Home 5 Gun Safety 5 How to Respond
If you or a loved one is actively experiencing a crisis and at imminent risk of self-harm or harm to others, call 911.


When an active shooter is in the vicinity, you should quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life.

Emergency light icon


The absolute best, most ideal response to an active shooter situation will be to evacuate the area and get out of harm’s way. While evacuation sounds simple, doing so under the duress and chaos of an active shooter situation can be difficult.

If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. 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 others 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. Because active shooter situations typically last no longer than 10 – 15 minutes, hiding from the attacker is a highly effective method for promoting personal safety.

The hiding place should:

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


To prevent an active shooter from finding or entering your hiding place:

  • Lock the door.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.
  • Silence cell phones (turn off vibrate).
  • Turn off any source of noise (i.e., computers, radios, televisions, assistive devices).
  • Pull down shades or window coverings.
  • Hide behind large or hard items (i.e., cabinets, desks).
  • Remain quiet.


If evacuation and hiding out are not possible:

  • Remain calm.
  • Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location.
  • If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.


As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, you may choose to commit and act as aggressively as possible against the active shooter. This action should be decisive and without hesitation.

Attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her.
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons, such as a fire extinguisher.
  • Fighting as best you can within your ability.
  • Yelling.

Workforce Management

Workforce Management – Managers have the primary responsibility for ensuring their staff is prepared to evacuate places of work during emergencies. Management is responsible for:

  • Evacuation Planning – Ensure that the workplace has emergency preparedness and/or evacuation plans that define how staff will evacuate quickly, effectively and safely. Communicate plans to all staff and practiced/exercised regularly (including tabletop exercises and physical drills). Ensure that staff members are familiar with evacuation/exit routes from all areas of the building (i.e. each floor of a multi-story building, including common areas). Integrate accommodations for individuals with disabilities or persons with access and functional needs such as assistive devices, evacuation chairs and keeping aisles clear of clutter or items that may impede evacuees from leaving the premises.
  • The Buddy System – Coordinate closely with staff to understand and include the assistance/accommodation that may be needed by individuals with disabilities or access and functional needs during an active shooter situation. Establishing a “buddy system” whereby disabled and non-disabled colleagues work together to ensure the safe evacuation of all workers is an integral step in the process of planning to survive an active shooter attack.
  • Situational Awareness – Ensure that everyone is always accounted for inside and outside of the workplace including visitors, teleworkers, employees working in the community, etc. Confirm staff members are trained to update their calendars and keep supervisors aware of time away from the workplace (paid time off, jury duty, illness, etc.). Work to identify accommodation needs and incorporate those needs into emergency plans.
  • Cross-Training – Implement cross-training as part of the organization’s emergency management process to ensure as many employees as possible are familiar with and trained on evacuation procedures. This should include the evacuation lead personnel, floor wardens, the facilities team, and property management.
  • Individuals with Disability or an Access and Functional Need (AFN) – Individuals with a disability or an AFN have the most awareness of their specific evacuation needs. As such, it is the responsibility of the individual (assisted as appropriate by his or her representative, behavioral therapist or personal care assistant) to:
    • Inform management regarding any gaps or needs for accommodations that exist in their organization’s emergency preparedness or evacuation plans.
    • Inform management when an individual is expected to be away or out of the office for extended time to ensure the individual is accounted for during safety checks and roll calls.
    • Establish a “buddy system” with coworkers. “Buddies” should educate partners concerning the respective physical, psychological and communication assistance needed to increase their safety during an active shooter attack. A back-up buddy system is also recommended.
    • Have an escape route and safety plan in mind specific to their respective needs.
    • Practice escape routes and safety plans by locating exits and locking offices and conference rooms before and during drills and exercises.


Integrate hiding within their active shooter training protocols and provide explanation and demonstration to staff. Training should reiterate that being able to effectively conceal oneself could prevent injury or death during an active shooter situation. Management can create “safe rooms”, train staff to identify potential weapons in those areas and encourage them to think creatively regarding concealment. The concealment protocols should be included in the emergency preparedness plan.

Individuals with a disability or an access and functional need (AFN). Depending on their specific disability or AFN, it may be difficult for some individuals to hide. For example, individuals who use wheelchairs may find it challenging or impossible to hide under a desk or in a closet. Because everyone knows what will or will not work for them, persons with a disability or an AFN (assisted as appropriate, if needed, by their representative, behavioral therapist or personal care assistant) should:

  • Plan ahead by identifying potential areas to hide throughout their workplace prior to an incident occurring.
  • Coordinate with management and colleagues/”buddies” ahead of time regarding the type of assistance they can provide to help with concealment.
  • Use assistive devices or durable medical equipment to secure hiding spot (such as parking and locking heavy wheelchairs in front of a door).
  • Practice self-soothing techniques to remain calm and collected.
  • Look for improvised weapons that can be used aggressively within an individual’s ability.


When training staff on active shooter situations, it is important that management underscore the importance of thinking creatively and being committed when physically acting against an active shooter.

Individuals with a disability or an access and functional need (AFN). Individuals with varying physical, emotional or developmental capabilities may be limited, completely or partially, in the degree to which they can fight an active shooter. However, individuals with a disability or AFN should consider using durable medical equipment or assistive devices as improvised weapons with which to attack an active shooter. For example, using a power chair to ram an active shooter; using a cane as a bat; or hitting an active shooter with a cast.

Law Enforcement/First Responders

When law enforcement arrives on scene, their primary responsibility will be to eliminate the threat. Once the active shooter has been neutralized, they will facilitate the evacuation of survivors and treatment of the injured with first responders.

During the post-shooting evacuation, law enforcement/first responders should be sure to:

  • Take AFN considerations into account when entering the building. This means understanding that depending on any one individual’s disability or AFN they may not understand or be able to follow commands to show their hands, to get on the ground or to move as directed. Individuals may exhibit behaviors that are counterintuitive due to their disability or AFN, such as putting on headphones or laughing as a means of coping with the stress of the environment.
  • Remember that individuals who may approach law enforcement for assistance could be unable to hear, have limited understanding of the circumstances, or require escorting.
  • Ask individuals if they have a disability or AFN that they should be aware of and how they can assist them or accommodate their needs during evacuation.
  • Give concrete, plain directions.
  • Use visual or gestural cues to assist individuals with disabilities and AFN during evacuation.

When it is time for individuals to vacate their places of concealment, law enforcement/first responders need to provide loud, clear, plain, concrete instruction announcing it is safe for persons to make their presence known. In doing so, they should consider that:

  • Some individuals with a disability or an AFN may not be able to hear or understand verbal instructions.
  • Depending on their disability or AFN, some individuals may require physical assistance to exit their place of hiding or being unconcealed.
  • Law enforcement/emergency medical services (EMS) should always ask individuals with a disability or an AFN if they need assistance and seek instruction before grabbing or physically moving them.
  • Law enforcement/EMS should avoid separating individuals with a disability or an AFN from their personal care assistant, service animal, durable medical equipment, or assistive device(s).

Law enforcement and first responders entering an active shooter environment should take note to ensure they do not confuse someone acting against an active shooter with an assailant.

Disclaimer: This website is for information only. It does not provide legal advice.