Thursday, August 8, 2019

Addressing Active Shooters in the Workplace

As the prevalence of "active shooter" situations increases in public and private workplaces, it is wise for employers to adopt safety and training procedures in case these situations arise. Below are general tips and resources that an employer-regardless of size-may find useful when addressing safety concerns regarding active shooters. These tools can be incorporated through various avenues of training or within an employee handbook.

DO's and DON'Ts

Below are tips to consider when devising an active shooter preparedness plan.
  • DO: consider training employees on emergency preparedness during active shooter situations after implementing a plan. At the very least, grant employees time in their workday to properly read a safety plan and allow an open-door policy for questions regarding safety and emergency preparedness.
  • DON'T: scare employees with sensational rhetoric on an evolving societal issue. Although this type of behavior should concern many, the likelihood of an active shooter in any given workplace is extraordinarily low. That does not mean, however, employers should neglect to implement a plan that ensures the safety of all employees by equipping them with the knowledge to assist them in these situations.
  • DO: reach out to local law enforcement authorities and legal counsel with questions when devising and implementing a plan to address active shooters.
  • DON'T: profile employees when conducting risk assessments. Profiling employees, for any reason, may be considered a form of discrimination or unlawful retaliation of a protected class or activity. Instead, employers should work closely with their H.R. departments to update and adequately enforce all codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures.
  • DO: enforce concealed or open carry prohibitions of firearms in publicly accessible buildings. In Illinois, the Firearm Concealed Control Act contains established requirements for prohibiting the possession of concealed firearms in public places, which includes posting a sign. If an employer owns or leases a property, consult legal counsel or the property owner to ensure applicability and compliance before taking the legally allowed steps of restricting firearms.


Many law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have adopted this method as a simple but effective way to address active shooters. These tips offer an employee the best chance of survival when confronted with an active shooter. DHS created a video describing the step-by-step procedures for employees to follow during an active shooter situation.

  • RUN The best way to handle an active shooter is to leave the immediate vicinity of the threat as quickly and safely as possible. This includes leaving belongings behind and knowing reliable escape routes by memory.
  • HIDE If running is not an option, a person should hide from a shooter's point of view, deny a shooter's access to safe areas by blocking entrances, turn off lights, and quiet all electronic devices.
  • FIGHT Considered the option of last resort; if an employee must fight an active shooter, throw items or physically incapacitate the shooter to eliminate the threat.

The video also notes a person should notify bystanders of active shooters—once out of harm's way—to prevent others from danger. Also, when law enforcement arrives on the scene, it is vital to keep hands visible and follow instructions to ensure officers can stop the threat.

Active shooter situations are usually random and unpredictable occurrences. Employees should remain clam, utilize the quickest and safest exits from their workstations, assist others without compromising the safety of themselves or the person(s) they're aiding, notify law enforcement as soon as you are safe, and follow instructions of officers during and after the incident.

This pocket card, created by the DHS, contains all of this information in a portable card.


DHS offers first responders, human resource departments, and private citizens a litany of resources to use when creating active shooter preparedness plans. Included is their Active Shooter Workshop that provides employers an organized method to understand active shooter situations, conduct risk assessments, establish goals and objectives, draft a preparedness plan, and train employees. Other resources include pamphlets in different languages on active shooters, various video tutorials of best practices for employees to consider during a threatening situation, and tools for employers to conduct comprehensive threat assessments when identifying areas that pose a high security risk to employees.