Marilyn Blake is
officer of Telcom
Contact her at
t seems like almost every week, we see and hear on
the news about an active shooter situation somewhere
in America. These situations are often unpredictable
and evolve very quickly. Most of the time, chaos ensues,
and people are hurt or killed. The U.S. Federal Agencies
define an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged
in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and popu-
lated area.” Most of the time, the shooters select their victims
at random, don’t try to hide their identity and are suicidal.
Escaping the police is not a priority. Many times, schools,
events, houses of worship, and businesses are the targets of
the active shooters. Because active shooter situations are often
over within 10–15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives or
pretty quickly afterward, knowing what to do can save lives. You
have to be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the
active shooter situation until the police arrive. When they arrive,
their first priority is to take out the active shooter. They will not
stop to help those who are injured. The rescue squad/ambu-lance with first responders will be coming to help the injured.
Best practices in coping with an active shooter situation are:
l Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers
developing. Do you know what a gunshot sounds likes?
l Always take note of the two closest exits in any facility you
visit. Remember, it might be behind you.
l If you’re in an office, stay there and lock/secure the door.
l If in a hallway, get into a room and lock and secure the door.
l As a last resort, you can attempt to take the active shooter
down. When the shooter is in close range and you cannot flee,
your chance of survival is greater if you incapacitate the shooter.
l Call 911 when it is safe to do so (be sure to silence your phone).
If you’re involved in an active shooter situation, you really have
three options, which you should generally practice in this order:
run, hide and fight.
Law enforcement usually arrives in teams of four, in full
gear, with rifles/shotguns/handguns and pepper spray, tear
gas or tasers. You should follow their commands exactly, as
they are trying to take out the shooter and control the situation
and will not have time to explain to you why they’re telling you
a specific command. Raise your hands and spread your fingers
and keep your hands visible at all times. Avoid making quick
movements toward officers and pointing or screaming. If they
ask you, the officers will want to know the location of the shooter
or shooters, any physical description you can give, the type of
weapon they have and the number of victims. Once you’ve
reached a safe location or the assembly area, do not leave until
law enforcement questions you or instructs you to do so.
Have a Plan
As an employer, you have an Emergency Preparedness or Business Continuity plan, and that plan should include active shooter
planning. The Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and your
local police departments/law enforcement can help you with
specific training and offer resources. Your plan should include:
l How you’ll report emergencies and to whom.
l Emergency kits with first aid supplies, floor plans, flashlights, employee roster/contact information, radios.
l Evacuation plans, safe areas, assembly area.
l Local area hospital contact information.
l Plan for notifying individuals in the location, in other offices,
law enforcement and medical providers.
Encourage law enforcement to do an active shooter drill at
your facilities. While not all active shooters are work-related,
certainly many of them are. You should also be aware of indications of workplace violence and take actions accordingly.
People do not usually just snap; there are usually indicators of
potentially violent behavior if we pay close enough attention.
Look for noticeable signs like increased use of alcohol, unexplained absences, decrease in attention to hygiene and appearance, depression, severe mood swings, explosive outbursts,
suicidal comments, or escalation of domestic or financial problems. These could be signs of triggers for an active shooter situation at your workplace. Make sure you have a workplace
violence plan to help managers recognize these signs and deal
with them before there is violence at your workplace. l