Run, Hide, Fight… and You

osu-good-somali-2In the recent Ohio State terrorist incident (you know, the one for which the press is still assiduously trying to unlock the mystery within an enigma of the attacker’s motive), campus public safety officials sent a message to all hands: Active Shooter, Run Hide Fight.

We know now that the “Active Shooter” was an error, an error that, predictably, spawned giddy glee in the gun control camp. The jihadi had a car and a machete, and followed an ISIL attack protocol we’ve seen several times in Europe this year already, but he wasn’t a shooter. However, we think that (1) the campus cops were right to send that message and (2) run, hide, fight, is good advice, and it’s probably better advice for us (licensed or authorized gun carriers) than it is for the usual defenseless collegiate population.

Let’s take those two assertions one at a time.

The Campus Cops were Right to Send, “Active Shooter, Run Hide Fight”

“But Hognose,” we can practically hear you as we write this. “There was no active shooter.” We know now that there was not, and the cops may even have had a hint that there was not. (Or not; next paragraph we’ll explain). But even if they didn’t think there was an active shooter, it was a good call for several reasons.

  1. It helps produce the desired defensive behavior (run, hide, fight);
  2. It’s a lot easier to assume that there is a shooter than to know that there is not;
  3. Historically, jihadi attacks have often involved coordinated attacks, whether it’s bombings or small arms attacks. The first thing to look for when you have one attacker is his confederates! If he hasn’t got any, you’re not as badly off for your false reaction than you would be if you didn’t do anything, and he was one of a cell of ten like we’ve seen in some attacks, or even a pair, a more common thing.
  4. And they might have thought there was an active shooter.

Why would they think that there were more shooters at large? Well, they had, apart from the room-temperature suspect, an innocent person with a gunshot wound. (This was apparently a lost round from the policeman who neutralized the suspect).

Could the campus have done some things better? Sure. But they were right to warn the campus.

“Run, Hide, Fight” is Actually a Good Protocol

A lot of armed self-defenders see themselves rushing across campus to confront an attacker in a scenario like this. We think it’s a bad idea. Better to run if you are in “escaping distance” from the threat, hide if you are invisible and unknown to the threat, and only fight if you must.

Why run? If he can already see you, moving targets are harder to hit than stationary ones. Targets further away are harder to hit than nearby ones. Opening the distance may not bring you to cover, but it does improve your odds, as does giving your assailant a target that is in relative motion, especially laterally.

Why hide? If you can access a hiding place where you are invisible and unknown to the assailant(s), you don’t ever come up in his target array.

Why fight? There’s really one best reason: if you’re cornered and must defend yourself or others’ lives. Don’t go hunting the guy; first, you moving lets him ambush you. Second, if police or a hostage rescue force strike, and you’re on the X with a gun in your hand, guess what prize you just won? Finally, if you must (or get the opportunity to) pop the guy, one of the key questions prosecutors will ask as they review the case is, “Who was the aggressor?” Don’t be that guy. It’s potentially not self-defense if you’re the one attacking.

Mental Rehearsals and “Run, Hide, Fight”

It’s important to form a mental picture of what each of these steps would look like in any place where you could potentially be attacked. We have found the drill of “mental rehearsal” worthwhile. Consider, as you go about your daily business, what would you do if this place turned into the San Berdoo social services office, or the Bataclan venue in Paris. Which way would you run? Where might you hide? Where would be the most effective place to fight?

So, as you can see, the “Run, Hide, Fight” mantra also provides you a handy mnemonic for worst-case-scenario planning and preparation, or for your “mental rehearsal.”

It’s likely that you will never face such a serious incident as the faculty, staff and students of OSU did. If you do not, the time and effort spent on preparation is a sunk cost. But if you do, nothing but time and effort spent now on preparation can avail you anything at all.

Take care out there.

33 thoughts on “Run, Hide, Fight… and You

    1. Hognose Post author

      It’s a common(?) abbreviation for “and”. “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Although the two apostrophes are kind of a pedantic way to spell it.

  1. John Distai

    I saw some of the headlines about how the “Run, Hide, Fight” is a bad idea. I figured these came from some pansies, and I’m a bit exhausted from being constantly bombarded with their whining. So I didn’t bother to “enlighten” myself of their point of view.

    I think this protocol is great! I think every person needs to be reminded of where it is that we evolved from – the wild. The law of the jungle still exists, and will always exist. When the organic matter hits the small appliance, we are no longer observers. We are back in the jungle, as participants. Look out the window and recognize that every cute bunny or squirrel in your yard lives and dies by these laws every day. Every bear, coyote, deer, etc. does the same. Although we live in “civilization”, we are merely insulated, not removed from that reality.

    I wish more adults and parents recognized this and taught their children that they are not unique and special snowflakes who embody earth-bound angels. They are wild animals who must learn to read situations, keep their wits, and have knowledge of their natural weapons and natural defenses when the time comes to employ them. Only then, disguise these skills under other “civilized” veneers that help them thrive when no threat is in sight.

    The first lesson I had with my favorite martial arts instructor started with a question: “Who’s your best friend?” I’d answer with my friend’s names. “Wrong! Distance is your best friend! He who controls the distance, controls the outcome!” I’m glad to see you mention it in your post. I miss that guy, and his common-sense teachings.

  2. Steve Parker, M.D.

    I’m going to set a couple rattlesnakes loose in my house.

    I’ll provide some mice for them to eat periodically.

    I’ll keep an eye out for the snakes as I go about my life.

    I’ll be fine.

    For a while.


    1. Hognose Post author

      There are several similar videos at that page, too, including one from OSU. It’s amusing that almost every one of them shows a young, white male with a short conservative, even “military” The focus on “shooter” diminishes the utility of these tactics against various other attackers. ISIL is pushing the knife attack now in their magazine, but the Uyghurs in China have long use a similar tactic and they’ve racked up some real butchers’ bills.

  3. robroysimmons

    One thing about Islam it brings war, I mean collectively we could all die the “straw death” while being hectored to our last breath by our ever crazier women or we could go fight. I know tough talk, soon we will all be very aged men just hoping someone wipes our asses for us.

    One thing that pleased me was that the Haji sat in a “Microagressions” class listening to fags, tranny fags, and whiny loser women whine and whine some more and more. Personally all those D voting Haji types should have to attend a microaggression course and listen to their political allies, but that is just me I am an asshole who wants to see D voters fight one another.

  4. James

    I whole heartedly agree with the idea of doing mental scenarios of what you would do if something went very wrong/i.e. a natural disaster/a terrorist attack/robbery/fire.
    I learned this lesson at the loss of many lives,this was The Station nightclub fire with the band Great White.I was thinking of going to that show and they opened with my favorite song by them so probably would have worked my way towards the front.A hundred folks died and more then two hundred injured,got many calls the next morning and was grateful to say I didn’t go but still to this day haunts me as we lost a lot of brothers and sisters in the rock world.
    I now am a lot more aware of my surroundings due to the fire and other bad situations,always looking for exits/what would I do if a certain situation came up ect.,a good habit to get in.I still go shopping/clubs for bands ect.,will not let paranoia rule,just paranoid enuff to pay more attention.

  5. Bill Robbins

    Short-list of daily survival habits, 1970s New York pessimist addition:
    1. When entering or exiting an elevator, wait to see who is inside/outside, watch the corners, and keep one arm at-the-ready to protect your face.
    2. As every wise-guy knows, sit facing the door, especially at Italian restaurants (modern update: especially at Starbucks).
    3. When in public, think Israeli.
    4. Don’t walk next to walls; go wide when turning corners
    5. Don’t stand at the edge of the subway platform.

  6. Texas dude

    That video has some subtle, and I think intentional, political commentary embedded in there. The Houston folks who made the video snuck “30.06” signs in the background a couple times; once when the shooter entered the building, and second time when the SWAT guys show up.

    For those of you outside of the Republic, a “30.06” sign, from that section of the Penal Code, is one that allows a business owner to exclude a person legally carrying a concealed handgun.

    The last legislative session, while adding open carry, essentially changed the penalty for 30.06 (and the new 30.07) to a $200 fine if you refuse to leave when told.

    The folks in Texas noticed that immediately, when that video came out a few years back.

  7. jfre

    An interesting video series from Gun Talk Media called First Person Defender. Force on force training sims with concealed carriers. The one below is a range experienced paramedic. Locks up in the sim and gets stimulatedly beat to death with a bat by the attacker. A cautionary tail regarding the transferability of range experience to real life situations.

    Mentioned in the Bearing Arms blog.

  8. DaveP

    S.O. and I were talking about R,H,F just yesterday, as her smallish workplace recently had a texted vague suggestion of a threat (which was handled off-site and is reportedly resolved). Her department has two entry points into the same larger room, locking doors, and then several smaller rooms down a single hallway from the main room, with any doors there non-locking.
    She said no official protocol exists, but they had discussed locking the main egress doors and then sheltering in the back rooms. I had to walk her through the fact that none of those smaller rooms have windows, so once you’re down the hall, you’ve only got one way out – through the threat.

    I’d rather preserve an escape option, if possible.
    I also think it’s a good exercise to visualize scenarios and play them out in your head, an obvious extension of SA. I’m pretty laid-back and perhaps trusting to a fault, but I don’t like being surprised.

    (I’m all for ‘active shooter’ designation for any similar threat, gun or no gun. No way for the flock to learn/train for multiple response protocols based on car, knife, sharp stick, etc.)


  9. raven

    The order is wrong. Fight first.
    We won’t stop these attacks by running and hiding.
    We have to fight.

    And how, after hiding , and listening to the killers mercilessly murdering defenseless people, are we going to live with ourselves for doing nothing? How many will die before the cops show up, while we cower in a hole? Was the cute 7 year old girl in the checkout line? The young couple holding hands? That old guy with Korea cap with CIB pin? The worst that can happen if we try, is we get killed. So what is one more? Will we receive a better reception at Heavens door because we hid? Find the bastard(s), and do our best to take them out. Maybe we get lucky. And even we we don’t get lucky, at least we won’t spend the rest of our days knowing that maybe, just maybe, we could have made a difference, and choose not to try.

    1. Kirk

      You’re absolutely right. The sole rule to these situations ought to be one word: “Resist”.

      It absolutely boggles my mind that so many of these attackers find such willing victims waiting for them. By rights, they ought to be walking into rooms full of people waiting to beat them to death with table legs, and who are laying in wait for them, with blood in their eyes and malice aforethought.

      Were someone to tell me to do what most of these idiots have undertaken in their little killing sprees as a military operation? One where I’m going in alone, with a pistol, to kill as many unarmed civilians as I can, perhaps somewhere in the Third World? Yeah… F**k that. I can’t think of a better way to come to a really nasty end, at the hands of a mob.

      Problem is, our effete times have created people who don’t do “mob” very well, at all. I think we need to start aggression training early, and do it in the schools. Every grade school in the country ought to have a bite suit, and run drills where an adult in the bite suit shows up and pulls out a paintgun, and then the kids mob them and take them down with sheer numbers. Train them to attack, and I guarantee you that the first time the news is reporting a gunman attacking a school being taken down by a pack of kids who swarmed them and did the usual kick, bite, and scream that those kids are capable of…? Yeah. The romance of the whole thing is going to go right out the f*****g window, for the vast majority of the sort of dipshits who want to shoot up schools. Picture one of those losers smothering to death under a pile of squirming, biting, scratching kids who are likely also voiding themselves on him, and then contemplate the likely psychological effects on all concerned–Empowering the victims, and engendering fear and disgust among the potential perpetrators. There’s no dignity to dying underneath a swarm of grade-schoolers, and with the proper training, I think we could make that the most likely outcome of such events.

      America has a mob gap, and it is something I think we need to address. Workplace violence ought to be addressed by periodic training, where the same sort of approach is taken, only with adult sensibilities in mind. You’re not going to have swarms of adults mobbing a potential killer, but with the proper attitude, you could make life really rough on anyone. Annual classes on “found weapons”, going over what can be done with things found in the workplace, and the best way to deal with gunmen tactically. Not to mention, I think we ought to really be thinking in terms of re-designing the workspaces themselves, to make defense more easily accomplished, and to make life harder on the potential attacker. Make every door one you have to duck to get through, for example, and have a handy platform near the entry where you can drop something heavy on the bastard.

      I’m telling you, put me in charge of dealing with these things, and you’d see them end within a couple of years. Nobody in their right mind would try that sort of thing, knowing from having watched the news what happened to the last fool who tried it–“Man attempts workplace shooting; fellow employees respond by dumping buckets of toilet-bowl cleaner on him; attacker dead within hours after arrival at hospital with agonizing chemical burns; film at eleven…”.

      Key thing would be to publicize the hell out of that sort of result–Let the country see what it looks like after a mob gets done with a curb-stomping, or after someone dumps the contents of the janitor’s storage closet on your stupid ass. Let the cameras linger on the grease stain on the concrete, or the lovely second- and third-degree chemical burns, which were exacerbated by having blankets or other such things wrapped around the attacker while they waited for police response.

      I’m telling you, I could stop this shit inside of five years. It would never happen again, after the first few times some dipshit tried re-enacting their favorite massacre, to discover that their victims have mobbed up, and are no longer passive victims.

      There’s a crazy woman I knew once, who had been a victim of attempted rape. Idiot rapist took her up on her offer of a blowjob, and she went to town on his genitals with her teeth and hands. The rape was not completed, and the rapist died in prison after being raped himself. Seems that lacking functional male genitalia in some prisons means you’re automatically someone’s sex toy…

      I always liked that lady’s attitude, which was that if you were going to attack her, she was going to do as much intimate damage as she could. It worked, at least once, and the humor of her calling 911 for her attacker afterwards was macabre, but funny as hell. More women had her attitude, we’d have a lot less rape. And, a lot fewer rapists.

      1. bloke_from_ohio

        In a perfect world the attacks would not happen. In a world better than ours the attackers would not walk into a room full of the afore mentioned table leg wielding mob with blood in their eyes. No, instead it would be a room full of armed and trained citizens ready to end the fight right there. The blood in the eyes is optional but I imagine it makes front sight focus harder…

        Alas neither world is one that we inhabit. So those who do have the skills, equipment, and inclination to fight have to do so on the behalf of others who don’t. But like I said before (or after depending on how this gets threaded) protecting life trumps killing the bad guy. That is after all the only reason you need to kill the bad guy (in the moment anyway).

      2. John Distai

        @Kirk – Aside from the one woman, how many other women have you known that had the presence of mind to consider this strategy in a time of duress, and the will and gumption to carry it out?

        1. Kirk

          Damn few. And, why is that?

          Because most women in our culture have been trained and habituated to be passive victims. Instead of approaching a sexual assault situation with the attitude that “Now I get to tear this bastard’s balls off and beat him senseless while he writhes in agony on the floor, bleeding heavily from his groin…”, they do what they have been taught and conditioned to all their lives–Be a victim. Not every rape can be resisted effectively, I will grant, but… Enough can, such that the enthusiasm for the crime would be greatly reduced.

          There was some tribe up in the Baltics, whose name and details escape me at the moment, who were so bloody-minded about their freedom that when the Teutons or Slavs tried making slaves out of them, the usual results were throats cut in the night and burnt-down houses. Eventually, there was no market for slaves from that tribe, and people learned to leave them the hell alone. The attitude and approach to life those people took is sadly missing in much of our deracinated population.

        2. staghounds

          How many people period? We’re talking about, not even training, but planting a mental seed in the general population tat might bear fruit at sudden need.

          “Run, hide,fight” is a better protocol than “Oh crap somebody is shooting at us what do I do?”.

      3. Quill_&_Blade

        Thanks. if I may go meta a little: So_many_paradoxes in life. Maybe it’s one big paradox, with different facets. About to be over my head there; but what I see everywhere is that people have a wrong, distorted idea of “normal”. On the one hand, it’s our job to “keep the wolf” away from the door. We pay bills, eat right, educate the children; all so that we distance ourselves from the bad. Then, people think the sheltered area/life is normal. IT’S NOT, wake up people. The world is vicious, in brutal explicit ways, and a thousand scams to defraud.
        I knew an otherwise reasonable guy who considered children working to be equal with rape. I don’t think he was talking about sweatshops, I think he meant chores. I know for certain how wrong that is, and I also make a point to let my kids see financial issues. It has only helped them. Making the house warm isn’t adjust a thermostat on the wall, it’s unload log sections, split, stack, carry inside, keep kindling dry at all times. If not, go out at 2 am and find some. Fresh meat doesn’t come from magic grocery store back room. It’s all the work involved in killing and butchering a large animal. I don’t allow a ‘soft’ killing scene in a movie to go without comment. Pause the video. Thank you. Kids do you know what just happened? Think about what happens to the flesh when the bullet hits. I go on, but that’s the idea. It sure is easier raising children out in the country. Would be 4, 5, who knows how many times more difficult in the city. Point being, kids need to see this stuff, my oldest is 24, doesn’t appear to be harmed by it. Maybe a trip to the ER is in order. Kids, this is what the criminal want to do to us.

        1. John Distai

          @Quill & Blade – Imagine marrying someone from that polar opposite world?
          (It’s certainly no picnic).

      4. staghounds

        Y”all go on ahead.

        Charging unarmed at someone with a gun or knife when escape is available isn’t resistance, it’s stupidity. ESPECIALLY for school children, the weak, and anyone without serious training.

        Unarmed resistance to an armed attacker might become necessary, but it is an absolute, United 93 last resort. It may just makes his job easier, and I don’t crave to get all full of bullets to boost his total.

      5. Keith

        I agree however I’m afraid the winners in the end would be the lawyers. They would have the narrative saying the attacker was the victim by the time they were done.

    2. bloke_from_ohio

      It is not about killing the wolf, it is about saving lives.

      Run, Hide, Fight is actually a fantastic SOP for these types of situations. And the order is correct for the vast majority of situations. Look at it this way. Those who suffer from sudden jihad syndrome and other nuts who perpetrate these types of attacks are not trying to win by surviving. They are trying to kill as many people as they can. You don’t just win by whacking the shooter, you win by protecting would be victims. You can do that two ways, getting people (sometimes yourself included) out of the kill zone, and stopping the threat with force. The priority given to each of those two approaches depends on the situation at hand.

      Like the martial artist above said earlier it all comes down to distance. If the attacker is close enough that you can fight him then he is close enough to target you and the people around you. Then as the fighter jocks say, fight’s on. If they are in the next room, down the way, or in the next building over your job is not to hunt them down. Your job is to get the other people near by to safety (or as much safety as you can manage). You as an armed citizen who has rehearsed this kind of thing (at least in your mind) need to take command of the probably unarmed folks around and get them the hell out of dodge or at least barricaded/hidden. Once they have evacuated or are adequately barricaded and hidden then you can cover their retrograde or defend the approach to the hide site. Getting yourself whacked charging into the fray is useless if the attacker then meanders to the room full of terrified people you failed to ensured evacuated and does his thing.

      1. Kirk

        If you don’t want wolves attacking, it damn sure is about killing the wolf. If you’re going to rely on specialized professionals to do your wolf-killing for you, you’re inevitably going to turn your flock into passive, helpless sheep when one gets past your guards–As they will.

        I advocate hardening the flock. It is a desperate wolf, indeed, who takes on a herd of musk oxen–And, you will note a vastly different response between the two herd animals we compare, here. The flock of sheep, being domesticated creatures, reliant on the guards provided by their owners, run in circles and panic when confronted by wolves who have bypassed the security. Musk oxen? They resist, as a group, and generally present sufficient risk to the wolves attackjng them that the wolves slink off and seek easier prey than an alerted herd of musk oxen. If you have ever seen the result of a gored wolf hooked on a horn, flung into the air, and eventually trampled to death by the herd, you would understand the caution they show, confronted with a circled herd of musk oxen.

        In the game of predator and prey, it is better to be the Cape Buffalo than the sheep.

        1. John M.

          Rather than most of the security theater that was added post-9/11, my proposal was to:
          1) Stop selling booze on the plane. Sorry.
          2) issue every passenger a knife with a 4″ blade.
          3) add a blurb to the stew’s safety presentation to the effect of, “in case of a hijacking, all passengers are expected to use any and all tools available to prevent the hijackers from turning this aircraft into a guided weapon.

          That and locking the cockpit doors would have done worlds better than most of the nonsense we have to go through. Harden the flock, as you say.

          -John M.

  10. Alien

    RE: the “run” part of “run, hide, fight” – IIRC, in the Paris restaurant incident there was a hadji outside the back door popping customers who tried to escape that way (might have been a different incident than the Paris thing, can’t remember) so before you go charging through what looks like a safe exit, stay alert for confederates.

    1. John Distai

      Thank you for bringing that consideration up. Perhaps this is why some were critical of the “Run. Hide. Fight.” doctrine. Good to understand both perspectives.

  11. staghounds

    Aside from teaching run/hide/fight, the most lifesaving thing we can do is not making these murderers stars.

    Everywhere you see his face or name should instead be an article about whoever killed him. Or a victim. Or a random dog on the street.

    They wrap themselves in religion, but the real motive is the same as it was in the Bath School slaughter-

    “I’m somebody now!”

  12. raven

    Americans are being turned into a nation of pussies. “violence never solved anything” ,”don’t fight back”. “It takes two to start a fight” etc, ad infinitum. All a bunch of PC BS, spoon fed to the population in the schools . Don’t do this, don’t do that, all enforced by a smarmy bunch of ball-less prigs.

    It is our DUTY to fight.
    All the rational explanations in the world won’t cut it. Did Nathan Hale, or Patrick Henry rationalize away duty? What about John Basilone, or Bishnu Shrestha , what do you suppose they would do, as their fellow humans were being slaughtered? Why is it we revere those who go up against desperate odds, but then council retreat as the preferred course? “Is life so dear..?”

    And if it goes wrong, is there a better way to die, than in defense of our own? The saga’s tell of KIng Hring, who was going to drowned in his tub, telling his would be killers that that was no way for a Viking King to die, and that they should have a grand battle,so he could die sword in hand. We need some of that spirit, badly. He got his his wish, though he was old enough he had to fight from a wagon.
    The Japanese carried swords in their tanks and aircraft and mini subs. Utterly useless, but done to evoke martial spirit, to remind them of their duty. From the Hagakure- “Step from under the eve and you are a dead man. Leave the gate and the enemy is waiting” From the Indians- “It is a good day to die”. From the Gurkhas, “It is better to die than to live as a coward”. And from one of our own “You can all go to Hell, I am going to Texas”.

    “go to Texas”.

    The plan is basic.
    Grab the first coherent person next to you and tell them in no uncertain terms to get as many out the back as they can. If they have a Devil Dog tattooed on their arm, bring them with you. :-)
    Arm yourself with whatever you have or can get, find the bastards and hit them as fast and as hard as you can from the flank, using any distraction you can think of.

    It is unlikely any of us shall have to respond to some attack like this- but if we do, treat it like a precious gift- what an honor that God placed us in such a pivotal place to make a difference.
    There could scarcely be a clearer example of the fight between good and evil- “Go to Texas”.

  13. Docduracoat

    You are a better parent than I am.
    I can barely get the kids to close ( and lock) the door to keep the air conditioning in and the crazies out.
    They get irritated when I lock the door while they are out walking the dog.
    Two Dad sayings are ” lock the door so no maniacs just waltz in here” and
    ” do I have to air condition the entire world?”
    My son and his friends have been told to ignore the entire run and hide and die protocol at school.
    They are instead to set an ambush.
    All the girls throw laptops and cell phones at attacker(s) when he enters the room, while the boys swarm and stab at the eyes, ears, neck and groin with pens and pencils.
    The main problem with all these active shooter protocols, both at my hospital and the school is that they are written by liberal government employees.
    Self reliance and self defense and personal responsibility for your own safety are just not in their mindset
    I am certain that a lot of the other gun enthusiast doctors also bring their concealed weapons into our gun free work zone.
    Concealed means concealed and I follow a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
    I do worry about being shot by responding police if I were to shoot a criminal/terrorist.
    Especially if I were deafened by shooting a gun indoors, had tunnel vision and did not hear them command me to drop my gun.
    There is no recognition signal for the good guy with a gun in the gun free zone.

    1. Quill_&_Blade

      You are a better parent than I am.”
      Thanks, but I’m not sure I’d want a close comparison. It’s easy to make a few internet posts in a selective way, and have people make assumptions. The kids aren’t abused in any way, but I’d like to spend more time with them individually. Oh well, I just spoke for most parents on the planet.
      I had this idea, similar to a cabin rental place run by a guy I know. I don’t know if he’s still doing it, but the place was clean, but primitive, so that you could experience life in the 1800’s. What if there was a place where you could take the kids, and live like the Waltons for a few days or a week. Not roughing it like camping, but everything has a cause and effect relationship. We’re going to have chicken tonight, go catch one. When you’re done with that, draw up some water from the well. Relieve yourself in the privy out back.

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