We use cookies to improve your experience and optimize user-friendliness. Read our cookie policy for more information on the cookies we use and how to delete or block them. To continue browsing our site, please click accept.

Active Shooter Preparedness: Protecting Your Employees and Guests

An active shooter event is one that no organization ever hopes to experience. Unfortunately, active shooter preparation for teams and creating a response plan are becoming an essential emergency response practice for all organizations. These situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly, and most are over within 10-15 minutes, often before law enforcement can even arrive on the scene. This means that teams must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.
The FBI has identified over 250 active shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2017, with increasing regularity. The first 7 years of the study reported about 6.4 incidents per year on average, with an average of 16.4 incidents annually the subsequent 7 years and 22.75 incidents annually the last 4 years. This is a staggering increase, and no state, business, industry, or location is immune to an incident occurring.


There isn’t any way to prevent an active shooter situation, but there are some basic steps that can be taken to reduce risk. The first step is to foster a respectful workplace. Also, conduct effective employee screening and background checks and make counseling services available to employees. If there are any indications of workplace violence, be sure there is a system for reporting them and remedial actions should be taken accordingly.

An active shooter in a workplace could be a current or former employee, an acquaintance or a family member of a current or former employee. Typically, there are indicators of potentially violent behavior over time. If the behaviors are recognized, they can often be managed or cured. Some indicators of behaviors are as follows:


  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • An unexplained increase in absenteeism
  • Depression and/or withdrawal
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
  • Suicidal comments about “putting things in order”
  • Increasing talk of problems at home
  • Paranoid behavior
  • Talk of previous incidents of violence
  • Talk of severe financial problems
  • Increased severe mood swings

This is only a few of the potential behaviors and is not meant to be a comprehensive list or a mechanism for diagnosing violent tendencies.


The best preparation for a company’s staff begins with the Emergency Action Plan (“EAP”). the EAP combined with training exercises will prepare your team to effectively respond to an active shooter situation and help minimize the loss of life.

the EAP should be created with input from stakeholders, facility operators, human resources professionals, property managers, and local law enforcement. According to the Department of Homeland Security, an effective EAP should have the following components:

  • A preferred method for reporting emergencies
  • An evacuation policy and procedures
  • Emergency escape procedures and route assignments
  • Contact information for and responsibilities of individuals to be contacted under the EAP
  • Information on local area hospitals
  • An emergency notification system to alert parties of an emergency
  • Addresses assistance to individuals with special needs and/or disabilities

Mock active shooter training exercises are the most effective way to train a team to respond to a situation. Local law enforcement can be an excellent resource in designing training exercises including recognizing the sound of gunshots, how to react when gunshots are heard, and how to react when law enforcement arrives. There is also the option of asking law enforcement to train for an active shooter situation at a company’s location which could involve the team and assist in training. Additionally, each facility should have at least 2 evacuation routes and the routes should be posted in conspicuous locations throughout the facility.

Employees and guests will follow the lead of managers during an emergency situation. During an emergency situation, managers should be familiar with the EAP and be prepared to take immediate action, remain calm, lock and barricade doors, and evacuate employees and guests to a safe area. Therefore, a well-designed EAP, knowledge of the plan and training are critical to success and safety.

Run, Hide, Fight

when an active shooter is in your area, you must be prepared to deal with the situation both mentally and physically. According to the FBI, in most cases, there are 3 options:

  1. Run. Have an escape route and plan in mind. Leave your belongings behind. Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow. Help others escape, if possible. Do not attempt to move the wounded. Prevent others from entering an area where the active shooter may be. Keep your hands visible. Call 911 when safe.
  2. Hide. Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view. If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door. If you are in a hallway, get to a room and secure the door. Hide behind large items such as desks or bookcases. Silence your cell phone, including vibrate mode, and remain quiet.
  3. Fight. Fight as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger. Attempt to incapacitate the shooter. Act with as much physical aggression as possible. Improvise weapons or throw items at the shooter. Commit to your actions. The chance of survival is much greater if the shooter is incapacitated.

When law enforcement arrives, it is important to remember that their primary purpose is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible. Therefore, the first officers who arrive on the scene will not stop to help the injured. The subsequent rescue teams will help injured persons upon their arrival. It is important to remain calm when law enforcement arrives and raise your hands, keeping them visible at all times. Avoid making quick movements, pointing, screaming, or yelling and follow all instructions given.


Once an active shooter event has occurred, the consequences must be managed. Management should determine how the public will be alerted and communicate the details to the media. A well-planned post-emergency strategy will ensure that messaging is consistent and will help prevent chaos.

Post-event assessment and activities can include:

  • Accounting for all individuals at a designated assembly point to determine if anyone is missing or potentially injured
  • Determine the method of notifying families of individuals affected by the active shooter, including notification of any casualties
  • Assess the psychological state of individuals at the scene, and refer them to a healthcare specialist accordingly
  • Identify and fill any critical personnel or operational gaps that may have been left as a result of the active shooter

Once the emergency has passed, any lessons learned from the incident and response should be analyzed and reported on. This effort has many benefits, including serving as documentation of response activities. This process will help identify the successes and failures that occurred during the event to help evaluate the EAP and modify or make improvements to the plan as necessary.

Knowing What To Do Can Save Lives

There are many resources available to help a company in training and planning for active shooter situations. The FBI Office of Partner Engagement has many active shooter resources. Also, the Department of Homeland Security has published an active shooter response guide. These are just two examples of resources available. Local law enforcement is also an excellent resource in developing an EAP and for assistance with training.

Every organization is different, but there are steps everyone can take for active shooter training that can help ensure that employees are prepared to initiate a response plan and manage the consequences of an incident in order to save lives and minimize damage.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov)

U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (www.fbi.gov)


Reprinted with permission from Developments Magazine, copyright 2018.


For additional information around preparing in the event of an active shooter situation or preparing your organization in the event of any unexpected situation, fill in the form below to contact a member of our Hospitality Services team.

How Can We Help?

Previous Post
Next Post
Article Sidebar Logo Hospitality Disaster Preparedness Download Guide

Get news updates and event information from Withum