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Acts of Mass Violence

An "active shooter" is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly, often ending within 10 to 15 minutes. The immediate deployment of law enforcement is typically required to stop the shooting and lessen harm to victims.

Since these situations are sometimes over before law enforcement arrives, individuals must be mentally and physically prepared.

Good Practices

  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
  • If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
  • If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so.

Tips for Evacuating or Sheltering-in-Place


If there is an accessible escape path, try to get out. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent people from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.


If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Your hiding place should:

  • Be out of the active shooter’s view.
  • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (i.e. an office with a closed and locked door).
  • Not trap you or restrict your options for movement.

To Prevent an Active Shooter from Entering Your Hiding Place:

  • Lock the door.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.

If the Active Shooter is Nearby:

  • Lock the door.
  • Silence your cell phone.
  • Turn off any source of noise (i.e., radios, televisions).
  • Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks).
  • Remain quiet.

If Evacuation and Sheltering-in-Place are Impossible

  • Remain calm.
  • If possible, dial 911 to alert police to the active shooter’s location.
  • If you can't speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.