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Active Shooter: Preparing & Reacting

An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. Active shooters in most cases use firearms(s), and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations evolve quickly and are unpredictable. Active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes before law enforcement arrives on the scene, so individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the situation.

The most effective strategies to protect your life when faced with an active shooter are to run, hide, or fight. If there is an accessible escape path, run with an escape route and plan in mind. If running isn’t an option, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you that provides protection if shots are fired. Make sure to lock the door and refrain from any sources of noise. Call 911 if running and hiding aren’t possible to alert police of the active shooter’s location. As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.

Law Enforcement's First Responders purpose is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible. When law enforcement arrives, remain calm, keep your hands visible and raised at all times, and follow the officers’ instructions. Important information to provide to law enforcement or the 911 operator is location and description of the shooter(s), types of weapons, and number of potential victims. Rescue teams of additional officers and emergency medical personnel will soon follow first responders. They will treat and remove any injured people.

The best way to prepare your staff for an active shooter situation is to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). An effective EAP has an evacuation policy and procedure, contact information for individuals in charge of the plan, emergency responders contact information, and an emergency notification system to alert various parties. Next step is to train your staff with mock active shooter exercises and continuous improvement with re-training. Your human resource department and facility manager should be heavily involved in planning and preventing emergency situations. Human Resources’ responsibilities are to conduct effective employee screening and background checks, create a system for reporting signs of potentially violent behavior, and making counseling services available to employees. The Facility Manager needs to institute access controls, coordinate with the facility’s security department to ensure the physical security of the location, and assemble crisis kits.


Safety Guidelines for Armed Subjects, Active Shooter Situations, Indiana University Police Department, April 2007.

Safety Tips & Guidelines Regarding Potential “Active Shooter” Incidents Occurring on Campus, University of California Police.

Shots Fired, When Lightning Strikes (DVD), Center for Personal Protection and Safety, 2007.

Workplace Violence Desk Reference, Security Management Group International,

How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, OSHA 3088, 2001.

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