Photo: WAMU: American University Radio

The disastrous toll taken on the public psyche by the never-ending spate of Intentional Mass-Casualty Incidents (IMCIs) is still increasing, year by year, according to data from the U.S. FBI. Although rare compared to other types of homicide, these incidents capture public attention with their incomprehensible violence, catastrophic death tolls, and devastating effects on communities. Experts have implemented improved training for law enforcement and civilians, especially schools.Few efforts are data-driven, however, and some have had the unintended consequence of imparting psychological harm by holding realistic drills that involve young children. Now, authors for Critical Conflict Analysis have completed a multi-tiered research endeavor aimed at deciphering the what factors affect survivability during intentional mass-casualty incidents.

Table of Contents 

This article series contains three essays that provide a snapshot of the state of the active shooter threat facing the global community, while proposing solutions to common challenges and conducting original research which resulted in novel conclusions. 

1.   Confronting the Active Shooter: What Factors Affect Survivability? 

2.   Confronting the Active Shooter: Does Civilian Intervention Make a Difference? 

3.   Confronting the Active Shooter: What are the Global Implications? 


            This project was completed originally as an undergraduate capstone submission by Mr. Sydney Fernandez and Mrs. Alicia Hitch. The authors would like to first thank Western Michigan University for a world-class education with a courageous focus on student initiative. WMU has always encouraged us to be leaders, not followers in our education, expecting us to take the road-less-traveled, and priming us to contribute to human knowledge by fostering inquiry, innovation, and curiosity at every turn. Very few institutions would have been so supportive of this project, but we received nothing but warm support, valuable insight, and crucial encouragement as this effort developed during the Spring of 2019. The authors would also like to extend a warm thanks to Dr. Thomas Kostrzewa of the WMU Department of Global and International Studies, whose classroom leadership and infectious regard for human rights has affected generations of students during his 32 years at WMU. In his capacity as the instructor of our capstone course, Dr. Kostrzewa unceasingly imparted timeless wisdom stemming from a lifetime of education, research, and work alongside global challenges related to democracy, information, and regional issues, while encouraging each and every participant in our capstone seminar to give their fullest effort to their projects and providing useful advice as we progressed. Lastly, we would like to extend a deep and profound sense of gratitude to the courageous victims of uncountable active shooterincidents who took an active role in their own survival, saving lives often at the cost of their own. This project was spurred on by the courage of victims who took action, even with nothing but their bare hands, a fire extinguisher, or a narwhal tusk to protect themselves and other members of the public.  

            Alicia Hitch would like to extend further thanks to my husband, Bradley Hitch, for his endless encouragement that pushes me to fight complacency and strive to become better each day. The sacrificial way he loves and serves me, his brothers, and even strangers will always be my motivation. I express the deepest gratitude to my parents for raising me up to rise above the storms and for the wisdom you two have imparted on me. Dad, we shake it off and step it up, we believe, we run to the roar, we soar like eagles, but above all, we’re in His grip. Mom, watching you fight back after breaking down death’s door taught me that never giving up is not a 100-meter sprint but an Ironman of endurance on which we are never alone. I would like to formally thank Covenant Merge Ministries and the following people: Dale Lusk for taking a risk and letting me, 18-years-old and straight out of high school, interpreton your team in Guatemala. Walter Aquejay Ortega and family, Rafael Cossío, and Sibia Chahim, your patience and friendship will never be forgotten. Esther Palma, Iglesia Pueblo de Cristo in Heredia, and our Costa Rica 2019 team, thank you for the last-minute invite that turned into some of the most valuable experiences and friendships. To Dr. Kostrzewa again, for instilling a profound desire for experiential learning ever since we first met during my freshman year. Furthermore, I would like to take this chance to thank those whom I have met during my time at Western Michigan University: Lieutenant Colonel Brandon Tennimon at WMU’s ROTC for all his understanding and support that permitted me not only to study abroad, but to earn my degree and commission. To Sergeant First Class Elijah Phillips, for your common sense and willingness to help, whether it was your responsibility or not. You are a fantastic role model and play a larger role in the development of WMU ROTC cadets than you realize. To Michael Millar, I cannot thank you enough for your involvement in my WMU career and your kindness during difficult times. To Anthony Helms, for going above and beyond to ensure I could continue my studies at WMU and being a faculty member who truly cares about his students. Finally, thank you Sydney Fernandez for your sense of purpose, for your friendship to my husband and I, and for encouraging me to look for implications beyond our capstone with this research.

            Sydney Fernandez would like to extend further thanks to my extended and highly involved family, who made the pursuit of knowledge as important an expectation of my life as the pursuit of happiness itself. An upbringing rooted in a thirst for knowledge is one that will inevitably incur many adventurous ambitions, and I would like to extend further thanks to my family for seeing me off from the tarmac countless times in my young life with nothing but well wishes. Seizing this opportunity to codify my appreciation for all of the incredible mentors of WMU who have had such a profound impact on my life, I would like to thank Dr. Mustafa Mughazy and Mr. Wessam Abdelaaziz of the Arabic department, for teaching me that there is no limit to the power of  a curious mind when it comes to hearing the voices of communities the world over. Alf ash-shukr alaykum ya Mustafa wa ya Wessam. To Dr. Thomas Kostrzewa, who was relentlessly supportive of me during the development of the Global Leaders Program, my proudest accomplishment at WMU, and also during the conduct of the capstone course that produced this project. Another thank you is extended to Dr. Susan Pozo, director of the WMU Department of Global Studies, for entertaining my research curiosities through a private Special Topics seminar in 2018. Dr. Pozo patiently answered my numerous and often very basic questions surrounding research methods for a full semester, and I owe much of my contributions to this project to Dr. Pozo’s unique expertise and superb mentorship. To Dr. Cybelle Shattuck of the Department of Comparative Religion, a sincere thanks for providing me a much-needed break from my typical coursework, which more often than not focused on war and political violence, to instruct me in the most interesting abstractions of the human-environment-godhead nexus. You provided me incredible perspective. An unbelievably grateful thank you also goes out to Dr. Lee Penyak and Mr. Joe Rasich at the WMU Study Abroad Office, for their undying support for our student-led Global Leaders Program, founded in 2018, of which I am immensely proud. Our work all over the world would not have been possible without such incredible leadership from WMU Study Abroad. I would also like to extend deep gratitude to the men and women of Gavin De Becker & Associates, for the timeless and invaluable mentorship which I received during my 2017-18 employment. GDBA teaches the value of “CANI” constant and never-ending improvement, and in doing so the firm is in keeping with the highest traditions of knowledge-seeking. More importantly, however, GDBA protects some of the world’s most vulnerable people and institutions, provides consultations to people, places and governments, and endeavors to be a force for good, for public order and peace, in our world. In a world whose news cycle is plagued by never-ending atrocities and catastrophes, Gavin and his men and women are truly a light in the dark. Lastly, a sincere thanks goes out to my straight-talking research partner, Alicia Hitch, who demonstrates incredible creativity and willpower in every task. I could not be more encouraged for the future than by knowing that young women such as yourself are becoming the face of leadership in the U.S. Army. I thank you for your energy and shared interest in our important work, and more importantly I thank you for your unwavering friendship. I wish you and Brad the very best as you embark upon your careers and lives together and foresee many a professional collaboration in the future.(And maybe an adventure or two.)