Active shooter situations are unpredictable, and they evolve quickly. If you find yourself in the middle of such an event, your survival can depend on the way you respond. Try to stay calm and recall the guidelines outlined here.
In most cases, active shooters use firearms, and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Because active shooter situations often end before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.
The following information was developed by The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center.
Learning How to Respond
This video from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center shows what you should do that could potentially save your life.
Active Shooter Guidelines
Profile of an Active Shooter
An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.
Active shooter 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
- 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, try to disarm the shooter. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee or hide, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.
- CALL 9-1-1 WHEN IT IS SAFE TO DO SO
What you do matters, and we encourage you to remember these three key steps:
If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to immediately evacuate the premises:
- Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Familiarize yourself with the building’s exits.
- Flee in the opposite direction of the shooter.
- If you are being escorted by police, do not debate/question chosen routes of escape.
If evacuation is not possible, find a secure place to hide where the shooter is less likely to find you:
- Go to a room that can be locked and/or secured and barricade it with desks, cabinets, tables, etc.
- Turn out lights
- Stay quiet and out of sight; take refuge behind another locked door, if possible.
As a last resort — and only when your life is in imminent danger — attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.
- Avoid standing directly behind or in the path of the door you are hiding behind
- Physically position yourself in a manner to surprise the shooter if he/she gains entry to your room
- As a last resort, try to disarm the shooter (grab the gun); coordinate efforts with co-workers and strike him/her with any weapons of opportunity.
How to Respond When an Active Shooter Is in Your Vicinity
Quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your life. Remember that people tend to follow the lead of perceived authority figures (such as officials, faculty, or managers) in active shooter situations.
If there is 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
- Follow the instructions of any police officer
- Do not attempt to move wounded people
- Call 911 when you are safe
If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.
Your hiding place should:
- Be out of the active shooter’s view
- Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (i.e., an office with a closed and locked door)
- Not trap you or restrict your options for movement
To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:
- Lock the door
- Blockade the door with heavy furniture
If the active shooter is nearby:
- Lock the door
- Silence your cellphone and/or pager
- Turn off any source of noise (i.e., radios, televisions)
- Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks)
- Remain quiet
If evacuation and hiding out are not possible:
- Remain calm
- Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location
- If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen
Take action against the shooter
As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:
- Acting as aggressively as possible against him/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 may wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment
- Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, 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
- Remain quiet, follow a law enforcement officer’s orders immediately
How to React When Law Enforcement Arrives
- Remain calm and follow the officer’s instructions
- Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets)
- Immediately raise hands and spread fingers
- Keep hands visible at all times
- Avoid making any quick movements toward officers such as attempting to hold on to them for safety
- Avoid pointing, screaming, and/or yelling
- Do not stop to ask officers for help or directions when evacuating; just proceed in the direction from which the officers are entering the premises
Information to Provide to Law Enforcement or 911 Operator
- Location of the active shooter
- Number of shooters, if more than one
- Physical description of 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. Expect rescue teams composed of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove 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 the safe location or assembly point until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.