How to Prepare Your Business for an Active Shooter (Part I)

March 27, 2017

An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. To best prepare your staff for an active shooter situation, create an emergency action plan (EAP) and conduct training exercises. Together, the EAP and training exercises will prepare your staff to effectively respond and help minimize loss of life.

Components of an EAP

Create the EAP with input from several stakeholders, including HR, your training department (if one exists), facility owners or operators, your property manager, and local emergency responders. An effective EAP includes the following:

  • A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • An evacuation policy and procedure
  • Emergency escape procedures and route assignments (e.g., floor plans or safe areas)
  • Contact information for, and responsibilities of, individuals to be contacted under the EAP
  • Information concerning local area hospitals (e.g., the name, telephone number and distance from your location)

An emergency notification system to alert various parties of an emergency, including the following:

  • Individuals at remote locations within premises
  • Local law enforcement
  • Local area hospitals

Components of Training Exercises

The most effective way to train your staff to respond to an active shooter situation is to conduct mock active shooter training exercises. Local law enforcement is an excellent resource in designing training exercises. Training components may include the following:

  • Recognizing the sound of gunshots
  • Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard and/or when a shooting is witnessed
    • Evacuating the area
    • Hiding out
    • Acting against the shooter as a last resort
  • Calling 911
  • Reacting when law enforcement arrives
  • Adopting the survival mindset during times of crisis

Additional Ways to Prepare For and Prevent an Active Shooter Situation

Below are steps you can take to improve preparedness:

  • Ensure your facility has at least two evacuation routes.
  • Post evacuation routes in conspicuous locations throughout your facility.
  • Include local law enforcement and first responders during training exercises.
  • Encourage law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams and bomb squads to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.

Emergency Numbers

In addition, make sure to have the phone numbers on hand for the following:

  • Emergency services
  • Local emergency information line
  • Local police department
  • Local fire department
  • Local hospital
  • Local FBI field office
  • Facility security

Make sure your facility’s address, including floor, suite and/or room numbers, is also easily accessible, along with your office phone number and extension. For more information on creating an EAP, contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration,

Preparing For and Managing an Active Shooter Situation

Your HR department and facility managers should engage in planning for emergency situations, including an active shooter scenario. Planning for emergency situations will help to mitigate the likelihood of an incident by establishing the mechanisms described below.

Human Resources’ Responsibilities

The following are responsibilities of HR professionals:

  • Conduct effective employee screening and background checks.
  • Create a system for reporting signs of potentially violent behavior.
  • Make counseling services available to employees.
  • Develop an EAP which includes policies and procedures for dealing with an active shooter situation, as well as after action planning.

Facility Manager Responsibilities

The following are responsibilities of facility mangers:

  • Institute access controls (e.g., keys and security system passcodes).
  • Distribute critical items to appropriate managers and employees, including the following:
    • Floor plans
    • Keys
    • Facility personnel lists and telephone numbers
  • Coordinate with the facility’s security department to ensure the physical security of the location.
  • Assemble crisis kits containing the following:
    • Radios
    • Floor plans
    • Staff roster and staff emergency contact numbers
    • First-aid kits
    • Flashlights
  • Place removable floor plans near entrances and exits for emergency responders.
  • Activate the emergency notification system when an emergency situation occurs.

Reactions of Managers during an Active Shooter Situation

Employees and customers are likely to follow the lead of managers during an emergency situation. During an emergency, managers should be familiar with their EAPs and be prepared to do the following:

  • Take immediate action.
  • Remain calm.
  • Lock and barricade doors.
  • Evacuate staff and customers via a preplanned evacuation route to a safe area.

Assisting Individuals with Special Needs and/or Disabilities

To assist those with special needs and disabilities, ensure that EAPs, evacuation instructions and any other relevant information addresses individuals with specials needs and/or disabilities.

Recognizing Potential Workplace Violence

An active shooter in your workplace may be a current or former employee, or an acquaintance of a current or former employee. Intuitive managers and co-workers may notice characteristics of potentially violent behavior in an employee. Alert your HR department if you believe an employee or co-worker exhibits potentially violent behavior.

Indicators of Potential Violence by an Employee

Employees typically do not just “snap,” but display indicators of potentially violent behavior over time. If these behaviors are recognized, they can often be managed and treated. Potentially violent behaviors by an employee may include one or more of the following:

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism; vague physical complaints
  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
  • Depression and/or withdrawal
  • Resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedures
  • Repeated violations of company policies
  • Increased severe mood swings
  • Noticeably unstable, emotional responses
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
  • Suicidal; comments about “putting things in order”
  • Behavior which suggests paranoia (“everybody is against me”)· Increasingly talks of problems at home
  • Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace; talk of severe financial problems
  • Talk of previous incidents of violence
  • Empathy with individuals committing violence
  • Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons and violent crimes

Remember that this list of behaviors is not comprehensive, nor is it intended as a mechanism for diagnosing violent tendencies.

Managing the Consequences of an Active Shooter Situation

After the active shooter has been incapacitated and is no longer a threat, HR and/or management should engage in post-event assessments and activities, including the following:

  • An accounting of all individuals at a designated assembly point to determine who, if anyone, is missing and potentially injured
  • Determining a method for notifying families of individuals affected by the active shooter, including notification of any casualties
  • Assessing the psychological state of individuals at the scene, and referring them to health care specialists accordingly
  • Identifying and filling any critical personnel or operational gaps left in the organization as a result of the active shooter

Lessons Learned

To facilitate effective planning for future emergencies, it is important to analyze the recent active shooter situation and create an after action report. The analysis and reporting contained in this report is useful for the following:

  • Serving as documentation for response activities
  • Identifying successes and failures that occurred during the event
  • Providing an analysis of the effectiveness of the existing EAP
  • Describing and defining a plan for making improvements to the EAP

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s, Active Shooter – How to Respond