The Risk is Real: Active Shooter Preparedness

Do you think an active shooter incident can’t happen at your business? Think again. Active shooter incidents in the workplace have continued to increase and are now five times more likely to happen than they were in 2000. These days, mitigating the loss of life through active shooter preparedness is essential for every business.

Would you know what to do during an active shooter situation? Ultimately, the goal of active shooter preparedness is to help build awareness of the issue and to provide helpful strategies that could potentially save your life and the lives of those around you.

Why is Active Shooter Preparedness Important?

First and foremost, active shooter training saves lives. As the number of active shooter incidents increases year over year, it is your responsibility as an employer to provide a safe environment for both employees and customers. Active shooter preparedness is worth investing time and resources.Through moderate training and preparation, you can help minimize the amount of panic during a high stress situation like this. Generating a plan for employees to follow during these types of situations is paramount in mitigating loss of life. Participating in active shooter preparedness programs increases your survival rate – it’s that simple.

What is an Active Shooter?

Although there can be various definitions of an active shooter, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security define an active shooter as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. It is difficult to understand the motives behind an active shooter. In the majority of cases, the shooter does not have a pattern or method to their selection of victims. An active shooter situation usually lasts between 10 to 15 minutes.These situations tend to be unpredictable and escalate quickly.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security lists certain characteristics that may help describe an active shooter. Active shooters usually have an expression of rage or hated, as opposed to financial or other crimes. Active shooters usually have a detailed planned attack. Lastly, active shooters are often suicidal. 

Active Shooter Events by Location

Most active shooter incidents occur at businesses, but they can happen at any place at any time. To make sure your colleagues and loved ones stay safe, prepare ahead of time. Developing an active shooter plan and running through different scenarios can increase response times when every possible second counts.

Active Shooter Incidents by Location: Business, Schools, Outdoors, Other

Have You Trained Employees to Report Suspicious Activity to Management?

You never know when an active shooter is going to be present, so it’s ideal to have a system set in place to communicate the right information to the right people. It’s a good idea to implement a training program for your staff. For example, setting up some questions about suspicious behavior is a good place to start. Compile these into a questionnaire to be filled out by each employee. Your employees will be more comfortable having thought through suspicious characteristics of an active shooter ahead of time.

Make sure to follow up the program by asking questions to assess the employee’s understanding of the material. Also, make sure every employee knows who to notify if they observe suspicious behavior. In your employee training, be sure to address actions to avoid. Some of these actions might include confronting the suspicious person, attempting to take a photo or video of the person, and trying to obtain license plate information.

What Emotions Do You Encounter During an Active Shooter Event?

  1. Denial. Denial is the disbelief in the reality of things and declaration that something is not true. Denial is usually the first response in an active shooter situation. It’s important to move through the phase of denial quickly so you can react and take action to escape the situation.
  2. Deliberation. This is the long and careful decision on what to do in the situation. If you do not have a plan of action, the heavy amount of stress can dramatically impact the way you perceive information and make plans.

    A good way to think about the brain is to imagine two different operating systems: the human brain and the lizard brain.

    The lizard brain is primitive, which results in a fight, flight or freeze response. Alternatively, the human system responds calmly and rationally. You want to prepare yourself so that you can respond calmly and rationally. The best practice during this phase is to engage in combat breathing. Combat breathing is a process that is used to help calm down the body in an active shooter situation. In order to avoid having your brain go into lizard phase, make sure to remain calm and have a plan. Learn how to practice combat breathing in this Active Shooter Preparedness webinar.
  3. Decisive moment. Once a decision has been made, make sure you act quickly and decisively. If you do not act quickly and decisively, you have a higher risk of being injured or killed in an active shooter event. If you can get quickly get yourself through the first two denial and deliberation phases, you will be better prepared for the decisive moment.

What Should You Do in Your Decisive Moment?

Run + Hide + Fight = Survival

  • Run far away and as quickly as you can. Escaping the area where the active shooter is present is top priority and critical to your immediate safety. Leave your belongings behind and flee. Once you are in a safe location, call 911.
  • Hide if you are unable to run away from the situation. Try to stay out of the shooters view, remain calm, silence your phone completely, block doorways, lock doors and turn the lights off. Avoid huddling into large groups, but instead spread out within the room/area.
  • Fight if you absolutely have to. Fighting should be your last resort when in immediate danger, but you might have to engage the shooter at some point. Commit fully to your actions and be aggressive towards the shooter. Use what you have in your vicinity to distract and disarm the shooter.

Watch this situational video the FBI uses for active shooter awareness training to observe what can happen during an active shooter event from start to finish.

What Should I Include in My Active Shooter Preparedness Plan?

Businesses should contact their local authorities to find out more information regarding active shooter trainings. There needs to be an evacuation and communication strategy. If there is a public address system, make sure there is a common language being used. For example, employees may not know if “code red” means they should be worried or take immediate action. Instead, using a clear phrase like, “there’s an active shooter in the building” can be more effective.

Make sure your employees know where to go. Employees should always look for the two nearest exists anywhere they go. They should have an escape path in their minds and identify places where they could potentially hide. Lastly, include how you and your employees will alert law enforcement. Contact your local law enforcement so they know what your procedure is and can have your plan on file. Providing law enforcement with your active shooter plan allows them to better prepare their response. This could save time and ultimately, lives.

For more information, watch this webinar on Active Shooter Preparedness with insight from a police officer and risk management professional.

What is Violent Acts Insurance Coverage?

Even though there may not be a direct physical loss to your business, you still may be forced to close your doors due to a violent act or threat. This is why violent acts insurance is so important. While you may be dealing with serious issues like death, injury and emotional trauma, violent acts coverage will provide for loss of business income and extra expenses incurred. Learn more about violent acts coverage scenarios.

Violent acts coverage is automatically included in Society’s standard businessowners policies. And don’t forget: Unlike other insurance providers in which coverage may not start until after a 72-hour waiting period, Society Insurance coverage begins immediately upon suspension of business operations and will apply for up to three consecutive weeks.

To learn more about the small details that make a big difference for your business, contact a Society agent in your area today. 

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2 thoughts on “The Risk is Real: Active Shooter Preparedness

  1. EmilyMarie Browne I was a Gunny in the Navy, My weapon was a M-60, something I could not use in Private life. I carry no weapons on myself or vehicles. What happens if I am driving to a job or coming home from a job. Will I be covered, if I get shot or killed in a accident from a shooter driving, or active shooter ? What would happen if we just got shot or not and we caused an accident when driving past a threat ? I work in nice neighborhoods, no bar business or Commercial type Business. I would figure that MOST shootings are done from when I am driving. And not working in their home. I have been mugged when I had just left the home I was working in, and I did protect myself by hitting the thug with a 20lb. Pipe wrench, leaving the intruder on the ground bleeding. I contacted the Police and it took them 2 hours to come. Leaving me to fend myself though my mouth because of the neighborhood I was in. The man was arrested, and I had a window broke and tools missing. The insurance Company “Pekin” paid for the damage to my truck, My tools that were in the truck were returned to me when the Police went to the man’s home. but not until he went to his court appearance later in 2006. It was just thee months later I went to my new Insurance Company Society.

    1. The Society Insurance Team Post author

      Hi EmilyMarie – Thank you for your response. Your Society agent can help clarify details around these situations for you. If you need to find your agent, you can search by zip code at or call 888-5-SOCIETY. Thanks!


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