What Is The Best Response To An Active Shooter Event?

What Is The Best Response To An Active Shooter Event?

An "active shooter" scenario at one's place of work is unlikely but, unfortunately, not out of the realm of possibility. As with all such dangers, advanced preparedness is key to upping one's chances of "making it" through such a crisis, as well as being maximally helpful to others.

This article will address the active shooter situation as it typically unravels and offers a protocol for the safest response to such an event -- on one's own, as well as when the law enforcement is on the scene.

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What Is An Active Shooter Event?

An active shooter event involves an act (or attempt at) mass murder by a person with a firearm, marked by quickness, scale, and randomness of the act, sometimes accompanied by suicide.

Active shooter situations can unfold and shift in a matter of moments, which is why a well-prepared/practiced immediate response from both, the community and the law enforcement is critical.

Defining "Active Shooter"

The official definition of an "active shooter" is "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area". According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, typically, active shooters use firearms with the intention to kill as many people as possible -- without a specific pattern or method to their selection of victims (although some past active shooter events have been motivated by hateful prejudice toward specific social groups based on religion, race, gender, sexuality, etc.)

What makes such events particularly difficult to contain is that many are intended suicides: the killer expects to perish in the end, so negotiating with them is not an option.

What Is The Recommended Active Shooter Response?

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly: this means everyone is on their own until the reinforcements arrive (and even then). As such, it is critical to be prepared both mentally and physically to react in ways that minimize risk to self and others while maximizing the helpfulness to mitigate harm to potential victims.

Before The Law Enforcement Arrives

Many active shooter situations unfold over just 10-15 minutes, before the law enforcement officers are even able to get to the scene. For this reason, civilian individuals must be prepared to face the active shooter event on their own.

The FBI recommends three tactics, known as "Run, Hide, Fight" -- to implement depending on the context of what is happening.


If at all possible -- exit the area immediately, running in the opposite direction from the sounds of gunfire. Leave your belongings behind and try to assist others in escaping and warn others from entering the area (but don't stay behind with people who refuse to leave).

Once safety is obtained, call 911 (do not assume that someone else has done so already -- that is a dangerous illusion known as the "bystander effect"). Provide the law enforcement with as much critical information as possible: physical description and number of shooters, number and types of weapons, numbers and locations of potential victims, space orientation, etc.


If running/evacuation is not possible, find a secure place to take cover. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view/provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

If possible, try not to get cornered in an open space -- look for rooms with doors. To prevent the assailant from entering, lock the door, barricade yourself in with heavy furniture. Avoid windows, silence your phone, hide behind large objects, and remain quiet.


A physical confrontation with the active shooter is an absolute last resort measure, to be risked only if your life is in imminent danger -- and running or hiding is not an option.

Try to incapacitate the shooter to your best ability, by any means available. This is not the time to fight fairly!! Do whatever it takes to defend yourself/put the shooter out of commission: kick, punch, bite, improvise sharp/large objects as weapons, throw items, scream, etc. Once you engage the shooter physically, there is no holding back: you must fully commit to fighting for your life -- it's you or them.

It has been suggested that swift aggressive action is important not only for physical reasons: fighting back has the potential to psychologically trigger the active shooter to default back to their "victim mindset", demoralizing them and possibly reducing their drive and effectiveness in carrying out their killing spree.

When The Law Enforcement Arrives On The Scene

The immediate deployment of advanced law enforcement is essential in an active shooter event, but remember: when they first arrive, they do not necessarily yet know what is happening, nor have zeroed in on the active shooter(s). To best cooperate with the police officers:

  • stay calm and follow their instructions
  • keep both hands free of objects, raised in the air/visible at all times
  • even when alerting them to danger, avoid sudden movements toward police officers, as well as pointing or yelling
  • don't stop to ask questions during the evacuation, just keep on moving to safety

Rapid Response Training Is Key To Saving Lives In Active Shooter Situations

Mass shootings may be unpredictable -- but the one thing we can control is anticipating their possibility and being ready to react/respond with purpose.

Being prepared with the understanding of the situation, a rehearsed plan, and a psychological resolve to stay calm and collected can make all the difference in surviving the event, as well as keeping others out of harm's way.

Active Shooter Response Training Saves Lives

If you have employees, they ought to be trained for the active shooter scenario.

In recognition of this dire necessity, EasyLlama is offering Active Shooter Response training: a simple and easy program that will walk each member of your workforce through the worst-case scenarios of mass shooter events -- and provide them with templates for how to act calmly and rationally (instead of improvising survival tactics in the thick of it, when it's extremely hard to think).

Let EasyLlama train your team to be ready for the unexpected. Not only will it up their chances of surviving a violent crisis, but will also promote a safer workplace in general!

Written by: Maria Malyk

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