Response

If you find yourself in the middle of an active shooter event, your survival may depend on whether or not you have a plan. The plan doesn't have to be complicated. There are three things you can do that make a difference: Run, hide, fight.

Run

  • If you can safely escape, do so. Get out of the building and away from the shooter, taking into account that there might be more than one armed intruder.
  • Keep running until you are well away from the building. Get behind some type of cover.
  • Evacuate whether others agree to or not.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so.

Hide

  • If you are unable to exit, find a place to hide.
  • Lock and barricade all doors and windows.
  • Turn off lights, radios, and computer monitors and silence all cell phones.
  • Close blinds and block windows.
  • Keep everyone calm and out of sight.
  • Take adequate cover for protection. Use concrete walls, thick desks, and file cabinets to protect yourself from bullets.
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so.

Fight

  • As a last resort, if your life is in danger, fight back.
  • Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
  • Act with physical aggression and do whatever it takes to stop the shooter.
  • Yell, use improvised weapons, such as a chair or fire extinguisher.
  • Use all of your strength and commit to your actions.
UMUC Video Thumbnail

Find out what you can do to handle an active shooter situation with this video, co-developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the City of Houston. This video may contain some disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised. 

Fleeing During an Active Shooter Situation

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 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. Do not try to drive off campus until you are advised it is safe to do so by police.

What to Report When Calling 911

  • Your specific location, building name, and office/room number.
  • Number of people at your specific location.
  • Injuries, including the number injured and types of injuries.
  • Shooter location(s), shooter identity (if known), number of suspects, race/gender, clothing description, physical features, type of weapon (long gun or handgun), backpack, explosions separate from gunfire, and any other details you know.

When Law Enforcement Arrives

When law enforcement arrives, follow their instructions exactly. Keep in mind they may not know who the shooter is.

  • Remain calm and follow the officers' instructions.
  • Put down any items in your hands (e.g., bags, jacket, etc.).
  • Raise your hands and spread your fingers.
  • Avoid making quick movements toward officers, such as attempting to hold on to them for safety.
  • Avoid pointing, screaming, or yelling.
  • Do not stop to ask officers for help or directions while evacuating.

Additional Guidance for Faculty, Staff, and Students

Hearing from a witness, seeing the shooter yourself, or hearing the sound of gunshots may be the only alert you receive. The sound of gunshots, unlike special effects in movies and television, may sound muffled and make a "pop, pop, pop" noise. It is reasonable to assume that a series of such noises are gunshots and you should begin to take necessary precautions.

Remember, the actions of faculty and staff will influence others. Students, visitors,  and guests will follow your lead.

  • 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 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 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 bullets above.
    • 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 above for fleeing.
  • 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.

Additional Things to Expect When Help Arrives

  • 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.
  • 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.

Preparing for These Events

Consider the following, wherever you may be:

  1. Know your surroundings.
  2. Take note of the nearest exit.
  3. Can the door be locked?
  4. What would work as a barricade?
  5. Do the windows open?
  6. Where would you run?