinking! Always be aware of where you are, where everyone else is, how you got in, how you might get out, and places you might need to get to in an emergency.

    Some of the most interesting and challenging Firearms Training System (FATS) scenarios are staged in big box store environments.

    Regards
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    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    Hawkflyer wrote:
    I cannot say if this is intentional on the part of the stores, but if it is I am sure it is related to theft control, and reducing the number of cameras needed to cover the store.
    I think this is the core issue right here. It has nothing to do with increasing or decreasing customer safety, and everything to do with pinching pennies. These stores are companies, afterall - in business to make money. Our safety is a distant second.

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    deepdiver wrote:
    Do other people think about stuff like this or was I just having a weird day.....?
    It's not just you, and it should probably be more of us. Situational awareness is paramount to survival.

    I don't remember which mall shooting it was (about a year ago), but I clearly remember one "survivor" who was interviewed on the news as saying she saw the man with the gun on the upper level (before he started shooting apparently), and she initially didn't react because she thought it was a kid with a "toy".

    Well it turned out, it was a kid (18 or 19 years old), with an AK-47. She's just damn lucky she wasn't the first person he focused on. But even at that, when the shooting started I'll bet she had a jump start on everyone else that never noticed the shooter at all.



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    Campaign Veteran deepdiver's Avatar
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    I thought there would be a lot more discussion on this issue

    Hawkflyer wrote:
    If you are a thinking person with any sort of situational awareness you should be thinking about this stuff all the time. I know there are some here who do not run scenarios through their mind as they move through their day, but they are hopefully in the minority here.
    snip
    I think about such stuff, but I have found that the longer I carry the more things I see to think about. I equate it with learning to drive a car. When you start you are focused on the basics - gas, brake, speed. As you develop your skills and the basics become second nature. For most people this is where they stop and they use their decreased need to pay attention to the basics to pay attention to tuning the radio and text messaging while driving . For some of us though, we start to fine tune our abilities, going to track days, studying high speed and adverse condition driving, etc.

    I think this issue came to my mind because after 2 years of daily carry I finally have the basics down as it were. Carrying and the normal increased situational awareness that comes with it have become second nature. Now I have started noticing more advanced issues such as lines of sight in a big box store. Call it advanced situational awareness if you will. I have thought about and run scenarios through my mind and practiced on the range and on the mat with a dummy gun the basics of retention, drawing from concealement and OC, point shooting, etc. Now I find myself considering active shooting scenarios in a much different light than before and now know enough to realize that I am sorely lacking in the skills to effectively escape or end such a scenario besides gun and run. As Nitrovic indicated, apparently these are some of the most complex scenarios we may face as armed citizens.

    I certainly would appreciate more thoughts and info from forum members. While I intend to take some more advanced classes next year including one that incorporates some active shooter CQC scenarios, I doubt if any potential bad guys are planning their next shooting spree with my personal training schedule in mind.


    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    deepdiver wrote:
    I thought there would be a lot more discussion on this issue
    Can't. OPSEC kind'a stuff. I don't want to appear to be cyber-stalking nor encourage trolls.

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    Doug Huffman wrote:
    deepdiver wrote:
    I thought there would be a lot more discussion on this issue
    Can't. OPSEC kind'a stuff.* I don't want to appear to be cyber-stalking nor encourage trolls.
    Good job adding to another discussion Dougie.

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    I've never really thought about lines of sight. For one thing, most of the stores I go to have mostly short to mediumlines of sight. In addition, since effective pistol range is just a few yards, I would have to get close to a shooter (hopefully while staying concealed from him) before lines of sight would really matter.

    As far as concealment versus cover is concerned, I'm not sure that there's really likely to beany significant difference in a store shooting situation. As long as you can get close enough for a good shot without being seen by the bad guy, it doesn't matter how you get there.

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    You aren't alone in thinking about things like this. I assess escape routes and lines of sight in all stores. I want to be able to get my family out safely in an active shooter situation. I did this even before I carried.

    Whats kind of funny about this is that my friends and I did these scenarios in high school in the late 80's with our paintball group. We had access to adefunct grocery store with the shelving units still in it. The father of one guy owned the building, and would let us use it if he wasn't showing it to a potential tenant in the next week. We would set up situations and scenarios like force on force, fox and hounds (1 active shooter with a 'rifle' and 3-5 hounds with pistols only) and delayed response situations with and without hostages. We never went so far as to use a large number of people milling around, or even cutouts of shoppers, although we talked about it.

    We learned pretty quickly that the long lines of sight made one on one rifle vs pistol almost impossible for the pistol to win. The rifle had to make a terrible tactical mistake. fox and hounds was much more competitive, 3 hounds was the most even. 4 or more and the hounds had to make a glaring error to lose. Although, this was paintballs. We never finished a fox and hounds without at least one hound 'killed'.

    Food for thought.



    Respectfully,

    Pol

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    PavePusher wrote:
    Reaction for most folks here will be "DUH!".



    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FuIbujpLWA
    The above was from another post on this forum. It details some agencies response to active shooter scenarios. From my experience most agencies have changed their responses to this type of "active shooter" scenario after Columbine. It's a pretty good depiction of response.

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    I'd have to award the prize for most confusing layout to IKEA. Makes me feel like a hamster.

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    Whenever I'm walking through a big box type store, I tend to weave through the aisles, clothing racks, displays, etc. Doing that keeps you out of a shooter's line of sight and provides you with cover/concealment.

    If I have to traverse a long hallway, I practice my linear/lateral movements.


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    i think the long "lines of sight" are mostly designed that way for traffic flow. (more obvious the closer we get to xmas.) thats more important for safety, as things like fires or tankers of hazmats tipping over nearby happen more often than shootings. in some cases, it might also be beneficial for those long aisles so people can run out faster from shootings as well.

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