Preparing Your School for an Active Shooter

Vol. 16 No. 8

businessmanager eletter Vol16 No8 activeshooter

There have been 306 shootings on school campuses in the U.S. since the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, according to Everytown For Gun Safety.

As horrible as it may be to think of an active shooter at your school, it can happen. This type of event is usually random and can occur with little or no warning (or where warning signs were missed). An active shooting situation typically happens fast—70% begin and end in less than five minutes. How your team reacts in the first 60 seconds of an event is critical.

You must prepare your community to respond to an active shooter, rather than react in the moment. While an angry person with a weapon and bad intent will likely figure out a way to get inside your school, you should be intentional about your prevention methods (and how you could slow him or her down). Limit access to the building. This could include keeping doors locked, requiring entry by key card or code, a buzzing entry system, and more.

Build or reinforce a culture of awareness among students, teachers, and staff. Every person in your school should be trained for situational awareness. For instance, a student or teacher must be able to quickly identify the closest two exit points at any time. You should also give them the tools to know what to do if he or she overhears a student or adult talking about harming themselves or others.

We recently highlighted four basic safety drills you should practice at your school. Also, create a plan and practice executing it in the event of an active shooter. When creating this plan, consider the following.


  • Who does what?
  • Plan and test your response plan with your local first responders.

Initiation procedure

  • When?
  • How?
  • By whom?

Possible responses

  • Run
  • Hide
  • Fight

Let’s look at each of the three possible responses in more detail.

Run. In this response, students, teachers, and staff run away from the danger.

  • Take nothing that will impede an exit (leave backpacks, phones, etc.)
  • Help others if possible
  • Keep hands free and visible
  • Meet at the predetermined gathering site and follow the instructions of first responders

Hide. If the student or employee is in an office, he or she stays there. If the person is in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.

  • Stay out of view from doors and windows
  • Lock the door and block the entry with furniture, if possible
  • Silence phones and other devices

Fight. This is typically a last resort.

  • Commit to the task
  • Be aggressive
  • Improvise with a weapon, if possible (e.g., fire extinguisher)

Educate your community, practice your plan, and involve first responders. Building a culture of awareness can save many lives should the unthinkable happen.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Private School News Vol. 16 No. 4 Four Basic Safety Drills for Your School
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 16 No. 1 Creating Your School's Response and Recovery Plans

Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 35 No. 12 Does Your Crisis Plan Really Protect Your Students (and School)?
Vol. 35 No. 14 Developing Your Business Continuation Plan

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