System Office of Risk Services

In Case of an Active Shooter or Hostage

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.

Active Shooter Videos

Guidance to faculty, staff, and students
In general, how you respond to an active shooter will be dictated by the specific circumstances of the encounter, bearing in mind there could be more than one shooter involved in the same situation. If you find yourself involved in an active shooter situation, try to remain calm and use these guidelines to help you plan a strategy for survival.

If an active shooter is outside your building or inside the building you are in, you should:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Try to warn other faculty, staff, students and visitors to take immediate shelter
  • Proceed to a room that can be locked or barricaded
  • Lock and barricade doors or windows
  • Turn off lights
  • Close blinds
  • Block windows
  • Turn off radios or other devices that emit sound
  • Keep yourself out of sight and take adequate cover/protection, i.e. concrete walls, thick desks, filing cabinets, or any other object that will stop bullet penetration.
  • Silence cell phones
  • Have ONE person CALL 911 and provide:
    • "I'm at (give your location) and we have an active shooter on campus, gunshots fired."
    • If you were able to see the offender(s), give a description of the persons(s) sex, race, clothing, type of weapon(s), location last seen, direction of travel, and identity - if known.
    • If you observed any victims, give a description of the location and number of victims.
    • If you observed any suspicious devices (improvised explosive devices), provide the location seen and a description.
    • If you heard any explosions, provide a description and location.
  • Wait patiently until a uniformed police officer, or a university official known to you, provides an "all clear".
  • Unfamiliar voices may be an active shooter trying to lure you from safety; do not respond to voice commands until you can verify with certainty that they are being issued by a police officer or university official.
  • Attempts to rescue people should only be attempted if it can be accomplished without further endangering the persons inside a secured area.
  • Depending on circumstances, consideration may also be given to exiting ground floor windows as safely and quietly as possible.
  • If a lock down is implemented, no one will be allowed to enter or leave the building.


If an active shooter enters your office or classroom, you should:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Try not to do anything that will provoke the active shooter
  • If there is no possibility of escape or hiding, only as a last resort when it is imminent that your life is in danger should you make a personal choice to attempt to negotiate with or overpower the assailant(s)
  • CALL 911, if possible, and provide the information listed in the previous guideline
  • If the active shooter(s) leaves the area, barricade the room, or proceed to a safer location

If you are in an outside area and encounter an active shooter, you should:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Move away from the active shooter or the sounds of gunshot(s) and/or explosion(s)
  • Look for appropriate locations for cover/protection, i.e. brick walls, retaining walls, large trees, parked vehicles, or any other object that may stop bullet penetration
  • Try to warn other faculty, staff, students and visitors to take immediate shelter
  • CALL 911 and provide the information listed in the first guideline

What to do if taken hostage

  • Be patient. Time is on your side. Avoid drastic action.
  • The first 45 minutes are the most dangerous. Be alert and follow instructions.
  • Don't speak unless spoken to and then only when necessary.
  • Avoid arguments or appearing hostile. Treat the captor with respect. If you can, establish rapport with the captor. It is probable that the captors do not want to hurt anyone. If medications, first aid, or restroom privileges are needed by anyone, say so.
  • Try to rest. Avoid speculating. Expect the unexpected.
  • Be observant. You may be released or escape. You can help others with your observations.
  • Be prepared to speak with law enforcement personnel on the phone.

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; 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

The objectives of responding police officers are:

  • Immediately engage or contain the active shooter(s) to stop life threatening behavior
  • Identify threats such as improvised explosive devices
  • Identifying victims to facilitate medical care, interviews and counseling
  • Investigation

Police officers responding to an active shooter are trained to proceed immediately to the area in which shots were last heard in order to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers may be in teams; they may be dressed in normal patrol uniforms, or they may be wearing external ballistic vests and Kevlar helmets or other tactical gear. The officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns or handguns. Regardless of how the police appear or sound, do not be afraid of them. Do exactly as the officers instruct. Put down any bags or packages you may be carrying and keep your hands visible at all times; if instructed to lie down, do so. If you know where the shooter is, tell the officers. The first officers to arrive will not stop to aid injured people. The first responding officers will be focused on stopping the active shooter and creating a safe environment for medical assistance to be brought in to aid the injured. 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.

Keeping Updated

If an active shooter situation develops, the University will implement its emergency response plan and will work with law enforcement to support its their efforts to manage the incident

After the incident

The effects of such incidents can be very traumatic. The University will arrange for counseling services after such an incident.

Back to Top