News | June 9, 2022

Security, emergency services outlines best defense against active shooters

By DLA Security and Emergency Services

Deadly mass shootings happening across the U.S. make it clear violence can happen anywhere to anyone. 

Active shooters are intent on killing or attempting to kill people in confined, populated areas. They usually have no pattern or method to selecting victims, which creates an unpredictable and quickly evolving situation that can result in death and injury. According to the Department of Homeland Security, active shooter situations typically last 10-15 minutes. 

While there are no current reports of specific, credible threats targeting Defense Department installations and employees, there were also no warnings before recent active shooter events such as the one in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead. While law enforcement is typically required to end active shooter situations, individuals can save lives by following the mantra “Run, Hide, Fight!”

A person’s first response should be to "run" to the nearest exit using available concealment while moving away from the active shooter. Evacuating the premises and getting out of harm’s way is always the best response. While evacuation sounds like a simple or straightforward approach to ensuring personal safety, doing so under the chaos of an active shooter situation can be difficult. It’s important to plan ahead so people can use their best judgment and have an accessible escape path when attempting to evacuate.

When evacuating, individuals should:

  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow,
  • Leave all non-lifesaving belongings behind,
  • Help others escape, 
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be,
  • Keep their hands visible, and
  • Follow the instructions of any law enforcement or first responders.

If unable to safely evacuate or run, "hide" in a secure area where access can be blocked or entryways locked. Places to hide may be limited. Consider the following when thinking about potential areas:

  • Hiding places should be out of the active shooter’s view.
  • An ideal hiding place will not trap the individual or restrict options for movement.
  • The area should provide protection if shots are fired in individual’s direction.

To minimize the chances of an individual’s hiding place being found:

  • Silence cell phones and turn off vibrate.
  • Turn off any source of noise such as computers, radios or televisions.
  • Hide behind large or hard items like cabinets and desks.
  • Remain quiet.

To prevent an active shooter from entering a hiding place:

  • Lock the door,
  • Turn off lights, and 
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.

"Fight" is a last resort when evacuating and hiding aren’t possible and an individual’s life is in imminent danger. Individuals choosing to take action and fight need to commit and act as aggressively as possible to disrupt or incapacitate the active shooter. Actions should be decisive, without hesitation and may include:

  • Turning nearby items like fire extinguishers into improvised weapons,
  • Yelling and throwing items, and 
  • Having a “not me, not today” attitude.

Other guidelines:

  • Call 911 and remain alert for potential secondary attacks.
  • Render first aid only when it’s safe.
  • When help arrives, follow instructions given by law enforcement and first responders.

Individual’s best self-defense is situational awareness. Extremists may be motivated by political, social and religious ideologies to harm others. Continued vigilance, recognition of indicators and warning signs, and appropriate sharing of information among law enforcement professionals can save lives and prevent a devastating attack.

The DLA Active Shooter Awareness Card provides additional instructions on how to respond to an shooter. DLA iWatch, an antiterrorism awareness program similar to Neighborhood Watch, encourages everyone to help identify and report suspicious activity or behavior to local law enforcement. To report suspicious activity, notify local security forces or police.

For more information: