The first goal is to never find yourself in a situation where your life or that of someone you love is in danger. Preventing the need to utilize any of these responses should be part of our daily lifestyle. Perhaps we missed something, weren’t prepared properly, or made a wrong choice to find ourselves in a threatening situation. Being aware of our surroundings and taking the necessary preventative steps, such as keeping all lower level windows locked or choosing to take the well lit, more active street to our parked car, can prevent a self-defense situation from occurring. Situational awareness can make all the difference.
When finding yourself in a self-defense situation, there are four options available to you to survive: submit, run, hide, fight.
I can’t tell you how to respond as there are just too many variables involved in an attack. Only you can make the decision of how to respond in the seconds you find yourself under threat. I can, however, help you to understand the options and train for them so that in the moment a decision must be made, you will be prepared to make the best decision for you in those circumstances.
Let’s discuss the four options.
The First Option is to Submit
Just like in the animal kingdom, we see animals submit to a more dominant, more powerful threat. A dog, for instance, will lie on its back and reveal its jugular vein to appease and calm the larger Alpha dog to communicate that he is not a threat. In most attack situations, submitting to the threat can lead to a disastrous outcome, such as allowing an attacker to get you in a car to take you to another location. Statistics show that the desire to take you to an alternate more remote location will likely result in your death.
Though, there are times that submitting may be the right choice. For example, you walk out of the movie theater with your two small children and become quickly surrounded by four armed men. The men demand your wallet and your firearm is in an ankle holster. In this scenario, the wise choice might be to give them your wallet. The risk to both you and your children would be too great to try to fight for belongings as unimportant as the cash in your wallet. There is no possession worth more than your life or that of another.
Of course, if these armed men are trying to kidnap your child or you or you fear for your life, this would require another response.
You Can Run or Escape
The goal in any and all violent attacks is to survive, period. There is no ego in “how” you survive. Just survive! Escaping any threat is always better than having to face it. Anytime there is a means to leave and flee – take it. It is important to always know “the way out” and all means of escape available to you at all times. Just like when we are driving and think “What would I do if that truck alongside me starts to drift into my lane?” This exit strategy thinking should become your way of life, everywhere you are.
When I am out at a restaurant or in a store, I look for and notice where exits are throughout the facility.
At home, plan ahead and create a plan for you and your family to escape in case of a threat. Determine your best options for escape in different types of situations and in the different areas of your home. This may include multiple exits within your home, such as windows, or perhaps having an escape ladder staged and ready to deploy in upper-level rooms. Make sure you practice each plan, just like you would with any self-defense tool or tactic. you can also get some ideas from my 3-part Personal Protection in Your Home article series. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Once you’re in a safe area, call 911.
Hiding is an Option
If, for any reason, escaping the situation is not an option be prepared to hide. Hiding can mean anything from simply being hidden from view of the threat or hiding in a prepared “safe room”. Again, knowing your surroundings and what options are available to you is critical. No one knows your home or its layout better than you. Even in the dark, you can maneuver to those places that can provide you an option to hide to call 911, prepare to fight, or to wait for help.
It is important to know the difference between cover and concealment to best utilize all available hiding options. Concealment is anything that hides you from view. This could be a bush, a door, or even a shadow. It simply prevents the threat of seeing you. Cover, on the other hand, is any barrier that can protect you from the force of the threat. Such as stopping a bullet and preventing it from passing through it and hitting you. Concrete walls, pillars, a freezer filled with frozen meat, or a bookcase full of books.
Finding or creating darkness and turning your cell phone to silent can be helpful as well. Anything you can do to make it harder to find you allows more time for you to call for help or prepare to fight.
Fight if it is Your Only Option
What if you can’t run and there is no reasonable hiding place? You might have to fight the threat to survive. The will to survive is a very powerful thing and there are many examples of people who have exhibited superhuman strength and resilience when in a life or death situation. Being prepared mentally and physically cannot only prevent you from freezing it can be the difference between life and death. The mindset of “I will prevail” coupled with the tools and training to stop a threat are the key ingredients to survival. Having a firearm and the training and skills to use it is the ultimate equalizer.
It is important to have your tools within reach. If that’s a firearm, then it is holstered on your body or staged in an accessible location. If you do not own a firearm, being aware of the intermediate weapons in your home and all environments you go is necessary. What objects in your home can be used as a weapon against a threat? Identify these options, locate them throughout your home, and practice with them. If you are in an unfamiliar location, while you are noting the exits, possible concealment and cover, look for items that could be used as a weapon if necessary.
If you are fighting for your life, then you will need to fight with all of the life in you! Be aware, be prepared, and be ready to respond!
I realize that spending time to think about the unthinkable can be hard. But I encourage you to consider what you would do “if”. Taking the time to do this is necessary for you to have the ability to make the choices that can save your life. Know your options: will you submit, run, hide, or fight? What can you use to cover yourself? Where are your exits? What can you use to fight if you cannot getaway? Know all of this and practice your escape or fight plans and you will be prepared to survive an attack.
8 thoughts on “The Options: Run, Hide, Fight”
I’m too old to run and too fat to hide. Submitting isn’t an option. My first thought is to make myself not look like a victim or a threat. I’m not a hero or a victim. I’m ready to use deadly force, thanks to my parents.
Great ideas for anyone seeking situational awareness. I’d really like to see articles for senior women …..who are way, way over 50 and want to protect themselves. I have several friends who are searching for a TWAW chapter for whose of us over 60 or 70.
I can’t take my mind off the picture you chose for the ‘submit’ paragraph. I shutter to think that you would post a picture of a coyote attacking what looks to be a puppy or dog being submissive to it. Please reconsider your choice of photos and destroy that horribly sad photo.
We have an article called Seniors Citizens and Self-Protection that may be what you are looking for?
There is is another physiological response to an immediate threat and that is “Freeze”. The proverial “Deer in the Headlights” response. Like fight or flight, freeze is another carry-over from our days on the prehistoric tundra, and hardwired into our brains, that can be deadly in certain circumstances.
Where fight, flight or freeze gets people is when they are not expecting it. So, just the simple knowledge that you are going to experience these reactions may be enough to help you manage it and make the right decision for that particular situation.
Training can help decrease the time spent gripped by these hardwired responses, and the freeze response is the first one you need to work on. By expecting it and decreasing the time spent in this particular response, one can then get to the business of making the other decisions of fight or flight. If it is fight, then getting to your firearm or attacking your attacker can turn the tables in your favor.
Most violent encounters on the street are “ambush” attacks. The predator has spotted you and chosen you as the victim, then worked his way into an advantageous position to make his assault, using surprise to hopefully bewilder his prey. That is why is conditioning yourself to these responses is important and why situational awareness helps give you the ability to see the attack sooner and give yourself more time for managing these responses.
Thanks for this great article on submit, hide, run or fight. And soo important to remind us all about situational awareness.
You always give good information and a reminder that being aware of your surroundings at all times is vitally important as well as being prepared emotionally by thinking different situations through. It isn’t being paranoid, it’s being prepared because we live in a different world. Attackers rely upon “ surprise “ and the proper environment with vulnerability, your articles help keep us vigilant with a fighting chance.
The most important quality one must develop is resilience. When we train women, it is apparent that girls are raised differently than boys. Girls are problem solvers. They take an overview of a situation and begin working to solve the situation. Boys are taught to charge ahead and destroy the problem and everything in the vicinity. Women who can develop resilience have the best of both approaches. What do I mean by “resilience”? The strong determination not to quit. The key to survival is never giving up. You have to decide that you will be the one who goes home. You may get bruised. You may get cut. You may even get shot. It doesn’t matter. Stay in the fight until you dominate the situation. Develop a warrior mindset. You will survive no matter what you must endure. At Last Resort Firearms Safety and Tactics, we instill resilience. Never be a victim. Always be the victor.
Absolutely agree. I was a girl who was raised on “Resilience” how to use a gun and a knife. Just got my gun permit in my early 60’s.