How to Prepare For an Active Shooter Incident

How to Prepare For an Active Shooter Incident

Whether you live in rural America or a busy city, there is always the potential to be at the wrong place at the wrong time during an active shooter incident. This guide will help you to know ahead of time, how to plan for it, what to do and how to respond if it happens.

Unfortunately, these types of incidents are becoming more commonplace, and it is essential for regular citizens to be aware of how to handle the situation. According to a report published by the FBI in 2014, most active shooter incidents last only two minutes. That is not enough time for the authorities to respond so you need to know ahead of time what to do until help arrives.

Plan Ahead

Living in these uncertain times, it makes good sense for families to attend active shooter training. Sign up with local authorities to learn what to do, what not to do and how to prepare yourself if you are ever confronted with a person wielding a gun.

  • Ensure that everyone in the family is involved and informed.
  • When visiting an unfamiliar area, keep an eye on the environment and locate all exits, so you have a quick escape plan if needed.
  • Have a plan for young children, seniors or anyone with physical disabilities that might need extra help.
  • Visualize a plan ahead of time, where would you go? What actions would you take? The clearer the picture in your mind, the more automatic your response will be in the actual situation.
  • Consider a concealed carry permit for protection.

Be Watchful For Unusual Behavior

The first, most crucial step is always to keep a sense of situational awareness. This heightened state may also be referred to as “relaxed but alert.” What it means is that you are not in fight or flight mode, but you are entirely aware of your surroundings; all the sights, smells and sounds are very distinct to you. You are not singularly focused but relaxed and ready to take action if necessary.

Keep an eye out for anything which seems out of place or abnormal. If you see someone that is acting suspicious or strangely and if you see any firearms on them, find the nearest authority and report it immediately.

Watchful citizens being aware of their surroundings, other people and reporting odd behavior could prevent active shooter incidents before anything tragic occurs.

Listen For Gunshots

A threat to personal safety can come at any time, not just from terrorists but even regular individuals who have decided to take the law into their own hands by picking up a gun and executing some type of justice clear only in their minds.

Familiarize yourself now with what to do if you hear gunshots in a public place, so you will be able to respond correctly and quickly, possibly saving your life and the lives of others.

Most people freeze in an emergency, but it is critical in these instances that you take quick action. If you hear something that sounds like a car backfiring or fireworks, err on the side of being cautious and assume it is gunshots being fired.


In these types of situations, you have three options run, hide or fight. To protect yourself and loved ones, you must take whatever action necessary to survive. Doing any of these three things may seem foreign to you, but they may just make the difference in how things turn out.


The first action to take is run as far away from the gunshots being fired as quickly as possible. Regardless of what others are doing, your first instinct should be to run hard and fast towards the closest exist away from danger. Urge others to run as well but leave your belongings behind and don’t wait for anyone to follow you. The only thing that matters at that moment is getting to safety.

Call 911 the minute you are in a safe location away from the shooter and alert authorities to the dangerous situation occurring.


If you are in a situation where the shooter is blocking the exit, and there is no other way out, then find a place to hide.

  • Get as far away from the shooter as you can, hide and stay very quiet.
  • Find a place to hide that is out of sight from the shooter and will provide protection should the gunman aim in your direction.
  • Be sure all your electronic devices are turned off so they won’t even make a vibration noise, which could alert the shooter to your location.
  • If you find a room to hide in, lock the door, block it with heavy furniture, turn off the lights, close the blinds and stay away from any windows.
  • Don’t hide with a big group of people. Spreading out and hiding in separate locations will make it harder for the shooter to find you.
  • If you can, send a silent notification to authorities via text or email.
  • Do not leave your hidden location until the situation is under control and the authorities have assured you it is safe to come out.
  • Hide in a closet or small bathroom if possible.
  • If you cannot find a room to hide in, hide where you are concealed from the shooter, but you can see them. If they pass you, you can then run to safety or fight if needed.


As a very last resort, if you cannot run and do not have a place to hide, you may have to fight the assailant. In quite a few cases unarmed civilians were able to disarm and overcome a shooter. It is possible if you take quick, aggressive action and commit fully to the follow-through. People wielding guns are often lulled into the false expectation that everyone will be too scared to charge at them or try and fight back. Use this to your advantage; they won’t be expecting you to attack them.

  • Use anything you can for weapons, like sticks, fire extinguishers, and other heavy or sharp objects.
  • Try and form a group with other victims and ambush the shooter.
  • You have to prepare yourself to cause severe harm to the shooter and possibly even kill them to survive yourself.
  • Be as aggressive and violent as possible; this is a life or death situation, don’t hold back.
  • Throwing items can disarm the shooter and give you and others an opportunity to run and escape.
  • If the shooter drops their weapon grab it immediately and get it away from them. This evens the playing field.
  • If the gun is pointed at you try and grab the barrel and control where it points. Point it down toward the floor in case it goes off, so no one will get hurt.

If you are armed, exercise patience for when you have a clear shot at disabling the shooter so that you can escape. You do not need to aim to kill, just to disarm them enough to get away and call for help.

After Help Arrives

In the aftermath of a shooting incident, things are likely to be a bit chaotic and confusing. Be sure to follow these steps below once the cavalry has arrived and taken control of the situation.

  • Put down any tools or weapons and keep your hands visible to authorities.
  • Follow instructions given by law enforcement officials. Their goal is to end the situation as peacefully as possible. You don’t want to get in their way.
  • Officers may be aggressive while trying to control the situation, pushing people out of the way to safety and using tear gas or other resources.
  • If you are hurt or wounded, get help immediately.
  • Help others who are hurt or in need of medical care.
  • Use first aid training to help anyone who requires assistance.
  • If there are people who are unconscious, turn them over onto their sides and find blankets or something to keep them warm until help arrives.
  • It is a good idea to take advantage of professional counseling services after an incident like this, which can leave many people traumatized and scarred, even if you didn’t incur any physical injuries.

Although these incidents are becoming more prominent in our society, it is unlikely that during your lifetime you will be involved in one. However, it is always good to be prepared and familiarize yourself with what to do and the best steps to take to survive. has some valuable resources and information on how to prepare for this type of event. A few of the most helpful links are:

Video on how to prepare for a shooter incident:

Homeland security’s prepare yourself worksheet: Security:’s active shooter response pamphlet: