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First thing to do is run

Run, Hide, Tell versus Run, Hide, Fight; why does this cause such debate? asks Spike Townsend, pictured.

Over the last year I have seen many articles and posts published about which is the better advice to pass onto staff in response to dealing with a Marauding Terrorist Firearms or other weapons Attack (MTFA). Both advocates of either methodology seem to go out of their way to discredit the others advice, and it appears that the posturing or “point scoring” attitude is being done without the thought that actually both are correct, if considered from an audience viewpoint.

The main and overriding factor to be considered around this advice has to be in the context of cultural or legal drivers. What do I mean by this? Run, Hide, Tell (RHT) was developed and delivered to a potential audience that differs significantly from a Run, Hide, Fight (RHF) audience. RHT is a United Kingdom product for a UK audience. In the UK, the gun control laws are so rigid that public ownership of firearms and the right to carry in public is strictly prohibited. Therefore the options to “fight” do not present themselves. (Please, I do not wish to get into a debate about gun control etc – it’s the UK democratic process and whatever your views on this I respect the democratic process). The UK does not have a gun culture so this approach works best for them.

In some European countries and the USA, the cultural and legal mechanisms around gun ownership are significantly different and so the RHF message provides better opportunity to be more effective. So for this audience the message has more resonance and relevance. Neither message is wrong or more superior than the other. Just make sure you give the right message to the right audience.

What does amaze and frustrate me more, however in this debate is the failure to recognise, that in both messages, is the fact both agree then the first things you should do in this type of attack is RUN and if this is not an option then HIDE or EVADE. The TELL or FIGHT options are the final options to be considered if all else fails. Unfortunately by focusing the debate on the final options is eroding and devaluing the significant importance of the RUN and HIDE-EVADE elements of the advice.

Evidence from MTFA attacks in Mumbai, Westgate [Nairobi], Tunisia, Paris and others has shown that the majority of those people who ran away, survived. Those that also hid had a better chance of survival (remember the man that hid under the sink after the Paris Charlie Hebdo print works siege, or the people in the freezer at the Paris Jewish supermarket attack). It is these elements of both advice messages that should be concentrated on – not the final element – as I said, it’s about the right message to the right audience!

As a final point RHT does not say that it does not advocate FIGHT. It was tacitly built into the advice that if all else fails, and it’s you or the bad guy, then go out fighting!

But, if you can RUN first, then do that, and if that is not an option then HIDE. Both of the advice messages agree on this – can the advocates not do more to promote these aspects of the guidance and do less disrespecting each other on the last. At the end of the day, people are the most valuable and irreplaceable asset. Let’s give them the best chance of survival by giving them the right message!

About Spike Townsend

He’s a former Police Counter Terrorism Advisor and member of NaCTSO (National Counter Terrorism Security Office). He is a Director of STRaR Ltd. Visit


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