Call or Text 877.840.2444

Active shooter best practices

Active Shooter Best Practices

Active shooter best practices

June 20, 2022 Posted by in Crisis Communications

Active shooter best practices are now more urgent than ever, as these terrifying incidents are unfortunately more common. While it may sound impossible to have an influence on the outcome of this situation, creating and following a best-practice plan in advance can protect lives if everyone is prepared to act quickly. Your plan should feature a high-quality mass communication software so that, if the time comes, you can stay in touch with your staff, no matter where they are.

First, let’s define the term “active shooter.” 

According to the Department of Homeland Security:

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 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.

Active shooter best practices when first encountering the situation:

  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • Take note of two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
  • If you are in an office, stay there 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 much greater if you try to incapacitate them.
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so! 

Active shooter best practices when the shooter is in your immediate facility:

In this situation, remember that customers and clients will follow the lead of your managers and employees. Make sure they are well-drilled in these best practices:

  • Evacuate: Immediately leave the building if there is a direct path. Plan for an escape route ahead of time. Even if others don’t follow you, go anyway. Don’t take any belongings with you. If you are in communication with police officers, follow their instructions. When it’s possible, call 911.
  • Find a hiding place: Ahead of time, decide on a spot where an active shooter may least likely be able to find you. It should be out of the shooter’s view — the most ideal situation could be a locked office. The hiding place should not ultimately trap you or restrict your options for movement. Remember to lock or blockade the door (use heavy furniture if possible). Silence your cell phone. Turn off any sources of noise, such as a television, computer or radio. Stay quiet, and hide behind anything big, like a file cabinet or a desk. Try to stay calm, and call 911 when you think it’s best to do so.

Take action against an active shooter:

This should only be enacted as a last resort. If your life is in immediate danger, and there is no option to evacuate or hide, you will have no choice but to disrupt or incapacitate the active shooter:

  • Act aggressively. Throw items. Improvise weapons. Yell.

Yes, the terror is unimaginable, but this may become your only option. 

Run, Hide, Fight

“Run,” “Hide,” and “Fight” are the actions that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommend in an active shooter situation. FBI training videos demonstrate these three tactics you can use to keep yourself and others safe during an active shooter attack. According to the FBI website, learning these principles now will prepare and empower you to put them into practice—and survive—should the unthinkable occur.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): if there is more than one active shooter and/or if the active shooter has other weapons in addition to a gun, the Run, Hide, and Fight method still applies. Apply the most appropriate method for the situation. More information about Active Shooter Preparedness may be found at:

What to do when law enforcement arrives:

  • According to the Department of Homeland Security, officers usually arrive in teams of four.
  • Note that officers may wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment, They may be armed with rifles, shotguns, and handguns.
  • They may use pepper spray or tear gas to get on the offensive.
  • Officers may shout commands, and push people to the ground for their own safety.

How you should react: remain calm. Follow officers’ instructions. Raise your hands and spread your fingers, to show that you are not a threat — keep your hands visible at all times. Don’t make any quick or sudden movements. Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling. Don’t talk to the officers unless they are asking you questions. If they are evacuating you, don’t stop. Keep moving.

The information you will need to give to law enforcement:

  • The location of the active shooter (if you know it).
  • The number of shooters, if there are more than one.
  • A physical description of the shooter.
  • The type of weapons the shooter is using (if you know it).
  • The number of potential victims at the location.

Note: The first officers to arrive to the scene will not stop to help injured persons. Expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises.

Be sure to invest in the very best mass notification system:

Shop for a mass notification system that allows you to send messages to your people in real time — at every stage of the active shooter situation. This platform should be seamless and user friendly, and be able to provide you with 24/7/365 customer support. The system you choose should strongly feature:

  • Two-way chat
  • Polling (for head counts) and acknowledgements
  • Communication with your people through every platform and device they use: email, phone, text, laptops and others.

Note that RedFlag technology can be used by both large and small businesses, and you are able to communicate with as many people as you need to, and even if you only need to reach one person.

Check out RedFlag for all of these important features and more so that you can be best prepared and in constant communication with your staff in such a terrifying, horrific situation.

Bottom line:

Nobody expects an emergency like this to happen to them, but the best you can do in advance is prepare for it as if it is going to happen. Instituting best practices, educating and drilling your staff, and investing in a high-quality mass notification system are your first steps toward being prepared to save lives and possibly minimize the trauma of an active shooter event. RedFlag can help you efficiently coordinate resources, and make smart data-based decisions when emergency events occur.

Read more about active shooter best practices from The Department of Homeland Security.

The FBI offers resources for you to learn more about active shooters. Click here

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is a division of the Department of Homeland Security, posts a useful answer key for active shooter situations. Click here

Read our blog posts on how to create your active shooter best practices strategy and how to create the steps to your emergency action plan

Ready to Get Started?

See how RedFlag can help you protect what matters most with a 15-minute custom demo.