We have received an increase in active shooter calls to our emergency notification line in recent years. When these notifications come in, we provide initial support and guidance. Some of these calls may be false alarms, while others are actual incidents.

Over the years, I have compiled a list of reminders that can be beneficial to anyone facing an active shooter incident—as well as other types of crises.

Many of us are familiar with the “run, hide, fight” training recommended by the Department of Homeland Security. I have expanded on this list to reinforce your response:

1. Practice like it’s real, act like it’s real

I will be the first to admit that during our organization’s fire drills, I am inclined to roll my eyes or let out a sigh because these drills typically occur at an inconvenient time. The truth is, it’s crucial to practice these drills to know what to do in a real emergency.

Have you ever been at a hotel when the fire alarm goes off and you freeze? Instead of evacuating like we should, we often wait for the “false alarm” or the “all clear” notification. But this inaction can detrimental to an initial response. I am reminded of a shooting at a local school where the alarm was triggered, and the students thought it was a drill and didn’t react. In this incident, the shooter was shot and no one else was injured, fortunately. However, if we act like it’s real every time, we may prevent a tragedy.

2. Don’t speculate, await an all clear

I have received many calls where there’s some uncertainty about what’s occurring. Sometimes the caller heard actual shots; other times the caller sees people running and shouting that there’s an active shooter.

If the caller is unsure what’s happening, they may hesitate to call. But in all cases, they should act like it’s real and follow the “run, hide, fight” guidelines. They should NOT wait for a someone to confirm whether there’s a shooter.

When is it safe to re-enter the building? Although you may see people going back into the building or stop sheltering in place, it’s better to wait for an “all-clear” signal from a security guard, manager or other official. You can also try checking your local police department’s Twitter accounts since more of these departments are using this accessible tool.

3. Texting is your friend

If you find yourself in a situation where you are sheltering in place, you may want to provide your loved ones with updates. However, talking by phone could give your position away. In these cases, texting is your best option.

Once an “all clear” signal has been given, there may be an influx of calls made from those impacted that could overwhelm cellular tower service. Once again, texting is your best option because it uses less bandwidth and runs on a parallel cellular network, especially in areas with limited cell service.

How to sign up for training

To help your workforce be better prepared for an active shooter event, FEI offers professional development training in “Active Shooter Preparation and Response” as well as many other important topics. Please refer to page 47 of the FEI Training Catalog for additional information.