What to put in your Active Shooter Response Plan

By October 24, 2019 November 21st, 2019 Emergency Management, Safety and Security
Active Shooter Response Plan

Most companies never want to think about the potential for an active shooter event at their workplace. The “it won’t happen here” mentality has resulted in many companies being unprepared to respond to a mass shooting event. In reality, more than half of all active shooter events—60%—occurred in the workplace in 2018. With no active shooter response plan, companies fail to provide their employees with the proper protection and safety.

If an active shooter threatens your company, employees may be unprepared on how to respond. To prevent this from happening, you can help train your employees with an active shooter response plan. This serves two purposes: 1) to prevent chaos and 2) to be prepared for workplace violence if it were to arise. In scary and traumatic situations, you can save lives by having a plan in place with strategies and techniques to stay safe. In this blog post, we explain the various key components of an active shooter response plan to ensure that your business is prepared to respond.

Roles and Responsibilities

Prior to creating an active shooter plan, designate key people within your company to direct the effort. Many key functions must be completed by your employee safety team, including:

    • Leadership: a designated director of emergency management
    • Training: experts who can help prepare employees for emergencies
    • Communication: at least one person in charge of handling the mass emergency notification software
    • Reporting/Accountability: a team who monitors and evaluates reports and threats
    • Site Security: a person who secures the workplace and removes weaknesses

If your company does not already have a designated employee for an emergency management or business continuity role, you should look into finding one. This person will be in charge of coordinating the active shooter response plan. Depending on the size of the company, these responsibilities listed above might fall on the shoulders of one person or it might be dispersed across separate departments in a larger company.

Active Shooter Prevention Plan

The most effective way to prepare for an active shooter event is by implementing measures that attempt to prevent the event completely. While there are no clear-cut indicators that a current or past employee might engage in a violent act, there are some red flags to look out for. Start by incorporating three key methods into your prevention plan: training programs to teach employees about recognizing potential violent behavior, practical reporting systems to record threats, and intervention measures to properly evaluate and combat issues.

1 in 5 shootings at work are carried out by employees of the company. Avoid some of these tragedies by having your employees help identify other employees who are headed down a violent trajectory. Your company should educate employees about common indicators of perpetrators and patterns of behavior that may contribute to workplace violence through pamphlets and instructional videos. Training like this will equip your employees to better recognize potentially dangerous individuals.

Common Pre-Attack Behaviors

    • History of aggression towards authority figures
    • Recent acquisition of multiple firearms
    • An interest in explosives
    • A fascination with past shootings/mass attacks
    • A traumatic life event such as a death, breakup/divorce, or loss of employment
    • Being the victim of bullying in the workplace

However, merely training your employees will be futile unless your company has set up the proper channels through which employees can safely report observations. Reporting a coworker is a daunting task that most employees would rather avoid, especially if there is no easy outlet through which they can do so. In order to simplify the process, create a single, centralized reporting system. Outline to your employees how the reporting system works and assure them that anything reported through the channel will be kept confidential.

Lastly, take all reports seriously and effectively address them to mitigate threats. The individuals in charge of evaluating threats should create a standardized plan on how to handle every report. Members of your company from human resources, security, and employee assistance/mental health teams should be involved in creating a plan of action to address the issue.

Conduct Risk Assessment/Site Hardening

Some businesses are more prone to attacks than others based on factors such as controversiality of business, security strength, and location. Your company can combat these weaknesses by hardening your site against the threat of violence. Start by conducting a risk assessment to pinpoint key weaknesses within your workplace and work to fix these vulnerabilities.

The simplest way to protect your employees is by making sure your workplace is well protected from external intrusion. First, ensure that your building has controlled access and only authorized personnel can enter. By instituting security personnel, locks, and badged entry, you can ensure that no intruders gain access to your building. Your second line of defense should include doors with alternate manual locks and solid external doors (not glass) to further shield from any potential shooters. Additionally, identify interior shelter spaces that employees can utilize during an active shooter event.

In addition to strengthening your workplace, you should consider bringing in a third party to audit your physical site. Oftentimes, they will catch weaknesses that your company did not notice.

Create an Emergency Evacuation Plan

Communication – Implement a Notification System

During an active shooter event, communication is vital to ensure the safety of all of your employees. Without proper communication channels, companies are unable to track the status of its employees in a disaster, which creates even more chaos and confusion. However, people may not have access to their normal channels of communication, they may forget to check, and networks could fail. Being able to communicate through multiple channels—email, phone, text, and mobile app—will ensure your communication gets the broadest distribution possible.

Tragically, this has had real-world implications in attacks such as the Boston Marathon Bombings. As contestants and spectators all tried to make calls at the same time, many of those calls didn’t make it through. Many of them resorted to communicating via text message, a lower-bandwidth option than phone calls. If your emergency plan relies on just one form of communication, you run the risk of hindered communication during a crisis.

Adopt a multi-channel, two-way mass communication system such as AlertMedia to make this process seamless. With an emergency notification system, you are able to keep track of all your employees and relay crucial information in stressful scenarios.

An emergency communication system should meet the following criteria:

    • Intuitive interface: send out alerts with ease
    • Two-way messaging: allow users to reply with status updates
    • Wellness checks: quickly survey employees to see if they’re safe or need assistance
    • Reduce Delivery Time: use pre-made templates for different emergency scenarios
    • Centralized Information: create event pages to provide one source for all information
    • Availability: access via mobile device—an incident can occur at any time

If you’re looking for more help selecting an emergency notification system, our Buyer’s Guide to Emergency Communication Software can help.

In reality, it is unlikely that everyone will remain calm in the midst of a frightening attack. But the more your people are kept informed, the quicker everyone can get to safety and begin the recovery process.

Identify evacuation routes and shelter locations

A good evacuation plan for your business will include primary and secondary escape routes. Due to the unpredictable nature of active shooter events, companies should have strategic escape routes in place that avoid main hallways and open spaces.

Oftentimes, escape is not an option and instead, employees must take shelter where they are. By identifying key shelter locations within the workplace, employees will have strong, secure spaces in which they can hide until the event passes. Whether this space be a locked conference room or janitorial closet, identifying these locations can save many lives.

Plan for everyone in the workplace: persons with access and functional needs, personnel, and guests

Incorporate contractors, temporary workers, and guests in your plan. Additionally, remote workers might not be directly affected by an active shooter, but they need to know what is going on with the business and their co-workers. Plan for how to communicate with off-site employees during and after the active shooter event.

Also, make sure to plan for any special needs, such as access and functional needs populations or other individuals who may need assistance to evacuate safely. Even if your company doesn’t have any employees with lifelong access and functional needs, it’s crucial to plan for anyone who is temporarily on crutches or in a wheelchair. For these employees, getting to one of the places of shelter will often be a better course of action than trying to leave the building.

Training and Exercise

Prior to police arrival, 60% of active shooter events have already ended. Due to this reality, preparing your employees for crisis situations can help save many lives. Employees should undergo training at least twice a year to stay updated on the latest practices and strategies. In addition, active shooter response training should be incorporated into every new employee’s onboarding.

Size and Scope

There are many different types of active shooter drills that can prepare your employees for these scenarios such as lockdown and tactical drills. Company size, employee type, and business location are all factors to consider when choosing a specific type of active shooter drill. Find more information on the pros and cons of different active shooter drills in our blog post “Everything you Need to Know about Active Shooter Drills at Work.”

Despite the controversy surrounding active shooter drills, most experts can agree that training your employees in some form or fashion is essential to protecting their safety. Oftentimes, the simplest way is the most effective way. Many companies provide their employees with comprehensive training through informational videos and pamphlets, rather than performing active shooter drills. This simple method ensures that employees are prepared and knowledgeable about what actions to take in an active shooter scenario.

Related: Active Shooter Preparedness: 5 Steps Every Business Can Take

First Aid Training

Along with active shooter training, companies should ensure that at least a portion of their employees are first aid certified. When the unspeakable occurs, employees can help save lives if they have proper first aid training and knowledge. Many companies offer first aid training services to other business and it can be as simple as bringing in instructors one afternoon to teach and certify some of your employees. By providing your employees with this training, you empower them to help in disaster scenarios.

Run, Hide, Fight

The most common human response to disaster scenarios is to either run, hide, or fight. Intuitively, our first instinct is to run away from the face of danger, and this is normally the best option during an active shooter event. Using predefined evacuation routes and strategies, employees should get as far away as possible, but this is not always an option.

If running is not possible, the next best option is to hide in a secure location. Outlined shelter locations should be the first place one goes, but if they are too far away, employees should find the nearest concealed spot and hide. Locking the door, barricading with heavy items, and keeping quiet are all crucial components of this approach.

If all else fails, employees should take action and attempt to incapacitate the assailant. While this is a last resort scenario, employees should know to use common office equipment that can help them gain time as they escape to safety.

Related: Run Hide Fight: Pros and Cons


Communication during emergency situations is vital to keeping everyone notified and up to date on all available information. You should not wait until there’s an actual event to use your communication system for the first time.

The person(s) in charge of the emergency communication system should train on the systems they have in place. By preparing beforehand, you can have an idea of how long it takes to send alerts and what capabilities are necessary in case of an emergency scenario. Create pre-populated templates in order to ensure that messages can be sent out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Additionally, you should test that all your employees are actually receiving notifications on the available channels.

If your company relies on a hardwired alarm system, you should rehearse actually setting off the alarm and planning how to do so if the route is blocked. Conduct routine checks to ensure that batteries are still working and everyone in the workplace can hear the alarm.

Post Shooter Response

Following an active shooter event, employees will feel grief, confusion, and loss. As a company, you are responsible for taking care of all your employees, specifically those who were most deeply impacted by the event. Recovering after a disaster takes time and patience. Be sure to provide employees with resources, time, and the support they need. Whether that be financial support for medical bills or trauma counseling, show your employees that you are there for them.

In addition, an Emergency Operation Plan should be in place to address damage recovery, reopening of business, and relief funding. With this plan in place, you will have a set procedure to handle disaster scenarios, simplifying the process.

During this recovery phase, misinformation will also run rampant while everyone attempts to make sense of what occurred. In order to prevent rumors and speculation from taking over your business, use communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Certain mass emergency notification providers provide a feature for companies to organize all activities and updates into a consolidated event page. This page can be used to post current details, status updates, and steps to take moving forward in the recovery process. During the unfolding recovery process, people desire information and closure, which can be provided through efficient communication.


Looking for help on ensuring that your company is prepared for an active shooter event? Check out our Active Shooter Readiness Assessment to help ensure that you have your bases covered.