The officers ran into baggage claim and yelled, “run for your lives, there’s an active shooter in the terminal!”

Talk about a wake-up call. I had just landed from France in Terminal 1 at JFK. It was the same year as the Paris attacks. Imagine the reaction of 400+ people from France and Germany flying to the U.S. and being greeted like that. It was pure pandemonium. Parents separated from kids, people screaming and yelling. Some sat down, curled up in a ball and were crying (don’t be in this group!).

Most of the crowd blew threw barriers and security doors and spilled onto the tarmac next to the baggage carts. I honestly, although having deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, had never experienced such a feeling of helplessness. It was crazy. I ran for cover. (cover stops bullets, concealment just hides you: Cover=concrete; concealment=restaurant table.)

I assessed the situation and decided to also make my way out to the tarmac. I had to get off the X and put distance between myself and the threat (remember this).

Once outside I spoke to one of the officers, I explained my background and he tried to enlist me to help marshal everyone back inside. I argued with him that putting people back into the threat zone is a bad idea. We didn’t know what was happening yet, so why put them back inside? Outside we had lots of options.

A few people overhead my conversation and asked me to help them escape. So I told them we should head for the fence line. We went under the airport baggage area, and out to the main road. I tossed a jacket over the barbed wire and helped six people over the fence, including a new mother and her baby. It was a team effort. I said we should all hop in cabs before they closed the roads.

False alarm at JFK, are airports prepared to handle an active shooter?

Read Next: False alarm at JFK, are airports prepared to handle an active shooter?

What a surreal situation! I was home in 30 minutes and was now watching the event unfold on the news. The next morning I was interviewed by Good Morning America about the experience. It turned out that the active shooter was a phoned-in hoax. But, a sports event (people yelling) in combination with the elevated threat level, and one accidental discharge of a firearm, was a perfect recipe for mob panic.

It was this experience that actually inspired the creation of the Crate Club ballistic insert for our premium “General” level members.

Lessons learned:

1) Have a plan and communicate that plan with your family beforehand. If X happens this is what we do. It was clear JFK security had a plan to deal with the threat but not one to deal with the passengers. We had to take care of ourselves. Remember that, in most situations, police and first responders are dealing with the threat, and we are on our own!

2) Know the difference between cover and concealment.

3) The world is dangerous. Join some sort of community (if not Crate Club, then something else). Aside from cool gear, we are a community that shares knowledge through our content, events (Academy) and chat forums.

Thanks for listening.