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What to do if there is an Active Shooter Where You Are

Active shooter situations are rare, but they have dramatically increased and become deadlier in recent years. These shootings occur in places such as churches, workplaces, theaters, schools, concert venues, and shopping malls. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has designated 250 shootings as “active shooter incidents” that occurred from 2000 to 2017. In 2000, there were 7 people total injured or killed in active shooter incidents. In 2017, the total was 729, with 138 killed and 591 injured. Learn more below, including steps for what to do if you find yourself in the same location as an active shooter.

“Active Shooter” Defined

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines an active shooter as a person in a populated and confined area who is actively engaged in killing or trying to kill people. The agency says these shooting incidents evolve quickly and are highly unpredictable. If you are where an active shooter is, the DHS says that it’s vital for you to first calmly decide on the best and most practical strategy for protecting your life.

Three Steps on What to Do in an Active Shooter Situation

Experts on mass shootings have devised a simple guideline on what to do if there is an active shooter at your location, as follows:

  • Run
  • Hide
  • As a last resort, fight.

Run or Evacuate

Leave the premises, if there is an escape path that you can access. In doing so, be sure that you:

  • Have your plan and escape route firmly in mind.
  • Run, whether others join you or not.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • If possible, help others escape.
  • Warn others and stop them from entering an area where the active shooter might be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • If you are given instructions by a person in law enforcement, do what they instruct you to do without hesitation.
  • Do not try to move people who are injured.
  • When you are safe, call 9-1-1.


If you are unable to evacuate, hide in a place where the active shooter is less likely to find you. It should not be in the shooter’s view. Choose a hiding spot that provides protection from gunfire and won’t trap you or restrict options for movement.

If possible, lock the door or use heavy furniture to blockade the entrance to your hiding area. Next, take the following actions:

  • Put your cell phone or pager on silent.
  • Turn off radios, television, and any other sources of noise.
  • Hide behind something large, such as a desk, table, or cabinet.
  • Remain as perfectly quiet as possible.

If you can neither evacuate or hide, remain calm. If possible, call 9-1-1 to advise police of the location of the active shooter. If you must remain quiet, leave the connection to the dispatcher open with the microphone on and with sound on your phone muted.


If your life is in imminent danger and the other two options aren’t possible, attempt to incapacitate or disrupt the active shooter by committing firmly to any of the following actions:

  • Take the most aggressive actions you possibly can against the active shooter
  • Throw items and use items as improvised weapons
  • Yell

When Police Arrive

Cooperate with the police, when they arrive on the scene. They will be trying to stop the shooter as rapidly as possible. Keep your hands visible at all times, and put down your purse, jacket, or anything you’re holding. The actions police take may not make sense to you, but trust that they know what they’re doing and simply cooperate with their instructions.

Hopefully, you are never in a situation with an active shooter. But if you are, experts have said that they believe the above outline of actions to take can help you survive. One additional step to take is to have a GPS locator app downloaded to your phone, so family members can find you in an emergency.

Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist

Resources: Washington Post, CNBC, FBI.gov


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