Active Shooter at Work: How to Respond

If there is an active shooter at work, customers are likely to follow the lead of your staff. Here's what you should train your employees to do.



In today's society, employees must be prepared for the unthinkable. If an active shooter were to come onto your premises, your staff needs to have a plan in place to quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect their lives. Remember that customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of your employees during an active shooter situation, so they need to be prepared to lead out with a plan of action.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, most active shooter situations are over within 10-15 minutes, usually before law enforcement even comes on scene. Employees must be prepared mentally and physically to handle an active shooter situation, be aware of the dangers in their work environment, and be familiar with exits and escape routes. Here is a sample workplace policy to incorporate into your employee handbook and staff trainings for surviving an active shooter situation.

Responding to an active shooter

1. Run

In the event of an active shooter, the first and best option is to evacuate the premises, assuming there is an accessible escape path. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind - this should be observed and discussed in safety training.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow - don't waste time trying to persuade others to come with you if they resist.
  • Leave your belongings behind - your life is much more valuable than anything left at your desk.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be - don't let an innocent passerby become a victim.
  • Keep your hands visible - law enforcement doesn't have time to distinguish if you are a threat when your hands aren't visible.
  • Follow the instructions of police officers and don't ask them for directions - simply proceed to exit from where they are entering if in the same area.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe. Be sure to give your location right away if calling on a mobile phone, as 911 calls from a cell phone only give a general location.

2. Hide

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 (for example, an office with a closed and locked door); and
  • Not trap you or restrict your options for movement.

To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:

  • Lock the door.
  • Turn out the light.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.

If the active shooter is nearby:

  • Lock the door.
  • Silence your cell phone, pager, or anything that may ring.
  • Turn off any source of noise (i.e. radios, televisions) that may indicate you are there.
  • 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. Turn the speaker volume down completely to keep any dispatcher noises from being heard.

3. Fight

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 utilizing office equipment as improvised weapons;
  • Yelling - although it may sound counterintuitive, yelling may intimidate the killer if your only option is to fight; and
  • Committing to your actions - once you decide to fight, follow through with your plan.

Responding to Law Enforcement

When law enforcement arrives, remain calm and keep your hands visible. Their primary objective is to eliminate the shooter, so slowly put down any bags you may be carrying and avoid pointing, yellowing or screaming.

Have an Emergency Meeting Place

Create an emergency meeting place outside of your office or workplace for employees to go in the event of an active shooter. Incorporate reminders of this meeting place during safety trainings.

For more information about maintaining a safe workplace, please contact us.

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