Surviving an Active Shooter

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Recent tragic events remind us that an active shooter situation can happen anywhere and anytime. While it is impossible to predict when and where, there are a few things we can do to increase our chance of survival.

Actions we can take to survive an active shooter include:

  • Evacuate: If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises.
  • Hide out: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.
  • Take action: As a last resort, and if your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.

The first recommended action is to evacuate. If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises.

When evacuating:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Warn individuals not to enter an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so.

The next recommended action is to hide out. If safe evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide from the active shooter.

The hiding place should:

  • Be out of the active shooter’s view.
  • Provide protection if shots are fired (for example, an office with a closed and locked door).
  • Not restrict options for movement.
  • To prevent an active shooter from entering a hiding place:
  • Lock the door.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture. This also provides additional protection.
  • Close, cover, and move away from any windows.

If the active shooter is nearby, take the following actions:

  • Lock the door.
  • Hide behind a large item (for example, a cabinet or desk).
  • Silence your cell phone and/or pager. (Even the vibrate setting can give away a hiding position.)
  • Remain quiet.

Consider the difference between cover and concealment. Cover might protect a person from gunfire, while concealment will merely hide a person from the view of the shooter.

Persons in an active shooter situation should quickly choose the best space that is available. Finding cover is preferable, but if cover is not available you should find a position of concealment.

When possible, provide the following information to law enforcement officers or 911 operators:

  • Location of the active shooter.
  • Number of shooters, if 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.

Finally, as an absolute last resort, and only if in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.

  • Act as aggressively as possible.
  • Improvise weapons and throw items.
  • Yell.
  • Commit to your actions.

When law enforcement officers arrive at an active shooter scene:

  • Their immediate 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.
  • The first officers to arrive at the scene will not stop to help injured persons because their first priority is to eliminate the threat. They will need to secure the scene first.

Recommended actions to take when law enforcement officers arrive are listed on the visual.

  • Remain calm.
  • Put down any items.
  • Raise hands and spread fingers.
  • Avoid quick movements.
  • Avoid pointing, screaming, or yelling.
  • Proceed in direction from which officers are entering.

After reaching a safe location or assembly point, all persons involved in the situation likely will be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control, and all witnesses have been identified and questioned.

No one should leave the safe location or assembly point until law enforcement authorities indicate it is safe and their questioning has been completed.

For additional information:

Active Shooter Booklet

Printer friendly Active Shooter Pocket Card

Surviving an Active Shooter