An active shooter is defined as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. While the majority of incidents involve the use of firearms, the term “active shooter” may also apply to an individual armed with any other type of weapon (e.g., firearm, knife, explosives, etc.) and who poses an active threat.
Most have no regard for their own safety or capture. They are often on the move and will accept random victims of opportunity while searching for intended victims or until stopped by law enforcement, suicide, or other intervention. Common motives include anger, revenge, ideology, and untreated mental illness. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.
Responding Navy Security Force Law Enforcement personnel will act swiftly with a primary duty to protect innocent life by focusing their efforts on finding and neutralizing the active shooter(s). However, because most incidents last only 10 to 15 minutes, individuals at the scene must be prepared to deal with the situation until law enforcement personnel arrive.
How to Prepare
- Be Informed
- Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- Sign up to receive local emergency alerts and register your work and personal contact information in the Wide Area Alert Network. By taking these steps, you will ensure that you and designated family members receive notices to be able to stay clear of an active shooter incident.
- Ask your employer to explain the emergency action plan for your building.
- Understand the plans for individuals with special needs and/or disabilities.
- Take the Active Shooter Training via Naval Education and Training (CAC Enabled ONLY). Instructions for course access can be found on the Available Courses page.
- Recognize signs of potential violence in those around you
- Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
- Unexplained increase in absences or tardiness
- Depression, withdrawal, paranoia, talk of revenge
- Increased severe mood swings and noticeably unstable, emotional responses
- Increased talk of problems at home
- Increased unsolicited comments about violence, firearms, or other dangerous weapons or violent crimes
- Make a Plan
- Take violent acts or threats of violence seriously and report them immediately to your chain(s) of command, DoD law enforcement, Navy Security Force Protection authorities, counterintelligence authorities, medical/mental health care professionals, or local law enforcement personnel, as appropriate. (The chances for prevention improve with increased awareness of potential warning signs and rapid response to a problem. Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and supervisors are typically the most likely to recognize potential threat indicators.)
- Make note of your environment and any possible dangers.
- Look for the two nearest exits in any place you visit, and have an escape path in mind.
- Make a plan with your family, and ensure everyone knows what they would do, if confronted with an active shooter.
What to Do
- Remain calm, and do not pull or respond to the fire alarm unless instructed to do so by official law enforcement personnel.
- Be quiet and silence your phone and any source of noise.
- Turn off all lights.
- Look for an accessible escape path.
- DO NOT seek out the shooter.
- RUN and escape, if possible.
- If safe to do so, use an accessible path.
- Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
- Leave your belongings behind.
- Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
- Keep your hands visible.
- HIDE, if escape is not possible.
- If you are in an office, stay there and lock or barricade the door.
- If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
- Close, cover, and move away from windows.
- Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
- Remain quiet with all sources of noise silenced.
- FIGHT as an absolute last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger. DO NOT seek out the shooter.
- Attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.
- Act as aggressively as possible against him/her.
- Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the shooter.
- Throw items and improvise weapons.
- Commit to your actions.
- Call 9-1-1 when it is safe to do so and provide the following information to law enforcement officers or 911 operators:
- Location of the active shooter
- Number of shooters, if more than one
- Physical description of the shooter(s)
- Number and type of weapons held by the shooter(s)
- Number of potential victims at the location
RUN.HIDE.FIGHT Courtesy of Ready Houston
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What to Expect When Law Enforcement Arrives
- Law enforcement’s immediate focus is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible.
- Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the last shots were heard.
- The first officers to arrive at the scene will not stop to help injured persons because their first priority is life safety. They will need to secure the scene first.
- Rescue teams composed of other officers and emergency medical personnel will follow the first officers into secured areas to treat and remove the injured.
- Officers arriving on scene may be coming from many different duty assignments and agencies, and additional officers may arrive in teams.
- Officers will likely be in various types of uniforms, external bullet proof vests, Kevlar helmets and other tactical equipment, and even in street clothes. Do not be surprised by the variances in appearance; they are trained to work together.
- Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, and/or handguns and may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
- Officers will shout commands and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.
- Expect that officers will treat the entire area as a crime scene and everyone with suspicion.
- Law enforcement will establish secure assembly points and will question all witnesses.
- Usually, officers will not allow anyone to leave designated assembly points until the situation is under control and all witnesses have been identified and debriefed. Expect to remain in the secure area until authorities release you.
What to Do When Law Enforcement Arrives
- Remain calm and follow instructions.
- Do not attempt to assist unless specifically asked to do so by law enforcement personnel.
- Slowly put down any items in your hands (e.g., bags, jackets).
- Raise hands and spread fingers.
- Keep hands visible at all times.
- Avoid quick movements toward officers, such as holding on to them for safety.
- Avoid pointing, screaming, or yelling.
- Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, as they will be focused on finding and incapacitating the shooter to prevent further loss of life. Not adhering to officers’ instructions puts everyone in danger.
What to Do After Reaching a Safe Location or Assembly Point
- Identify yourself as a witness and relay any medical needs you may have.
- Answer any questions law enforcement authorities may have.
- Do not leave until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.
- Seek medical care and counseling if needed.
Where to Find More Information
- Department of Homeland Security—