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How ready are you for an active shooter?

Co-posted on ProResponder
Ready or not, soft targets are at risk

Active shooter situation may be the most difficult to domestic terrorism situation to deal with. Many of the active shooter situations take place in a work environment and may have no warning. Firearms of all varieties have been noted in active shooter case studies from the United States. According to the Department of Homeland Security
"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..."
These events are unpredictable in nature and timing, but the outcomes and be generically predicted.  If we follow the basic principles of Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, and Property Conservation, we'll be able to keep personnel safety and response priorities in balance.We'l focus on Life Safety and Incident Stabilization in this post.

Life Safety. In active shooter situations life safety means protection of responders, elimination of freelancing, and accountability. While the first step in life safety is pre-incident planning, the root of successful is understanding the response priorities of each responder discipline. In active shooter situations the rapid deployment of law enforcement is paramount to life safety and incident stabilization. The response priorities of law enforcement in active shooter situations is going to be different from those of fire and EMS responders. While fire and EMS responders may be focused on evacuation of live persons or treatment of wounded, law enforcement may have to delay action on the part of other responders to secure the scene and progress toward the actual suspect. The urge to rapidly gain access to wounded persons must be suppressed until law enforcement has deemed the situation safe. To help understand law enforcement perspectives on these situations, I recommend this article from

Incident stabilization. First arriving units may encounter persons leaving the scene or may be inundated with wounded. A slow approach with good positioning well away from building egress points will be the best first-in location. EMS should use the delay in patient contact to establish patient collection points and staging areas within the geographical confines of the situation. Keep in mind that wounded persons may have left the scene prior to your arrival and gone into nearby buildings or may receive calls to your dispatch center from multiple locations outside the shooter area. Deployment of resources on the perimeter will help speed response to these areas.

The Department of Homeland security has issued a list of good practices for persons in 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, 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/her.
Also, according to DHS, there are thee main steps people should take;
Evacuate if there is a clear path of egress
Hide Out if evacuation is not possible
Take action against the shooter only as a last resort when your life is directly in danger.


  1. Thanks for posting Rick.

    I think one thing you might want to consider when determining readiness for an active shooter is PREVENTION. Especially for schools, identifying students who may have cause for concern is incredibly important--and shouldn't be accomplished in an ad hoc fashion. Routine meetings with teachers, principals, school counselors, and local law enforcement are integral to identifying and potentially anticipating issues with certain students.

    In the workplace, HR and supervisors might want to consider developing a methodology for identifying unstable or potentially disgruntled employees. While it's common to hear people talk about lockdown procedures, I strongly advocate for strong preventative programs as well. It just might save lives.

  2. Prevention is key - I agree with you there, Todd. In fact, a local law enforcement official stated they will have an officer in the schools going forward. Is that prevention or reaction?

    1. I would probably classify an officer on-site as protection (on the NIMS protection, prevention, preparedness/planning, response, recovery, mitigation spectrum). I'm still looking for the data to determine if having an armed school resource officer on-site reduces the risk/probability of an active shooter--it may not be statistically significant.


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