Preparing & Practicing for an Active Shooter Situation

Property & Casualty, Risk

Co Author: Captain Mike Bolender

Unfortunately, every organization faces the risk of an active shooter situation in their facilities. While it is an overwhelming idea to have to consider, we have always encouraged employers to be ready for this situation by using the motto: Be Prepared, Not Scared.

When your organization plans appropriately and provides employees with the information and resources that they need to act quickly in an active shooter situation, lives can be saved.

Tips to Prepare Employees to Act in the First Few Minutes

Create mental “action scripts”

Employees should be armed with a mental rehearsal plan that includes different scenarios regarding how to respond in the event of a variety of crises. The prompt employees should utilize is, “If [blank] happens, then I will do [blank].”

Be prepared to “act not react”

Delaying confirmation of a crisis can mean life or death. If an employee hears what could be a gunshot, they should respond as if it is until confirmed otherwise. Staff should be encouraged to start lockdowns or follow run-hide-fight protocols. If it’s a false alarm, it’s better to be safe.

Prioritize roadblocks

Your employee crisis action protocol should prioritize creating obstacles between employees and intruders. Active shooters seek out easy targets of opportunity, where there are little to no barricades that will limit their movement, and little to no supervision or confrontation that will restrict or end their actions.

Practicing “Rapid Response” Lockdown & Barricading


The first time an employee considers how to lockdown their occupied space should not be during an active shooter situation. Train your employees to consider the following:

Make your barricade response “gross motor skill based”

If your plan relies on fine motor skills (i.e. placing a key in the door keyhole and turning, precise movements with your fingers such as tying rope or computer cable to the doorknob), your employees may find themselves moving too slow to be effective. Use pre-tied items, carabiners, or pre-lock doors to simplify the plan for employees and set them up for success.

Barricade Tactics: Identify and Strategize

Effective lockdown planning for each occupied space involves not only identifying the necessary objects, but also determining the order in which to use them. Always use objects of substantial size and weight when barricading. Don’t just pile chairs in front of the door, they may not stop an intruder and may limit your ability to respond or exit in case of breach. If barricaded properly, a door breach should be a rare occurrence.

Make it appear as if no one is in the room

Instruct employees to turn off lights, silence their cell phones, keep quiet, and avoid casting shadows under the door.

Exit Strategy

As a part of their lockdown plan, employees should be able to identify a secondary exit (door, window, breach a wall) so that they can get out if needed. If they cannot get out, they should position themselves against the wall, 2-3 feet from the knob side of the door. Having a pre-planned improvised weapon is a good consideration for a lockdown plan as well.

Encourage Day-to-Day Awareness


Employees who are aware are the best prepared in the event of an active shooter situation. Encouraging employees to develop a thorough understanding of their surroundings, how to evaluate and/or barricade their area, and how and when to fight an intruder using the best practices below will result in a better prepared team:

Building Entry Assessment

Aware employees try to find at least two exit routes when entering a building. They take the time to enter and leave the building using different routes to build familiarity that will be helpful to them in the time of a crisis.

See Something, Say Something

Employees should feel comfortable reporting suspicious activities, people, or vehicles to law enforcement. It is law enforcement’s job to determine if there is a threat present.

The safest organizations expand on this concept and follow a “see something, say something” campaign. This includes things that employees may see or hear in person or on social media that cause concern. If employees hear or see signs of imminent danger (gunshots, yelling, screaming, or reports of an intruder), they should not go to verify what is happening – they should enact their pre-planned
action script”.

Standardized Crisis Plans

The best defense is a good offense. We’ve broken down what this crisis plan should look like in our article, “Risk Insight: Active Shooter Room Controls.” As an M3 client, you have access to a crisis plan template that can be filled out for your organization – just log in to MyM3 to download it.

Ripple of Safety

During a lockdown or evacuation, employees should know how to make themselves safe as quickly as possible, notify others to that they can get safe and begin their own “ripple of safety”, activate your organization’s emergency notification system, and call 911.

Key Takeaways

Employees need to be prepared, not scared in the event of an active shooter situation. Organizations who have taken the time to provide training, best practices, resources, and more to their employees will be able to act decisively if an active shooter breaches their facilities. Reach out to Ted Hayes or your M3 client executive for more information about active shooter preparation and training for your organization.

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