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, and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.
There is no set profile of an active shooter. They come from all walks of society. Their motivations for committing such acts range from revenge for a perceived injustice, to full-blown acts of terror, to achieving a social or political goal.
Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. 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.
The best way to prepare your workers for an active shooter situation is by creating an emergency action plan (EAP) and by conducting interactive training exercises. Together, the EAP and training exercises will prepare workers to effectively respond and minimize loss of life.
An Effective EAP
Create the EAP with input from your workers, and include your Human Resources (HR) department, your Training department (if one exists), facility owners, your property manager, and local law enforcement and/or emergency responders. An effective EAP includes:
- A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies
- An evacuation policy and procedure
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments (i.e., floor plans, safe areas)
- Contact information and responsibilities of individuals to be contacted under the EAP
- Information concerning local area hospitals (i.e., name, telephone number, and distance from your location)
- An emergency notification system to alert various parties of an emergency, including:
- Individuals at remote locations within premises
- Local law enforcement
- Local area hospitals
The most effective way to train your workers 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.
Components of your training include:
- 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 mind-set during times of crisis
Preparedness and Prevention
Two major components of an active shooter EAP are preparedness and prevention. We’ve discussed the importance of knowing how to respond in an active shooter situation, but you should also establish prevention mechanisms.
- Ensure that 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.
- Foster a respectful workplace.
- Develop procedures for reporting a potentially violent situation.
- Teach workers to recognize indicators of potentially violent behaviors.
- Be aware of indications of workplace violence, and take corrective actions accordingly.
An active shooter incident is a scary and a terrible situation that hopefully you will not have to experience. However, with proper active shooter training for your workers there may be a chance to prevent, or at least minimize the damage of a tragic event.