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How to Survive an Active Shooter Event

September 19, 2018 8:00 AM | Heather Woods (Administrator)

By: Jason Sowers, Business Development Manager, Allied Universal 

While still statistically rare, active shooter incidents in the United States are continuing to rise in frequency, with FBI statistics showing an increased average of incidents over the past few years. With the Las Vegas attack in October 2017 being the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, it is important to prepare what your course of action will be if you are ever in an active shooter situation. As with any crisis, preparation and planning can help to minimize chaos and injury.  

Assess the Situation 

The response to an active shooter situation will be determined by particular circumstances. It is important to assess the situation and make the best choices for the individual event.  

Run to Safety 

When possible, evacuate the premises if it appears safe to do so. This escape may need to be through a window or back door. The safest exits in an emergency may not be the main hallways or doors as well-marked exits could be targets for potential shooters. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed a pocket guide for active shooter response which recommends escaping, hiding, or fighting. If an active shooter is in your vicinity, have an escape plan in mind, leave your belongings behind, and run to safety.  

Call 911

If an active shooter enters your workplace or any public or private venue you are at, call the police and provide the location and description of the shooter, if it is safe to do so. If possible, remain on the line with the 911 operator until police arrive because needs may change as the event unfolds. If speaking on the phone is dangerous with the shooter in earshot, or for any other reason, put the phone in your pocket but keep the line open so that the 911 operator can continue to hear what is going on. 

Code Language

For a community-related shooting, develop an Emergency Action Plan for residents that notify everyone that an active shooter is present. Code words, intercom capabilities, and instant messaging can help ensure that people are aware of the situation and stay out of harm's way. Evacuation and lock-down procedures should be part of your advance planning. Discuss how residents can observe details of the shooter in case the perpetrator leaves the premises. Train people to take accurate head counts and to check others for injuries. 


If there are no safe escape routes, a lockdown may be a better choice. Immediately notify the police where you are and conceal yourself in a room that can be locked or barricaded. Silence your phone's ring tones, turn off the lights and stay away from doors and windows to create the impression that no one is there.  

Fight for Your Life

"As a last resort, and when your life is in imminent danger, fight by attempting to incapacitate the shooter," recommends the FBI. "Act with physical aggression and throw items at the shooter." If the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate the shooter. 

When police arrive, remain calm and follow all instructions. Raise your hands and keep your hands visible at all times. Avoid any quick movements towards the officers. The first officers on the scene will be focused on neutralizing the shooter, not handling injured people. Rescue teams with emergency medical personnel will follow the initial officers. They may also call upon citizens to assist in removing the wounded from the premises. 

A number of excellent sources exist online that provide counsel on active shooter emergency planning from the FBIU.S. Department of Homeland Security, and ASIS International. Moreover, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has developed a new NFPA 3000â„¢Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Program to help organizations and communities identify the elements needed to organize, manage and sustain an active shooter and/or hostile event response program. The goal also is to reduce or eliminate the risks, effect and impact of these types of events. Learn more at www.nfpa.org/3000.

About the Author: Jason Sowers is a Business Development Manager for Allied Universal Security Services. Jason serves as the Vice Chair of the BOMA/Suburban Chicago Emergency Preparedness Committee. He can be reached at Jason.Sowers@aus.com.

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Schaumburg IL 60173

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