An active shooter is a person who appears to be actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area; in most cases active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. These situations are dynamic and evolve rapidly, demanding immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to innocent victims. This document provides guidance to faculty, staff, and students who may be caught in an active shooter situation, and describes what to expect from responding police officers.
If you find yourself involved in the very rare event of an active shooter situation, try to remain calm and use these guidelines to help you plan a strategy for survival.
This is a video the City of Houston Mayor's Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security put together on what to do should you (a citizen) run across an active shooter in a public space. The video is a Department of Homeland Security Grant Funded Project.
If an Active Shooter is OUTSIDE the building
- Go to a room that can be locked, close and lock all the windows and doors, and turn off all the lights; if possible, get everyone down on the floor and ensure that no one is visible from outside the room.
- Call 911 and inform the dispatcher of your location; remain in place until the police or a campus administrator known to you gives the "all clear." Unfamiliar voices may be the shooter attempting to lure victims from their safe space; do not respond to any voice commands until you can verify that they are being issued by an official. Likewise, do not leave the room if the fire alarm is activated unless you can see smoke and flames and judge the fire to be a greater risk than the shooter.
If an Active Shooter is INSIDE the same building
- If your room can be locked, close and lock all the windows and doors, and turn off all the lights; if possible, get everyone down on the floor and ensure that no one is visible from outside the room.
- If your room can't be locked, determine if there is a nearby location that can be reached safely and secured, or if you can safely exit the building.
If an Active Shooter ENTERS your office or classroom
Try to remain calm. Dial 911, if possible, and alert police to the shooter's location; if you can't speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can listen to what's taking place. Attempting to overpower the shooter with force should be considered a last resort.
Moving from current location
No matter what the circumstances, if you decide to flee during an active shooting situation, make sure you have an escape route and plan in mind. Do not attempt to carry anything while fleeing and leave coats and jackets behind so the police can easily see you aren't armed; move quickly, keep your hands visible, and follow the instructions of any police officers you may encounter. Do not attempt to remove injured people; instead, leave wounded victims where they are and notify authorities of their location as soon as possible. Do not try to drive off campus until advised it is safe to do so by police or campus administrators.
What to expect from responding police officers
Police officers responding to an active shooter are trained to proceed immediately to the area in which shots were last heard; their purpose is to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers will normally be in teams of four (4); they may be dressed in regular patrol uniforms, or they may be wearing external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment. The officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, or handguns, and might also be using pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation. Regardless of how they appear, remain calm, do as the officers tell you, and do not be afraid of them. Put down any bags or packages you may be carrying and keep your hands visible at all times; if you know where the shooter is, tell the officers. The first officers to arrive will not stop to aid injured people; rescue teams composed of other officers and emergency medical personnel will follow the first officers into secured areas to treat and remove injured persons. Keep in mind that even once you have escaped to a safer location, the entire area is still a crime scene; police will usually not let anyone leave until the situation is fully under control and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Until you are released, remain at whatever assembly point authorities designate.