(Written by Carol Hill, FEI Crisis Management Associate)

In light of recent U.S. active shooter incidents in San Bernardino, Cal., Orlando, Fla., and Dallas, TX, organizations should review their emergency plans with particular attention to preparedness, response and recovery.

I’ve outlined some questions to consider in each of these categories. While these are considered best practices, please consult your company’s specific emergency response plan for any legalities or special concerns.


  • Are active shooter drills conducted for your organization?
  • Are you aware of the nearest exits in your building? If there is an exit blocked, are you aware of an alternative exit? In rare events, the exit is blocked intentionally by the active shooter. Are you aware of secondary exit routes?
  • If you can’t escape an active shooter, are you aware of your next viable option for survival? If unable to escape, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) practices say to shelter in place and hide out of the active shooter’s view. If in an office, lock the door and barricade with heavy furniture. Remain quiet, silence phones and hide behind or underneath large furniture.
  • If you are exiting a building with an active shooter and you pass by armed officers and SWAT team members, are you aware of how you should respond? Keep arms and hands visible at all times, spread your fingers, and avoid shouting, pointing or quick movements.


  • How do you quickly communicate with staff to warn about an active shooter situation? Many organizations have a mass messaging system in place. Does yours?
  • Do you know who to contact if you witness an active shooter? Who initiates a mass message to staff to notify all of the danger and to avoid the area? If it is safe to do so, contact 911. Be prepared to give location of active shooter, number of individuals potentially affected, type of weapons used and description of active shooter.
  • If you see someone walking or running into an active shooter situation, you should direct them away from the area.
  • Once the active shooter has been taken down or arrested, you notice the person next to you bleeding out. What could you do? Are you CPR and First Aid trained? There is an initiative by the DHS around bystanders and first responders applying First Aid to victims suffering from extensive bleeding.


  • Staff may be scattered between hospitals, assembly points or busy talking to police officials; what procedures are in place to account for all staff and notify families? How will you partner with local authorities to account for all staff? Do you have an organization that can make outbound calls to family members and report on confirmed status information?
  • What can be expected after an active shooter is no longer a threat? All staff will be asked to stay on the scene for questions and examination. Any staff hospitalized will need their current status confirmed.

It is important to remember that most active shooter incidents are fluid and end within five minutes, typically before responders and local authorities arrive on the scene. Having a staff that is trained and ready may mitigate damage and loss of life. If your organization has not run a drill or tabletop exercise recently, now is the time.

If you are unsure where to begin, please contact our Crisis Management team today.