By Elizabeth Egetoe


December 1, 2017
   In The Loop Extended Articles

The number of active shooter incidents that have taken place in recent years is alarming. While these real-life scenarios are terrifying and life altering, it is vital that everyone running facilities, coaching and being involved with our youth should have a working knowledge of indicators of violent behavior, as well as possible prevention.  Educating yourself and your community on the indicators of potential violence and suspicious activity reporting are key components to the safety of yourself and everyone around you.

While many of these incidents are dynamic and unpredictable, an effective response and proper training can be the difference between survival and death. Past attacks have taught us many things and have changed the way law enforcement responds to an active shooter incident. Prevention is complicated as there is no distinct profile for a mass killer, there is no criminal objective such as robbery, and the shooter has no regard for his or her own life. An active shooter may be difficult for authorities to isolate because he or she will always be on the move, and therefore, the precise location may be unknown. There are many factors to consider when planning a strategy for survival.

An active shooter is not usually spontaneous nor does he or she act in a sporadic manner. There could be a number of potential identifiers as this individual progresses through a number of stages over a period of time. The mental process may begin with the shooter imagining the event. This fantasizing may be expressed through a number of outlets or even discussions. Once a shooter comes to terms with their own fantasizing, the planning stage begins. This is the point at which the shooter decides who, what, when and where. The logistics and details of the event precede the preparation stage. During preparation, there may be key signals as the shooter prepares supplies and a target location. This time period may open the door to a conversation in which the shooter warns loved ones to avoid the location during a given time. Once the shooter is ready to approach their target location, they are likely very dangerous. At this point in their plan, the shooter is armed; however, security forces might be able to tactically stop shooters before anyone is harmed. An active shooter who has carried out such detailed plans is highly focused and will not stop in their implementation until they accomplish their fantasy, are stopped or take their own lives.

One of the best qualities you can have to protect those around you and keep your workplace safe is awareness. Recognize the signs of potentially violent or high-risk behavior. This thought process for individuals struggling is generally not one that happens overnight. Since behavioral factors develop over time, they can often be recognized, managed and/or treated. Possible factors may include:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism
  • Depression or withdrawal
  • Increased severe mood swings and noticeably unstable or emotional responses
  • Increasingly talking about personal problems or problems at home
  • Increase in unsolicited comments about violence, firearms and other dangerous weapons or violent crimes
  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
  • Repeated violations of company policies
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
  • Suicidal; comments about “putting things in order”
  • Behavior which is suspect of paranoia
  • Talk of severe financial problems
  • Talk of previous incidents of violence
  • Empathy with individuals committing violence


Get Out!      Secure!      Defend!

When an Active Shooter is in your vicinity, you must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the situation. The events of an incident are unpredictable, evolve rapidly and are generally over within 15 minutes.

When Shooting Begins

1. Get out! Run!
    • Evacuate
    • Have an exit route and plan in mind
    • Leave your belongings behind
    • Keep your hands visible
    • Call 911 when it is safe to do so. You should provide the following information to the police or 911 operator:
  • Location of the shooter
  • Number of shooters
  • Physical description of shooters (race, gender, clothing, physical features, etc.)
  • Number and type of weapons the shooter(s) have
  • Number of possible victims
  • If you cannot speak, leave the line open for the dispatcher to listen

If you cannot evacuate the immediate area, hide and secure the vicinity to the best of your ability.

2. Hide & Secure!
  • Hide in an area out of the Active Shooter’s view
  • Lock doors and block entry to your hiding place (using furniture, heavy objects, chairs to wedge the door shut)
  • Turn off all lights
  • Turn off radios, computers, cell phones and other electronics, including silent vibration
  • Do not respond to any command as there may be attempts to lure victims out from safety
  • Remain in place until police arrive and clear the area/neutralize the threat

As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.

3. Defend! Fight!

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons
  • Yelling/distracting them with loud noises
  • Committing to your actions

When Police Arrive

  • Try to remain calm
  • Obey all police instructions
  • Put down any items in your hands (such as backpacks, phones, jackets)
  • Raise your hands, spread your fingers and keep hands visible to police at all times
  • Avoid quick or sudden movements
  • Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling
  • Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction while evacuating

Facility operators, managers, owners, directors or any other lead staff members within our facilities should have access to a crisis response kit. Enhancing preparedness can be done in a number of ways through training, education and appropriately stocked emergency kits. Such a Crisis Response Kit should include:

  • Fire alarm & sprinkler system turn-off procedures
  • Utility shut-off valve locations
  • Gas line and utility line layouts
  • Cable television & phone shut-off
  • First aid supplies
  • Keys/diagrams of facilities/floor plans
  • Staff and student rosters (with photos)
  • List of students/employees with special needs
  • Blueprints of buildings
  • Maps of surrounding area
  • Aerial photos of property grounds

It is essential to maintain strong situational awareness. I’m sure many have been told that this is a critical component to our safety, but how often do you exercise this in your day-to-day activities? I challenge each of you to recognize at least a dozen details in each new environment you walk into at least once a day, including the nearest exits. Be a leader, don’t get caught up in your daily distractions as you run your errands, and keep safety your number one priority. Lastly, always remember that there aren’t any guidelines that can replace your calm, collected common sense.

Adopt a survival mindset when dealing with any crisis

  • Practice common sense
  • Contribute to a culture of safety
  • Vigilance - use awareness to protect your personal boundaries
  • Avoidance - know how to identify a high-risk situation or environment and avoid it
  • Escape - know when and how to get away from a threatening situation
  • Remember the safety of the masses versus the safety of a few