Increasing in frequency, active shooter events are now a reality of daily life in America. In the first three quarters of 2017 there were 273 shootings in the U.S. in which four or more people were injured or killed in the same general location and time. That’s 7.5 a week.1  

Active shooter events, defined as incidents where “one or more individuals actively engage in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area,” are totally unpredictable. Victims are generally chosen at random. The event evolves quickly, and is generally over within minutes. 

According to the most recent FBI data, incidents in schools and businesses are far more common, representing 7 out of 10 active shootings, than those in large, open areas.2 As a business owner or operator, preparing for a potential active shooter event will be critical to minimizing its impact.  

Prepare for the worst

According to the FBI, businesses are host to as many as 45% of active shooter incidents.1 Here are a few considerations to increase the likelihood that you and your staff will survive an active office shooting event: 

  • Consider the most likely and most dangerous attack vectors, based upon recent and emerging trends. Create a contingency plan around them.
  • Establish communication with local emergency response units. Work with them to identify the best routes to access your facility. Discuss the best ways to notify and communicate with them should an attack happen. 
  • Keep routes in and out of your facility clear, except for essential vehicles. Determine which vehicles these are. Consider the ability to control the flow of vehicles to and from your facility. Is there a capability to incase the size of exits and remove barriers if a mass exodus is required? 
  • Map potential escape routes out of your facility. Include them in staff training. 

During an event

Staff and security guard training are key to surviving an active office shooting event, as employees will have to quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect their own life. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggests individuals be trained on the Run-Hide-Fight method. Here’s an overview: 

  • RUN, if you can. Get away from the shooter or shooters, when possible. Leave all belongings and get out of the building. Call for help only when you’re sure you are in a safe place. Describe the shooter, their location and amount and type of weapons. 
  • HIDE, when you can’t get away. Silence electronic devices. Lock doors, turn off lights and close blinds. Hide under or behind large objects, like desks or copy machines, or along walls. Do not hide in groups, If you can, communicate with law enforcement through text or a sign in an exterior window. Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all clear. 
  • FIGHT, when in immediate danger. Use makeshift weapons like chairs, scissors, fire extinguishers, hot coffee, pens or books to disarm and distract the shooter. 

When first responders arrive on the scene, their primary goal is to eliminate the active threat and stop the violence. First responders will not be able to stop and help injured persons, until the environment is safe. Keep your hands up, empty and visible to the officers. Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the direction they came from. 

The Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Situation: Options for Consideration, illustrates the Run-Hide-Fight method in a workplace setting. The Department also offers an online training course, Active Shooter: What You Can Do

After an office shooting event

After an active office shooting event is behind you, revisit your planning. Was your approach to training effective? How can you change your protocol to incorporate other scenarios or important elements that weren’t previously considered? Coordinate your after review with those of the response agency to ensure lessons learned are applied. 

Provide your staff with the time and help they need to heal from the incident. Even if no one was seriously injured, or the incident was only a threat, everyone will react differently. Consider bringing in a professional counselor or social worker to talk to the staff either individually or as a group. 

In an era of active shooters

Four of the five deadliest shootings in the U.S. have occurred in the past 10 years. This includes the deadliest in modern U.S. history, the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, that killed 58 people. 

While it is important to prepare and train yourself for such an incident, know that an active shooter event is still unlikely. Keeping this in mind will help ease panic and allow employees to prepare for the unexpected. 

Contact HUB Risk Services for more information on developing policies, procedures and training around active office shooting event preparedness. 


[1] CNN.

[2] National Crime Justice Reference Service.