Being Prepared: The Harsh Reality of Active Shooter Emergency Training

By: Guest Writer
First Things First: Survival Tips for an Active Shooter Scenario in the Workplace

As kids of the 20th century, there were certain “Golden Rules” that were engrained in us from a very early age; like “Stop, Drop and Roll” and “Don’t get into cars with strangers.” In today’s climate, there’s a new one to add to the list: “Run, Hide, Fight.” The scary reality is that the U.S. averages 20 mass shootings a year and since 2006, the United States has averaged an active shooter event with four or more deaths every 2.9 months. How a person responds in the event of gun violence could affect their ability to survive. Just like fire drills, you need to have a plan in place should an active shooter situation arises in your workplace (or elsewhere).

So what does “Run. Hide. Fight” actually mean? This mantra gives us a list of responses to utilize, and the best order to take should you be faced with an active shooter incident.

1. RUN – This should be the first option!
• Do what you can to get out.
• Do your best to stay calm and visualize your movements before making them.
• As you leave, use verbal and non-verbal cues to help others be alerted and escape as well.
2. HIDE – Get out of sight!
• You may not always have the option to get out of the building. In these situations, you need to secure your location.
• Lock doors, turn off lights, and silence your cell phones. Do everything that you can to make it appear that you are not there at all.
• When possible, push heavy furniture in front of doors that open in. For doors that open out, use straps or belts to secure the door shut.
• Use anything you can to conceal yourself!
3. FIGHT – Fight for your life!
• If running and hiding are not an option, you need to protect yourself. – Remember, you have the right to live.
• Look for anything that you can use as a weapon – this could be heavy equipment, a fire extinguisher – anything that will give you an advantage.
• Remember there are strength in numbers, work as a group if you have people with you.
Active shooter training is not something that most employers consider when preparing for the new year, or conducting your required sexual harassment training for supervisors (which is mandated for every two years in the state of California and varies across the states). Why not include Active Shooter Training into your to-do list? Tips such as these can help your entire organization to feel more prepared, and therefore safer in the workplace.

Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Employees

1. Focus on the shooter’s points of weakness – affect his vision or his breathing or control the weapon. Hit him in vulnerable places – the eyes, throat, groin. This is not a fair fight, so make moves that count!
2. Typically, an active shooter incident is over within 10-15 minutes and response time for police is about 4-5 minutes. Knowing these steps could buy you the time needed.
3. When police arrive on scene:
a. Their #1 priority above everything else is to stop the threat. Medical attention for victims may be denied until the threat is neutralized.
b. During the incident, always follow the police officer’s instructions.
i. They are trained to look for your hands, so raise them to let them know you are not a threat.
ii. Be sure you are not holding anything that could look like a weapon (i.e. a cell phone).
iii. Don’t make any sudden moves or loud noises.
iv. Use hand signals to point if you have information on the shooter’s location.
4. Following the incident:
a. This could be a lengthy investigation process. Law enforcement will need to direct medical treatment, collect statements, and process evidence.
b. As an employer, know where your first aid kit is and who is trained in CPR and First Aid. Consider keeping snacks and water on hand for disasters such as earthquakes (just like the elementary schools require a disaster pack for the students – this is a great optional idea for employees to jump in and help!).
5. Take steps now to be prepared!
a. This is not a fun topic. It’s uncomfortable, but it is the reality of the world we live in today. Encourage discussion on this topic – talking is training!
b. Encourage employees and co-workers to trust their gut when something looks suspicious and to report what looks wrong to the necessary people. Set up a safety team within your workplace to address concerns.
c. Use a code word that alerts all staff that there is an intruder in the facility or a customer problem that is escalating.
d. Facility training can include designated locations for “shelter-in-place” events.
e. Consider hiring professional trainers who can prepare your organization for such disaster and emergency situations.
f. Recently, a trusted and valued colleague of Peoplescape attended a training provided by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles, California. They believe that this training is so critical, that the department has made it publicly available for free. To see the training video, visit
**Warning: The training video contains graphic content of a violent nature, Viewer discretion is advised.**