Sometimes, the measures we take to prevent workplace violence aren’t enough. And while no one would like to think about what might happen if there was an active shooter in the workplace, it’s important to know what you should do.
Here’s what you need to do if there’s a shooter at work.
Your foremost priority is to evacuate to safety. This is your best chance of staying safe from a shooter.
Look for potential escape routes. Ideally, you should have an exit route in mind, but don’t hesitate to think on your feet if necessary. If you’re on a higher floor, do not take an elevator – this could leave you trapped. Take the stairs or use a window if necessary. Some Virginia Tech students escaped this way.
Leave behind your belongings. Help others escape if you can, but you should evacuate even if others refuse to follow you. Do not attempt to move someone who has been wounded.
Whatever you do, do NOT attempt to pull a fire alarm in the hopes that it might get others to flee the building. In the Parkland shooting, the shooter himself pulled the fire alarm to create confusion and get students into the hallways.
If you’re in the gunman’s line of sight, run in a zigzag or run from cover-to-cover.
Once you’ve reached safety, call 911 and inform them of the situation. Warn others of what’s going on inside and don’t let anyone enter the building.
If first responders and police are already on the scene, make sure to keep your hands visible at all times so that they do not mistake you for the shooter.
If escape is not possible, your next best option is to get out of sight.
Lock and block all the doors and windows. Close the blinds. Turn out the lights and silence your phone (but don’t turn it off). Try to find a location that will offer protection if shots are fired in your direction, like a room with a locked door.
However, you should try not to restrict your options for movement in case your hiding spot is found and you need to escape the shooter. If possible, try not to hide in groups – spread out or hide separately to make it harder for the shooter.
Once you’re in a hiding place, stay silent.
If you can, try to communicate with police silently. Social media posts may give your location away. Dial 911 or text an emergency line. If you cannot speak, dial 911 and stay on the line so the dispatcher can listen.
Unless you need to immediately flee the shooter, stay in your hiding place until law enforcement gives the all-clear.
Most people are not trained to take down a shooter, so fighting should be your last resort.
That said, if you do need to fight, use anything and everything at your disposal. In this case, there is no level of response that is inappropriate. Anything that might be used as a weapon is fair game, but be prepared to commit to your actions and be prepared to inflict severe or lethal injury.
Remember that the shooter's goal is to kill. Any advantage you can take should be taken if it keeps you and others alive.
Preventing an Active Shooter in the Workplace
Ideally, we would all like to live in a world where active shooters don’t exist. But until that happens, prevention and preparedness are the best tools in our arsenal.