How to Respond to an Active Shooter
In most cases, there is no pattern or method to active shooters’ selection of victims, and the situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes—before law enforcement arrives on the scene—individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.
Good Practices for Coping with an Active Shooter Situation
- Below are some general practices for coping with an active shooter:
- Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
- If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
- If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
- As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him or her.
- Call 911 when it is safe to do so.
How to Respond When an Active Shooter is in Your Vicinity
Quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. Remember that customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of employees and managers during an active shooter situation.
- If there an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises:
- Have an escape route and plan in mind.
- Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
- Leave your belongings behind.
- Help others escape, if possible.
- Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
- Keep your hands visible so the shooter does not see you as an immediate threat.
- Follow the instructions of any police officers.
- Do not attempt to move wounded people.
- Call 911 when you are safe.
2. Hide Out
If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Your hiding place should have the following characteristics:
- Be out of the active shooter’s view
- Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (e.g., an office with a closed and locked door)
- Not trap your or restrict your options for movement
You should also take some basic steps to prevent a shooter from noticing your presence or entering your hiding place:
- Lock any doors, if possible.
- Blockade the door with heavy furniture.
- Silence your cell phone and/or pager.
- Turn off any source of noise (e.g., radios or televisions).
- Hide behind large items (e.g., cabinets or desks).
- Remain as quiet as possible.
If evacuation and hiding are not possible:
- Remain calm.
- Dial 911 to alert police to the active shooter’s location, if possible.
- If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.
3. Take action against the active shooter
As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by doing the following:
- Acting as aggressively as possible against him or her
- Throwing items and improvising weapons
- Committing to your actions
How to Respond When Law Enforcement Arrives
Law enforcement’s purpose is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible. Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the last shots were heard:
- Officers usually arrive in teams of four.
- Officers may wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets and other tactical equipment.
- Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns or handguns.
- Officers may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
- Officers may shout commands, and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.
When law enforcement arrives, do the following:
- Remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions.
- Put down any items in your hands (e.g., bags or jackets).
- Immediately raise your hands and spread your fingers.
- Keep your hands visible at all times.
- Avoid making quick movements toward officers, such as holding on to them for safety.
- Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling.
- Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.
Provide the following information to law enforcement or the 911 operator:
- Location of the active shooter
- Number of shooters, if there is more than one
- Physical description of the shooter(s)
- Number and type of weapons held by the shooter(s)
- Number of potential victims at the location
The first officers to arrive to the scene will not stop to help injured persons. Instead, expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises. Once you have reached a safe location or an assembly point, you will likely be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Do not leave until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so. Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s, Active Shooter – How to Respond