Active Shooter Response Planning

With every news flash of a workplace active shooter incident, now almost monthly, it becomes increasingly evident that organizations/businesses/schools need an Active Shooter Response Plan. Furthermore, this is not a one size fits all challenge. Granted, the plan from one organization or institution to another may have some common reaction guidelines. Most of the active shooter response videos and training courses available promote a variation of the ‘run/hide/fight’ responses. However, the way your employees/occupants apply these concepts in an actual incident needs to be specific to the uniqueness of your facility.

Yes, in fact there are only three response choices for facility occupants to rely upon:

  • get out – exit immediately if possible
  • hide out – lock and barricade quietly in place if escape is not possible
  • take out – mass attack the shooter if you’re cornered and fight for your life

However to be practical and effective, tailored active shooter response protocolshave to take into account several factors such as:

  • The type of facility in question –school, mall, office, factory, sports complex, etc.
  • The environment in which the facility is located –city, suburban, rural, remote, etc.
  • The type of communication system available – public address system, mass texting or email, audible warning, etc.
  • The occupants’ capabilities –employees or non-employees, age, physical abilities, etc.
  • Emergency responder availability/response time
  • Public occupants vs. employees only

These are just to name a few.

Other factors will influence the variations of how ‘get out/hide out/take out’is applied and which of these response options are selected under what conditions. Having a generic plan which defines the three basic options is only the beginning. Accounting for the uniqueness of your facility and giving example circumstances to prepare each occupant to know specifically how they should react in a situation is the key to developing an effective active shooter response plan.

Then the plan must be tested and rehearsed. Include the local emergency responders in the refinement of your plan. Lessons learned from other incidents that have occurred, and from your own rehearsals, can be used to further modify and tailor your active shooter response plan; the one that might become part of your legal defense and your clear conscience. Facility management has a legal and moral responsibility to have an active shooter response plan that is practical and will give people a chance to survive. It’s the right thing to do.

For more detailed training regarding active shooter response guidelines see our course at

Robert Shuster

Prior to joining AFIMAC, Mr. Shuster spent most of his 30 year career with a global leader in uniform security and investigations services. There, he held various positions including: executive protection detail leader, director of training, vice president of corporate development and senior vice president of the asset protection team. Mr. Shuster is a respected expert in security practices and training related to crisis management and response, labor disputes, close protection operations, special event security, security awareness programs, evasive & defensive driving, and executive protection program design. He has written corporate security articles and white papers, and has lectured for many noted organizations including the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), the International Society of Special Event Planners, the Young Presidents Organization, Penn State University, the Tactical Response Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Mr. Shuster has also served two (2) four year terms on the private security advisory board for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

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