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Active Shooter Situations: Preparing for an Active Shooter Situation
As with any threat or hazard that is included in a school’s EOP, the planning team will establish goals, objectives, and courses of action for an annex. These plans will be impacted by the assessments conducted at the outset of the planning process and updated as ongoing assessments occur. As courses of action are developed, the planning team should consider a number of issues, including, but not limited to:
- How to evacuate or lock down students, staff, and visitors, including those who are not with staff or in a classroom (e.g., in the hall, bathroom, break room). Personnel involved in such planning should pay attention to disability-related accessibility concerns when advising on shelter sites and evacuation routes.
- How to evacuate when the primary evacuation route is unusable.
- How to select effective shelter-in-place locations (optimal locations have thick walls, solid doors with locks, minimal interior windows, first-aid emergency kits, communication devices and duress alarms).
- How the school community will be notified that there is an active shooter on school grounds. This could be done through the use of familiar terms, sounds, lights, and electronic communications such as text messages. Include in the courses of action how to communicate with those who have language barriers or need other accommodations, such as visual signals or alarms to advise deaf students, staff, and parents about what is occurring. School wide “reverse 911-style” text messages sent to predetermined group distribution lists can be very helpful in this regard. Posting this protocol near locations where an all-school announcement can be broadcast (e.g., by the microphone used for the public announcement system) may save lives by preventing students and staff from stepping into harm’s way.
- How students and staff will know when the building is safe.
The planning team may want to include functions in the Active Shooter annex that are also addressed in other functional annexes. For example, evacuation will be different during an active shooter situation than it would be for a fire.
Additional considerations include “Responding to an Active Shooter” and “After an Active Shooter Incident”
Sharing Information With First Responders
The planning process is not complete until the school EOP is shared with first responders. The planning process must include preparing and making available to first responders an up-to-date and well-documented site assessment as well as any other information that would assist them. These materials should include building schematics and photos of both the inside and the outside, and include information about door and window locations, and locks and access controls. Emergency responders should also have advance information on where students, staff, and others with disabilities as well as those with access and functional needs are likely to be sheltering or escaping, generally in physically accessible locations, along accessible routes, or in specific classrooms. Building strong partnerships with law enforcement officers, fire officials, and EMS technician includes ensuring they also know the location of available public address systems, two-way communications systems, security cameras, and alarm controls. Equally important is information on access to utility controls, medical supplies, and fire extinguishers.
Providing the detailed information listed above to first responders allows them to rapidly move through a school during an emergency, to ensure areas are safe, and to tend people in need. It is critically important to share this information with law enforcement and other first responders before an emergency occurs. Law enforcement agencies have secure websites where this information is stored for many schools, businesses, public venues, and other locations. All of these can be provided to first responders and viewed in drills, exercises, and walk-throughs.
Technology and tools with the same information (e.g., a portable USB drive that is compatible with computers used by first responders) should be maintained at the front of the school, in a lock box, or other secured location from which school officials can immediately provide it to responding officials or first responders can directly access it. The location of these materials at the school should be known by and accessible to a number of individuals to ensure ready access in an emergency. Every building should have more than one individual charged with meeting first responders to provide them with the school site assessment, the school EOP and any other details about school safety and the facility.12 All parties should know who these key contacts are.
12See also, http://www.ready.gov