"It's pretty messed up that the U.S. government treats these shootings like they would a natural disaster," as if these rampages "were something that can't be prevented," he said.
Joseph LaRocca, senior adviser at the National Retail Federation, a Washington-based trade group, said he approached the department about doing the booklet after a gunman killed eight and took his own life at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., in December 2007. The department put out the booklet in October of the following year.
While the safety of retail employees and customers was the main reason, LaRocca said his members also were concerned about the legal liability they would face for not trying to do anything to minimize the loss of life during a rampage.
Boogaard declined to comment on how much the booklet or other materials cost to develop.
In the booklet, the reader is advised to "take note of the two nearest exits in any facility to visit" so you're not caught flat-footed and "evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow."
Such advice in the booklet just sounds like common sense, Goddard said. Still, not everyone follows common sense, and some of the shoppers at Westroads moved toward the sound of gunshots, putting themselves in the line of fire, LaRocca said.
In the booklet, the department advises people to remember to keep their hands visible and spread their fingers so police arriving on the scene don't mistake them for the shooter.
If escape is impossible, silence cell phones and find a safe room where the door can be blockaded with furniture.
Students in some of the other Virginia Tech classrooms were able to move their teachers' heavy desks in front of the door, keeping Cho at bay, Goddard said.