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Active Shooter Preparedness

Minimizing impacts from active shooter events

An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. Generally active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern to their selection of victims.


The number of active shooter incidents has been increasing each year, in workplaces and public places. Since active shooter events are over in a few minutes, you need to have a plan in place. Once an incident occurs, it is too late.


This document outlines how security managers can reduce the impact of active shooter events by:


➔  Creating emergency response plans

➔  Training everyone on how to respond (security team and staff)

➔  Leveraging technology to increase situational awareness and improve the effectiveness of the entire security team by identifying weapons and active shooters, and by notifying everyone of an active shooter event.


Active shooting incidents have become more frequent in recent years with an active shooter event occurring virtually every week. Despite most people thinking “it can’t happen to me”, shooters target organizations of all types and public spaces. Most active shooting incidents take place in a business setting, according to an FBI report (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2021).


In most cases active shooters were current or former employees who had experienced significant emotional hardship before the attack (Active Shooter Incident Awareness and Response, 2016).


According to the FBI, after businesses, the second most common place where active shooting incidents occur are educational institutions: public and private educational settings, defined as schools covering pre- kindergarten to 12th grade, institutes of higher education, and even school board meetings.

The nature of active shooter incidents

Active shooter incidents are different from hostage situations. Since the active shooter’s goal is to maximize casualties rather than obtain a concession, the optimal law enforcement tactic is Immediate Action Rapid Deployment. This means swiftly locating and closing in on an active shooter and neutralizing them as soon as possible (Wikipedia, 2021). Therefore, the approach taken to protect against active shooters must support the use of this tactic. During active shooter attacks, time is critical. The longer the incident continues, the higher the casualties. This means that it is important to put in place measures that help quickly detect the attack and help deploy a response force.

In Purdue University’s 2014 Mitigating Active Shooter Impact study, researchers collected information about response times and casualties related to 24 school shootings and 41 workplace shootings in the United States. The Purdue report states: “The average time in shooting events ranged from 3to 4 minutes with an average victim being shot every 15 seconds.”


In the military, there is a term “fog of war”. This describes the impact of lack of information in a chaotic and stressful situation. During an active shooter incident, the security team seldom has real-time situational awareness of the attacker’s location and activity. This may result in dangerous and sometimes irrational behavior.


Employees and on-site responders are not the only ones affected during high stress events such as active shooter incidents. Security control room personnel may also experience some of the same impairing effects as people in the ‘hot zone.’


Therefore, critical communications systems should be designed for simplicity and control room personnel should drill regularly to ensure effective responses.

Human costs

Active shooter incidents have claimed many lives, and wounded even more people. Some of the victims are school children or university students who never get to fulfill their potential. Other victims include law enforcement officers who die when trying to stop the active shooter. Each loss affects each family of victims and people involved, as well as the community.


There are long term effects from active shooter incidents, including disability and psychological trauma and even onlookers or people outside of the shooting area are often left traumatized for years.

Financial costs

 Victim expenses:

  • Medical

  • Dental

  • Psychological

  • Rehabilitation

  • Funeral and burial expenses

  • Disability expenses

Property expenses:

  • Repair costs

  • Demolition

  • Clearance

Legal costs:

  • Defense costs

  • Indemnity

  • Judgements

  • Settlement costs

Treating the survivors is one of the primary expenses of mass shootings according to the report from Health Affairs: mass shooting per victim costs an average $95,000.

Facts and figures
Numbers of incidents

How to prepare for active shooter incidents

Active shooting incidents represent a threat to every single institution.

Active shooter incidents are unpredictable, require immediate law enforcement or security intervention.

Many organizations see active shooter incidents as their biggest security threat. However, a survey revealed that 25% of companies are unprepared for active shooter incidents. Moreover, while 75% of respondents have prepared emergency response plans, they still have issues managing an identified emergency (The Latest on Workplace Violence Statistics, 2021).


To avoid increased casualties in the chaos of an active shooter incident, organizations must take the following action steps:

  • Screen employees to identify predictors of violence

  • Create an emergency response plan for active shooter incidents

  • Undertake regular training

  • Leverage technology to improve situational awareness and communication

Image by Maxim Hopman

Screening for at-risk employees

In many cases active shooters were current or former employees who had experienced significant emotional hardship before the attack. Typically employees don’t snap but show indicators ahead of time.


Therefore, as part of preparation, your organization must:


  • Conduct employee background checks, including checks for criminal records

  • Create a solution where potentially violent behavior can be reported by managers or co-workers

  • Make counselling services available to all employees

These indicators may be associated with potential workplace violence:


  • Use of alcohol and/or drugs

  • Resistance / overreaction to changes in policies / procedures

  • Repeated violations of company policies

  • Severe mood swings, including explosive rage

  • Paranoid behavior or statements

  • Domestic or financial problems intruding into the workplace

  • Unstable or emotional responses

  • Increased comments about violence or weapons, or empathy towards individuals committing violence

Recognizing these indicators may allow intervention, such as providing help or counselling that may prevent an incident, or allow the security team to be vigilant around the person. (Department of Homeland Security, 2008).

Creating emergency response plans

Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, an employer is required to protect its employees against “recognized hazards likely to cause serious injuries or death.” Therefore, an employer should develop a workplace violence prevention and response plan so that facility management and security officers can coordinate response procedures with law enforcement and employees.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides a set of recommendations for developing and implementing effective

emergency action plans.

The options are: evacuate, hide out, or incapacitate an active shooter (as a last resort) (Department of Homeland Security, 2008).

Providing regular training

It’s essential to provide employees with proper training sessions in order to educate staff on protocols which they should follow during the incident. In a high-stress situation, untrained people may freeze and become ineffective.


Regular emergency exercises can teach them to react quicker, reduce the feeling of fear and help them get prepared mentally to overcome obstacles during an active shooter event. This training greatly increases the chances of coming out alive. Moreover, training helps identify weaknesses or roadblocks that need to be addressed.


Active shooter drills are implemented in over 95 percent of American K–12 schools today. These drills are important as they follow a set of recommended steps that should be taken in case the active shooter incident occurs.

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