What should you do if faced with an active shooter situation?

U.S. Department of Homeland Security says run, hide or fight


In the midst of two mass shootings over the weekend, we are reminded how common shootings have become in the United States, and it's of utmost importance to be aware of what you can do to ensure your safety if you are ever faced with an active shooter situation.

“Whenever you enter a building as an employee, guest or customer, you must be prepared and know what it is you will do if faced with a worst-case scenario, even if it’s just another day at the office,” according to a video posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Department says it’s a natural response to freeze up when startled by a gunshot, but that response may leave you vulnerable to what may come next. The three things to remember are: run, hide or fight, and act quickly. That can be the difference between life and death.


If possible, the best reaction is to run if faced with an active shooter situation. If there’s a clear path, evacuate as quickly as possible. Be sure to:

  • Evacuate regardless of what others have decided to do.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • If possible, don’t let anyone enter the area where the active shooter may be.
  • Do not attempt to move any wounded people.

“In these situations, you must decide for yourself whether it is best to evacuate or to hide. … If you do choose to run, commit to this action,” the Department said in its video.

During an evacuation, keep in mind that police will be arriving to assist you and to evacuate the wounded, so keep your hands up and empty, and comply with any demands they may have.

  • Utilize exits known to be safe and clear of danger.
  • Once you’ve evacuated and are clear of danger, call 911 and provide any details you might be able to provide concerning the shooter and victims.


Some may not be in a position where there is easy access to an exit.

Homeland Security officials recommend if you’re in an active shooter situation and feel you can’t run or escape, find a place to hide — barricade and protect yourself.

  • Utilize cover and concealment to shield yourself from harm.
  • Barricade entrances, hide behind solid objects and stay quiet.
  • Contact 911 if you’re able, and be prepared to fight if your cover is jeopardized.


If you become trapped in a building during an active shooter situation, hiding does not prevent you from putting up a fight later.

“If you are confronted by the shooter, you have to assume that your actions are all that stand between yourself, your colleagues and grave harm,” the Department said.

Whatever decision you make— whether to run, hide or fight -- make sure to commit to your decision and to continuously re-evaluate the situation.

  • Fight for your life.
  • Search around you for sharp objects you can use to disable the attacker.
  • Collaborate with people around you to ensure you’re not working alone.
  • Do not hold back and do not stop until you know beyond certainty that the situation you are safe.

The Department of Homeland Security says to be sure you prioritize your safety. If you come across people who are wounded or need assistance, assist them if you can, but don’t let them inhibit your escape.

Homeland Security officials additionally provided tips for business owners to prepare for possible active shooter situations:

  • Design evacuation plans that can be used by employees and guests.
  • See if local law enforcement will come to your establishment and assist you in drafting a response plan, or guide you in employees’ training.
  • Investigate what technology may be available to make your building safer.
  • Ensure your employees are equipped with a first aid kit and an emergency ladder for those not located on the first story.
  • Explore mass notification technology.

Click here for more information from the Department of Homeland Security on how to handle an active shooter situation, and watch the video below for the Department's demonstration.

About the Author: