Surviving an Elevated Shooter

By Jason Hanson, former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author

As the city of Las Vegas continues to deal with the after-effects of the mass shooting, many people are searching for answers as to why this happened and what could be done differently to protect innocent civilians.

The reality is we may never truly know what caused a deranged man to murder so many people. However, there is no question that we can learn from this tragedy and hopefully save more lives if it happens again.

Fabulous Las Vegas

The thing is, the recent shooting in Las Vegas is very different from other mass shootings such as the one at Florida’s Pulse Nightclub, or even past school shootings. What makes Las Vegas so different is that the shooter was at an elevated position about 400 yards away from his victims.

This was not only an active shooter situation, it was a well-prepared shooter who was at a tactical advantage over everyone including the first law enforcement responders.

A high-elevation shooter isn’t new to the United States. One early example is the 1966 University of Texas shooting. However, in Las Vegas, the shooter chose a location where he could fire on people trapped inside a venue.

Now you may be familiar with the saying run, hide, fight, which is what the FBI recommends you do during an active shooter situation. In other words, you should run from the shooter, hide from the shooter, and as a last resort you should fight.

Of course, because the Las Vegas shooter held an advantageous position, the run–hide–fight approach wasn’t really much of an option. I mean, if you could run away then you should. Since the shooter had such a tactical advantage over the victims they didn’t know where to run to, they didn’t know where to hide, and finally, they couldn’t fight back since he was so far away.

With that being said, what should you do if you find yourself in a situation similar to Las Vegas and you have no idea where the gunfire is coming from?

  1. Exit strategy

    Have an exit strategy.

    Always have an exit strategy. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard me talk about situational awareness more than once. The thing is, not only should you have heightened situational awareness when you are at crowded events, but you need to always have a plan of escape also. In other words, if you are at a movie you need to know where the exits are and consider sitting close to one of them. The key is if something happens you want to know where to go without having to waste time looking around and figuring out how to get out safely. Whether you’re at dinner or a concert, always have a plan in your mind to escape.

  2. Cover and concealment. For anyone who has ever attended a firearms course at the Spy Ranch, you’ve heard me discuss the difference between cover and concealment. Cover hides and protects you from bullets. Concealment only hides you and won’t stop bullets. For example, think of cover as a concrete wall and concealment as hiding behind a blanket. If you’re attending an event, you should keep your eyes out for cover in case you need to quickly get behind something.

    Take cover

    Take cover whenever possible.

  3. Don’t freeze or lay down. Many people who were at the Las Vegas concert thought the initial gunfire were fireworks and didn’t react. Now, for someone who isn’t familiar with the sound of gunfire, this confusion would make sense since many large events have fireworks. However, if you hear something and you aren’t sure what it is, you should immediately start moving away from the sound. Of course, I don’t mean you should run and create panic unless it’s really gunfire. However, there is nothing wrong with simply walking toward your escape exit until you confirm what the noise was.

Additionally, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “movement saves lives.” This is especially true if a sniper or well-positioned shooter is targeting you. Obviously, a moving target is more difficult to hit, so even though your first reaction may be to lie on the ground, doing so can make you an easy target.

Finally, I’ve heard some people talk about how they will no longer attend large events or gatherings. However, this is something that I think everyone should evaluate for their family. While I don’t think we should live our lives in fear, I can completely understand how some people may be hesitant to go to certain public events.

No one could have predicted what occurred in Las Vegas and none of us can know when the next similar horrific event will occur. We can plan ahead, identify exits, and stay close to the perimeter of events so we don’t get caught in the middle if an attack does occur.

Defender Outdoors

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times’ bestselling author. After graduating Radford University, Hanson joined the Arlington County Police Force. Not long thereafter, Jason set his sights on the Central Intelligence Agency. Once accepted into the CIA, he made a name for himself and received the CIA’s Exceptional Performance Award twice; once in 2005 and again in 2008. After six-plus years with the CIA, Hanson left to start a family and founded Spy Escape & Evasion with the goal of teaching men and women how to be safe using secrets and methods honed from years with the intelligence community. In 2014, Jason won a deal on the ABC hit show Shark Tank. Jason then authored his first New York Times Bestseller, Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life, and began expanding his spy instruction company by opening the 320-acre Spy Ranch. To get a free copy of his book or learn more about his training programs, visit

9 Comments On This Article

  1. Another experience to be aware of is just what a passing supersonic bullet sounds like when fired from a distance. If the shooter is far enough away, you would not hear the report of the rifle as it is fired or the report is considerably delayed leading to some confusion as to what is happening. Perhaps, some time in the “rifle pits” would give people a better experience as to what that is like.

    • I attended a class where we had to work the pits. It was a great learning opportunity and now I definitely know what a round sounds like passing overhead.

  2. While the advise you have here to try and deal with an elevated shooter is great, the official “story” we are being fed of the Las Vegas terrorist attack has more holes in it then a 40 pound block of Swiss cheese! What is known is this was not one elevated shooter shooting from a hotel room, unless the dead white guy that will remain un-named by me somehow knew how to teleport himself closer and then farther away by at least 200 yards while firing several different weapons from at least two differant places at the same time, one being a fully automatic SAW that has an unmistakable sound. The HealthRanger on YouTube proved this out using videos of that night found here online, technology and science. There were even more shootings that happen that night running the entire length of the LV strip, with literally thousands of witnesses, and some that made videos of their experiences that don’t jibe with the official narrative that can also be found on YouTube.. The reality is we will never know the actual truth of what happen that night..

    • Frank,
      I watched a Uber driver recording the video until she had enough and fled off. But while she was recording I heard automatic or rapid fire from two locations. The echoing was different speeds and sound were from other locations. I remember when they were showing a cell cam of the shooting they were focused on the guy walking by which looked like a security guy but off to the left I saw the flash of a automatic like a AKA47 on the ground bay a wall or something. I played it several times and saw it every time. Bump stock has a slight delay because of the mechanical leverage to reverse the recoil causing your finger to pull the trigger. A true automatic does not have that longer mechanical delay. There are more unanswered questions that answered. If the guy popped one off to kill himself why did the guard fire in his room. enough said !!

  3. With the way the countries are now we have to be very aware of your surroundings. Know what’s around you and if the shit hits the fan you have an action plan. This is how a combat veteran acts even when he leave the country he has fought in. I know as I was in combat in 1965 and I still feel this way. You have to in able to survive in this crazy world we live in. Think this is funny then you might be the next target that get a round that changes you life forever. Most people scream and hide or run. I bet the next music concert you attend you might just start acting like a combat vet. Do not stop going just change how you act when it hits and make sure you have a exit plan. Leave the rest to guys and gals that know screaming is not the answer and they will step up and help, guide others and most of all protect those who are hurt or screaming. Yes the guy that thought about the BIG lights was point on. The shooter would have to just spry the area with out pointing at targets. True as it may be just know your surroundings and an exit.