A threat is on the Nation’s forefront: the active shooter crisis.

John Chadwell

This problem is not a new occurrence but it is on everyone’s mind these days in the light of the recent tragic events in Aurora Colorado. With the digital era and instantaneous media connection I was awakened at 2:20 am on Friday July the 21st. My iPhone sounded as the AP app relayed the news of a shooting at a theater during the midnight screening of Batman. The ironic point to this is that I had just completed a presentation at a safety day event just hours receiving the news. The subject of my topic; Active Shooter.

This crisis was brought to all of our attention on April 20th, 1999 through the Columbine tragedy. The active shooter is a difficult topic for anyone to fully comprehend as there are so many variables to each one and the Active Shooter can rarely be predicated without warning indicators and ‘red flags.’

Once an assailant is on scene and shots are fired, they have committed to their actions and they will not stop until they have ran out of ammunition or are stopped by law enforcement or civilians. Case in point- Nidal Hassan. Hassan was a US Army officer and until the infamous day at Fort Hood there had been numerous warning indicators that were either ignored or willingly disregarded. Hassan went on a shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 29 injured. Hassan was finally stopped by civilian law enforcement that shoot Hassan, leaving him paralyzed. Hassan is currently still being prosecuted by a military court.

There are several known contributing facts for these senseless acts of violence, some being: ideology, economy, revenge, unrelated mental illness, domestic violence (spill over)and drug and alcohol abuse. As a society we will never be able to fully prevent these acts of violence but we can better prepare our employees to react and to develop the survival mindset that just might save their lives.

If anything, Columbine, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech and the most recent one in Aurora, it has taught us that a shooter can strike at anytime and at anyplace. In 2010 there was close to 600 workplace homicides. Violence in the workplace is the #1 cause of death in the workplace for women. Violence has become an acceptable form of communication in today’s society.

There are several vital questions that should be asked about your business. What are our mitigation methods to protect our personnel and clients against workplace violence? Does our Emergency Action Plan have an active shooter contingency element? What is your backup plan? When I posed this question to attendees of my class the majority of them did not have an answer or were even aware of the elements of their company’s emergency action plan.

How to respond to an active shooter?


Survival is all in the mindset and the mindset should be established before we are caught off guard. Our instincts for survival will emerge in crisis situations but we all fall into three categories:


If you are in a confined space you should always go away from the sound of gun fire, try to find a secure place to hide if an escape is not possible. Look for objects to barricade doors and windows, silence cell phones. Unless you are prepared to use something as a weapon to fend off the assailant then keep your hands free of any objects. If the time arises when you believe that you will come face to face with the shooter, plan your attack and then commit to your actions.

Anything can be used as a weapon or a distraction. Typically the shooter will not expect immediate confrontation and when they are distracted, accurate shots are less feasible. If you are in a position to run from the shooter but you are in the line of fire, run in a zigzag pattern. Again- the accuracy of a shooter will be diminished from distractions or a person running in this type of pattern. Do not be a stationary target.

These steps may seem simple, but unless you have prepared and trained your personnel there is nothing simple about this. Chaos will take over the situation and as panic sets in all the best planning will fall to pieces. You and your employees have just precious seconds to react.

Employee training on workplace violence and the active shooter is essential to educate personnel on the causes of workplace violence, de-escalation techniques, statistics, warning indicators, ramifications, communication and determent. In a crisis situation seconds count and the trained response of individuals could make all the difference.

Author Contact Info
John Chadwell
ehs International, Inc.
Western Regional Manager
NRA shooting Instructor
Security Specialist

Contact Information:
949.540.6800 ext. 114

About the Author

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