Knowing what to do during an active shooter situation can save your life. -

Knowing what to do during an active shooter situation can save your life.

A recent client requested a mock OSHA inspection and safety training. Part of the training request was active shooter training and emergency action planning.

When arriving at the client’s office, I had to park in the back of the building because all the parking spaces up front were filled. I unloaded all my teaching equipment and bags and easily walked into the facility through the back dock. I traveled through the warehouse and into the building searching for someone to check in, finally, finding a smile, a welcome and a point in the direction of training.

So, what is wrong with this picture? I am sure some of you are thinking what I was thinking. What if I had been…

  • A disgruntled employee? 
  • The spouse of a female whom is battered at home?
  • An employee dealing with mental illness or depression?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed a series of materials to assist businesses, government offices, and schools in preparing for and responding to an active shooter. These resources include a detailed booklet, a desk reference guide, a reference poster, and a pocket-size reference card.

DHS has also developed both a Recovery Guide, and an Incident Fact Sheet to assist your organization as you consider the recovery phase of an event.

Issues covered in the active shooter resources include:

  • Profile of an active shooter
  • Responding to an active shooter or other workplace violence situation
  • Training for an active shooter situation and creating an emergency action plan
  • Tips for recognizing signs of potential workplace violence

The free booklet available at the Department of Homeland Security says:

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.

Practices for Coping with an Active Shooter

Here are five practices to consider:

  • 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 greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.

How To Respond

Quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. Remember that customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of employees and managers during an active shooter situation.


If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:

  • 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 officers.
  • 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 cell phone 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.


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.
  • Yelling.
  • Committing to your actions.

Law Enforcement Activities

When law enforcement arrives they usually come in teams of four (4) and may wear tactical gear. They use rifles, shotguns and handguns or sometimes pepper spray or tear gas. Officers will shout command and even push you down for safety reasons. 

Your job is to stay calm and follow the officer’s instructions. Put down any items in your hand raising your hands and spreading your fingers while avoiding any quick movements.  We don’t want to cause officers to think you are the perpetrator. 

The first officers on the scene are not there to help the injured they are there to stop the Active Shooter.  So your EMT’s, Para-medics or trained first aid personnel will need to help you. 

Once you have been evacuated to a safe location, you are not free to go.  You will be held until the incident is under control and all witnesses has been identified and questioned.  So do not leave until authorities have instructed you to do so. 

Active shooter training is easy and you must include this type of incident into your Emergency Action Plan (EAP). 

Emergency Action Plan

Putting together a comprehensive emergency action plan that deals with those issues specific to your worksite is not difficult. It involves taking what was learned from your workplace assessment and describing how employees will respond to different types of emergencies, taking into account your specific worksite layout, structural features, and emergency systems.

The commitment and support of all employees is critical to the plan’s success in the event of an emergency. Ask for their help in establishing and implementing your emergency action plan. For smaller organizations, the plan does not need to be written and may be communicated orally if there are 10 or fewer employees. [29CFR 1910.38(b)]

At a minimum, the plan must include but is not limited to the following elements [29CFR 1910.38(c)]:

  • Means of reporting fires and other emergencies
  • Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
  • Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate
  • Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them
  • Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted

Although they are not specifically required by OSHA, you may find it helpful to include the following in your plan:

  • A description of the alarm system to be used to notify employees (including disabled employees) to evacuate and/or take other actions. The alarms used for different actions should be distinctive and might include horn blasts, sirens, or even public address systems.
  • The site of an alternative communications center to be used in the event of a fire or explosion.
  • A secure on- or offsite location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employees’ emergency contact lists, and other essential records.

Training Components

The most effective way to train your staff 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.

  • Recognizing the sound of gunshots.
  • Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard and/or when a shooting is witnessed — run, hide, and fight the shooter as a last resort.
  • Calling 911
  • Reacting when law enforcement arrives
  • Adopting the survival mind set during times of crisis

Additional Ways to Prepare For and Prevent an Active Shooter Situation

  • Preparedness
  • Ensure the 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.
  • Encourage law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams,and bomb squads to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.
  • Prevention-Foster a respectful workplace
  • Be aware of indications of workplace violence and take actions accordingly.


Anyone who has been through an airport lately, knows the cost of tightened security. Well before the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, schools were using metal detectors. Businesses must make safety a priority.

Here are a few tips:

  • Use detectors, guards and limit access to your facility.
  • Report unsafe conditions or acts to your supervisor.
  • Know you exit routes, emergency exits and emergency equipment.
  • Be attentive to your surroundings.
  • Make safety a team effort.

For more information of Active Shooter programs contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security For more information on creating an EAP contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration,