Nobody likes to think about what they’d do if they encountered an active shooter. The topic is uncomfortable, disturbing and unsettling. Although the statistical odds of being caught in an active-shooter situation are very low, your facility should have clear emergency plans and protocols for such a scenario. You have regular fire drills and severe weather warning systems—why not prepare your employees for another, far deadlier workplace danger?
The “run, hide, fight” strategy was developed by the city government of Houston, Texas, and is endorsed by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The strategy is as simple as it sounds: first, if at all possible, run away from the shooter. If you cannot run, find a safe place to hide and barricade yourself inside. If you can neither run nor hide, be prepared to fight.
People often freeze when confronted with unexpected danger. This is a natural instinct, but unfortunately, it makes people an easy target for shooters. Instead, you should run away from an active shooter whenever possible. Train your employees on your facility’s exits and emergency exits so that they have an escape route in the event of any emergency. When running, you should:
- Leave your belongings behind
- Try to bring others with you, but don’t wait for those who don’t want to run
- Move to the exit as quickly and quietly as possible
- Stay low and duck below windows
- Check around corners and stairs
- Run in a zig-zag motion if the shooter is still in the area
- Consider escaping through windows
If running is impossible or unsafe, take shelter in a safe place. The ideal hiding spot will be out of the shooter’s view and provide some protection from gunfire but will not trap you or prevent you from being able to escape. An office, classroom or other room with a lockable door is ideal. When hiding, you should:
- Enter the room and immediately lock the door
- Barricade the door with heavy objects, such as desks, bookshelves, or other furniture
- Shove a doorstop, rug or other object beneath the door
- Tie or wedge the doorknob so that it can’t be turned
- Cover any windows with blinds, curtains or other coverings
- Call 911
- Put all phones on silent and turn off sources of light or noise
- Hide behind thick wood or metal
- Continue to try to think of an escape plan and look for opportunities to run
If you are confronted directly by the shooter and cannot run, you will have to fight. Only fight as a last resort. Throw anything you can at the shooter, including coffee mugs, chairs, pencils and other sharp objects. Make as much noise as possible and never stop moving. If you are in the room with other people, you should all try to swarm the shooter and take away their weapon. Target the head, eyes, throat, fingers, groin and any other sensitive areas that you can reach. If you get the shooter to the ground, take all weapons away and restrain them. Place the weapon in a trash can and carry it with you so that police do not see that you are armed and mistake you for the shooter.
Nobody likes to think about a shooting happening in their school or office but having an emergency plan can be the key to survival. Your employees should know the location of all emergency exits and consider where they could shelter in the event of an emergency. If confronted with an active shooter situation, your employees should always try to run to safety. If they cannot run, they should shelter in a safe location and continue to look for opportunities to escape to safety. They should only fight as a last resort.
For more information, see the following links:
- Active Shooter Pocket Card
- How to Prepare for and Respond During and After an Active Shooter Incident