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London Bridge Terror Attack: Using a Fire Extinguisher to Take Down the Armed Assailant

On November 29, 2019, a terrorist began stabbing innocent bystanders at Fishmonger’s Hall, a historic venue located at the north end of the London Bridge. The attacker managed to kill two Cambridge University graduates and seriously wound three others before a group of brave bystanders subdued him.

What We Know About the London Bridge Terror Attack

The assailant was attending a conference on prisoner education and reform at Fishmonger’s Hall. Many in attendance were former and current prisoners, including the attacker, who was released in December 2018 after serving an eight-year prison sentence for plotting terrorist attacks.

Upon hearing screams, several individuals ran from the conference hall to find the assailant stabbing conference attendees, and he also appeared to be wearing a suicide belt. With no weapons on hand, the bystanders looked for items within reach to take down the attacker. The New York Times reported that John Crilly, a former inmate, “Went at the killer, armed with only the improvised tools at hand. First a wooden lectern, and then a fire extinguisher.” The bystanders managed to surprise and disorient the attacker with their counter-attacks.

The bystanders chased the assailant onto the London Bridge. The New York Times then reported, “Mr. Crilly sprayed him with the fire extinguisher. Another man poked at the attacker with a narwhal tusk he had pulled from a display in the hall, and another hit him with a pole.” The men were able to retrieve one of the attacker’s knives and subdue him until the police arrived. Taking no chances with the suicide vest, a London police officer ultimately shot and killed the attacker.

Objects Used to Fight off the Terror Attacker:

  • Chairs

  • Fire extinguishers

  • Pole

  • Narwhal (whale) tusk, which was hanging on the wall inside Fishmonger’s Hall

One of the Tenets of Active Shooter Preparedness Training: Fighting Back

When faced with an attacker or active shooter, likely, the targeted individuals won’t be armed. Assailants purposely target vulnerable groups to ensure that they will be able to carry out their mission. During our active shooter preparedness training, we teach participants to study their surroundings and find viable, potentially life-saving weapons. In classrooms and learning centers, many everyday items can disorient or stop an active threat.

A participant from one of our active shooter preparedness courses. She identified a vacuum cleaner as a viable weapon against an unwanted intruder.

Tips to fight back against an active assailant:

  • Identify potential weapons in your facility ahead of time.

  • Use everything in your reach to distract, delay, and fight off an attacker.

  • Everyday objects can turn into useful weapons, including fire extinguishers, vacuum cleaners, blocks, toys, tables, and chairs.

*If you plan on using a fire extinguisher as a weapon, make sure you know how to use it before a violent incident occurs. The Institute for Childhood Preparedness offers a two-hour course on fire safety and fire extinguisher training. Participants learn the basics of fire safety and prevention, as well as how to put out a live fire.

We applaud the brave individuals that risked their lives to take down the London Bridge terror attacker. Because of their quick thinking and willingness to fight back, the bystanders saved multiple lives.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness has decades of experience in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. We’re proud to offer active shooter preparedness training and fire safety and extinguisher training in English and Spanish. Schedule training with us today:




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