What to Do in an Active Shooter Situation

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 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Take Immediate Action

  • Do not do anything to provoke an active shooter!
  • Quickly clear students, staff, and faculty from the area of the shooting. Run! Try to warn others to seek shelter.
  • If you are in the open, run in the opposite direction from the sound of gunfire and get out of the area.
  • Attempts to rescue people should only be made if that can be accomplished without further endangering the persons inside the secured area.
  • If you are in a building and cannot run, close and lock all doors and windows to offices and classrooms; turn off the lights, close blinds and hide.
  • If your door cannot be locked from the inside (and it swings into the room), stack desks, tables, and chairs to form a barricade.
  • Have everyone get down on the floor or up against a solid interior wall.
  • Turn off cell phones or any devices that emit sound.
  • Depending on circumstances, consideration may be given to exiting ground floor windows as safely as possible.

If there is no possibility of escape or hiding, and only as a last resort should you make an attempt to negotiate or fight to overpower the assailant(s).

What to Do If Taken Hostage

Actions to take in a hostage situation
  • Be patient. Avoid drastic action. The first 45 minutes are the most dangerous. Be alert and follow the hostage taker's instructions.
  • Don't speak unless spoken to and then only when necessary.
  • Avoid arguments or appearing hostile towards the captor. Try to develop a rapport with the captor. It is probable that the captor(s) do not want to harm anyone.
  • Be observant; you may be released, or you may be able to escape.
  • You may be able to help others with your observations by providing law enforcement officers with valuable information.
  • Be prepared to speak to law enforcement personnel regarding the situation.

What to Expect from First Responding Law Enforcement Officers

The objectives of responding law enforcement officers are to:

  • Immediately engage or contain the active shooter(s) in order to stop life threatening behavior.
  • Identify threats such as improvised explosive devices (lED).

Law enforcement officers responding to an active shooter are trained to proceed immediately to the area where shots were last heard in order to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers may be in teams. They may be dressed in normal patrol uniforms or they may be wearing external ballistic vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical gear. The officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, or handguns. Regardless of how the officers appear or sound, do not be afraid of them. Do exactly as the officers instruct. Put down any bags or packages you may be carrying and keep your hands visible at all times. If instructed to lie down, do so.

If you know where the shooter is, tell the officers. The first officers to arrive will not stop to aid injured people. The first responding officers will focus on stopping the active shooter and creating a safe environment  for medical assistance to be brought in to aid the injured. Keep in mind that even once you have escaped to a safer location, the entire area is still a crime scene; officers will usually not let anyone leave until the situation is fully under control, and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Until you are released, remain at whatever assembly point authorities designate.

Department of Homeland Security

Access an expansive catalog of multilingual active shooter preparedness resources.