How to Deal With 
Active Shooters At Your Next Event

Active Shooter Symbol


As we are constantly being reminded by the shooting incidents all over the world these last few weeks, Active Shooter situations must become a part of our event safety planning process. This article aims to help you as the event organizer plan for this situation and deal with it should it happen at your event.

Two points I’d like to make right up front:

  1. The very fact that you are reading this and are willing to put these tips into action shows your clients how important their safety and security are to you.
  2. Everything you have been doing to keep your event safe such as planning for emergency situations, maintaining safe egress routes, and monitoring crowd behavior are already a part of emergency planning for an active shooter.

What is an Active Shooter?

An Active Shooter is an individual or group actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims.

Active shooters are often psychologically unstable people and are responding to their environment in a very irrrational way. You just cannot think the way they are thinking.

Because active shooter situations are often over before law enforcement arrives, you must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Law Enforcement

Depending on the size of your event, you may be asked to install closed circuit television cameras, provide a crisis situation room with communication facilities and accommodate (meaning feed) law enforcement officers at your event.

Law enforcement’s purpose is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible. Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the last shots were heard.

The first officers to arrive to the scene will not stop to help injured persons. Expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises.

Once you have reached a safe location or an assembly point, you will likely be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control, and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Do not leave until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.

What to expect when law enforcement arrives:

  • Officers usually arrive in teams of four
  • Officers may wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment
  • Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, handguns
  • Officers may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation
  • Officers may shout commands, and may push individuals to the ground for their safety

How to react when law enforcement arrives:

  • Remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions
  • Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets)
  • Do not run when police enter the vicinity. Drop to the floor, if you are told to do so, or move calmly out of the area or building
  • Immediately raise hands and spread fingers
  • Keep hands visible at all times
  • Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as holding on to them for safety
  • Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling
  • Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises

Information to provide law enforcement or emergency number operator:

  • Location of the active shooter(s)
  • Number of shooters
  • Physical description of shooters(s)
  • Number and type of weapons held by the shooter(s)
  • Number of potential victims at the location

Signage/ Info Sheets and your Emergency Action Plan (EAP):

  • Ensure that your venue/ production always has at least two evacuation routes that are kept clear at all times.
  • Have assembly points (tour buses or truck parking area away from conflict).
  • Post evacuation routes or info sheets in conspicuous locations throughout your venue.
  • Take time to familiarize yourself and your team with the facility’s layout and
  • To best prepare your staff for an active shooter situation or any threatening scenario, create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) Using the venues EAP as the basis for your own EAP.
  • Conduct training exercises. Your EAP should provide both exit location and evacuation protocols. Together, the EAP and training exercises will prepare your staff to effectively respond and help minimize loss of life.
  • Review the escape routes and EAP at your daily security meeting before doors open.
  • If you need assistance in creating your EAP do not hesitate to contact me. I’ve written many EAP’s for both small and large events.

Pocket guide to dealing with an Active Shooter situation

In a separate post, I’ve created a credit card sized pocket guide in the event you or your staff have to deal with an Active Shooter situation. Please feel free to download it here and use it for your events.

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