An active shooter is a person actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people with a firearm. In most cases, there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. These situations are dynamic and evolve rapidly, demanding immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to innocent victims. This document provides guidance to students, faculty, and staff who may be caught in an active shooter situation and describes what to expect from responding police officers.
Guidance to Students, Faculty and Staff:
In general, how you respond to an active shooter will be dictated by the specific circumstances of the encounter, bearing in mind there could be more than one shooter involved in the same situation. If you find yourself involved in an active shooter situation, try to remain calm and use these guidelines to help you plan a strategy for survival.
If an active shooter is outside your building, proceed to a room that can be locked, close and lock all the windows and doors, and turn off all the lights; if possible, get everyone down on the floor and ensure that no one is visible from outside the room. One person in the room should call 911, advise the dispatcher of what is taking place, and inform him/her of your location; remain in place until the police or Public Safety give the “all clear.” Unfamiliar voices may be the shooter attempting to lure victims from their safe space; do not respond to any voice commands until you can verify with certainty that they are being issued by a police or Public Safety officer.
If an active shooter is in the same building you are, determine if the room you are in can be locked and if so, follow the same procedure described in the previous paragraph. If your room can’t be locked, determine if there is a nearby location that can be reached safely and secured, or if you can safely exit the building. If you decide to move from your current location, be sure to follow the instructions outlined below.
If an active shooter enters your office or classroom, try to remain calm. Dial 911, if possible, and alert police to the shooter’s location; if you can’t speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can listen to what’s taking place. If there is no opportunity for escape or hiding, it might be possible to negotiate with the shooter; attempting to overpower the shooter with force should be considered a very last resort, after all other options have been exhausted. If the shooter leaves the area, proceed immediately to a safer place and do not touch anything that was in the vicinity of the shooter.
No matter what the circumstances, if you decide to flee during an active shooting situation, make sure you have an escape route and plan in mind. Do not attempt to carry anything while fleeing; move quickly, keep your hands visible, and follow the instructions of any police or Public Safety officers you may encounter. Do not attempt to remove injured people; instead, leave wounded victims where they are and notify authorities of their location as soon as possible.
What to Expect from Responding Police Officers:
Police officers responding to an active shooter are trained to proceed immediately to the area in which shots were last heard; their purpose is to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers will normally be in teams; they may be dressed in regular patrol uniforms, or they may be wearing external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment. The officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, or handguns, and might also be using pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation. Regardless of how they appear, remain calm, do as the officers tell you, and do not be afraid of them. Put down any bags or packages you may be carrying and keep your hands visible at all times; if you know where the shooter is, tell the officers. The first officers to arrive will not stop to aid injured people; rescue teams composed of other officers and emergency medical personnel will follow the first officers into secured areas to treat and remove injured persons. Keep in mind that even once you have escaped to a safer location, the entire area is still a crime scene; police will usually not let anyone leave until the situation is fully under control and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Until you are released, remain at whatever assembly point authorities designate.
Active Shooter General Quick Response Guide:
Secure immediate area:
- Lock and barricade doors.
- Turn off lights.
- Close blinds and block windows.
- Silence cell phones.
- Turn off radios and computer monitors.
- Keep occupants calm, quiet, and out of sight.
- Keep yourself out of sight and take adequate cover/protection i.e. concrete walls, thick desks, filing cabinets (cover may protect you from bullets).
- Place signs in exterior windows to identify the location of injured persons.
- Call 911. Be sure to give the dispatcher your exact location.
- Be aware that the 911 system will likely be overwhelmed. Program the Sacred Heart University Public Safety emergency phone number 203-371-7911 into your cell phone for emergency use.
What to Report:
- Your specific location - building name and office/room number).
- Number of people at your specific location.
- Injuries - number injured and types of injuries).
- Assailant(s) - location, number of suspects, race/gender, clothing description, physical features, type of weapons (long gun or hand gun), backpack, shooter’s identity if known, separate explosions from gunfire, etc.
Un-Securing an Area:
- Consider risks before un-securing rooms.
- Remember, the shooter may not stop until they are engaged by an outside force.
- Attempts to rescue people should only be attempted if it can be accomplished without further endangering the persons inside a secured area.
- Consider the safety of masses vs. the safety of a few.
- If doubt exists for the safety of the individuals inside the room, the area should remain secured.