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'Tuff' Lessons From Ga. School Gunman 911 Call

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By Betty Wang, JD on August 22, 2013 11:55 AM

Antoinette Tuff made an incredibly difficult 911 call and helped to prevent a mass shooting at an elementary school near Atlanta on Tuesday. What can we learn from Tuff's heroic call and how she handled the situation?

Tuff, who works in the front office at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, called 911 when a gunman, later identified as Michael Brandon Hill, walked into the school, armed with an assault rifle.

Tuff did not sound hysterical or panicked in the 911 call, obtained by CNN. Instead, she calmly followed all the dispatcher's instructions and engaged in conversation with the gunman, even offering to walk him outside so he could properly surrender. Though shots were fired, no one was hurt in the ordeal.

Here are some lessons we can learn from Antoinette Tuff on how to handle a scary hostage situation:

  • Remain calm. It's crucial to remain calm. This is always the first step you should take. Remember, the calmer you are, the more effectively you'll be able to handle the situation.
  • Try to retreat, without drawing attention to yourself. If possible, try to find a safe place where you can hide while alerting the authorities. (Tuff considered doing this when Hill stepped out of the front office, but the gunman quickly returned.) If you can, find a room with a lock, lock it, and stay as far away from the door as you possible can.
  • Alert the police immediately. Call the police right away and follow their instructions. If you're afraid of being heard, you can call 911 and then leave the line open so operators can hear what's going on in the background. In some areas, emergency texting services may be available as well.
  • If you need to communicate with the gunman, be composed. Remember that the gunman or hostage-taker may be unstable, and anything might set him off. The more calm and composed you are, the less agitated he may be.
  • Put your captor at ease. Talk to your captor as if he were your friend. Remember, he may be coming from a place you don't understand. Don't patronize him, don't verbally assault or accuse him of anything. The more at ease your captor is, the less likely he'll be set off. Try to listen to what he has to say.
  • Observe. Be extra observant of your surroundings. Be on the lookout for possible escape routes for yourself, and take in as much detail as possible. This will also help you in relaying your location and other details to the dispatcher on the phone.

While nobody ever wants to walk into a situation like this, it's always best to be prepared. Remember to always stay alert, remain calm, and do the best you can.

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