Active Shooter Events: Simple Actions Can Save Lives

It seems like we cannot turn on the television, read the newspaper or go online without hearing about another tragic mass shooting. With a majority of active shooter events occurring in the workplace, safety professionals are looking for guidance in helping their organizations plan for, respond to, and recover from them.  Construction job sites have not been a major target for active shooter events, but the number of incidents has risen dramatically in the United States in recent years. 

The Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. Unlike most safety hazards, active shooters cannot always be identified through a simple assessment, even though warning signs may be recognizable in some cases. They come from every occupation, industry, economic situation, education level, background, and race.

What can be done to help an organization assess and control the active shooter risk? 

Safety professionals should conduct a Threat Assessment to identify areas of opportunity and implement the steps needed to fill any gaps in preparation or response. 

A thorough Threat Assessment involves an evaluation of areas such as:

  • Risk & Vulnerabilities
    • Review any prior assessments
    • Current involvement with law enforcement
    • Number of building exits and monitored status
    • Criminal activity in the area and more
  • Emergency Action Plan
    • Is there a plan in place?
    • Do you conduct drills?
    • Does your plan address active shooter?
    • Does your plan address construction sites?
  • Prevention
    • Do you know what the law enforcement response times are in the areas of your construction jobsites?
    • What are your contractor controls?
    • What are your perimeter and access controls?
    • Training and Education

While not an all-inclusive list, the following are some additional tips worth your consideration:


  • Give law enforcement as much heads up as possible. In addition to pre-event planning, on-scene information about the facility is critical. Employers can place lock boxes in the front entrance containing blueprints and key cards for additional responders.
  • Plan for reunification of workers, keeping in mind that law enforcement may have occupied usual emergency gathering spots.   How do your workers contact their employer to let their employer know that they are safe? Do you have a call in number?  
  • In addition, prepare for family members and media personnel to be present on scene. While law enforcement may handle access control, employers can plan in advance and make the process more effective.  
  • Create a reunification location where family members can reunite with their loved ones away from the shooting scene.  Also prepare and have a plan in place for family notification so that they know to head to the reunification location.
  • Let law enforcement speak to media early on in the event. The organization's communications team should work with law enforcement. In any emergency situation, it helps to have a policy indicating that media communication should come from assigned company representatives; employees should be instructed to defer to those representatives.
  • Once a law enforcement investigation is complete, media communications will transition to the organization. In the meantime, internal communications to workers should come from the organization.
  • Have a plan for getting work done. Because law enforcement will essentially close the building for days after an event, it's important for employers to have a contingency plan, keeping in mind that many employees will have quickly left the scene without computers and other items needed for work.
  • Plan for post-incident counseling. The goal is to normalize emotions, helping workers get back to a routine. Provide HR staff with appropriate training so they are able to assist, and bring in trained professionals to provide counseling.
  • Training for employees must include options instead of just traditional lockdown procedures.  Use Department of Homeland Security’s "Run, hide, fight." Law enforcement recognizes that many employers are not comfortable telling workers to fight. However, if employees can fight back, even with something as simple as throwing a book or yelling, the action can disrupt the shooter enough that stronger measures can be taken.

Remember prior planning and simple actions can have a significant impact on all involved in the event of an active shooter situation. 

About the Author

Jim Greaves | Associate Partner & Risk Management Experience Director

P 210.222.2161 x239

As a working Director for Catto & Catto, Jim handles risk management and safety programs for non-profit, social service, educational and healthcare related businesses throughout the state of Texas. He is closely involved with the Risk Management team members to ensure that clients receive exceptional risk management, safety and claims consultation services. 


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