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Higher ed Emergency Management Planning Higher Ed Emergency Management Planning

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Access resources from the REMS TA Center, the U.S. Department of Education, and Federal agency partners on key topics in K-12 and higher ed emergency management.

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Active Shooter Situations

Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel (first responders) who come to an IHE because of a 911 call involving gunfire face a daunting task. Though the objective remains the same – protect students and staff – the threat of an active shooter situation is different than responding to a natural disaster or many other emergencies.

Emergency calls can involve actual or future threats of physical violence. This violence might be directed not only in or at IHE buildings, students, staff, and areas on campus but also at nearby buildings off campus.

“Active shooter situations” are defined18 as those where an individual is “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”19 Unfortunately, IHEs face active shooter situations as well.

The better first responders and IHE personnel are able to discern these threats and react swiftly, the more lives can be saved. This is particularly true in an active shooter situation where law enforcement responds to a 911 call of shots fired. Many innocent lives are at risk in concentrated areas. This is why it is critical that IHEs work with their community partners (e.g., first responders, emergency managers) to identify, prepare, prevent, and effectively respond to an active shooter situation in a coordinated fashion.

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Because of this, individuals must be prepared to deal with an active shooter situation before law enforcement personnel arrive on the scene.

IHEs should also plan for other gun-related incidents (e.g., a single shot fired, possession of a weapon on campus).

18 Other gun-related incidents that may occur in a school environment are not defined as active shooter incidents because they do not meet this definition. Instead, they may involve a single shot fired, accidental discharge of a weapon, or incidents that are not ongoing.

19 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Active Shooter, How to Respond. Washington, DC: Author, October 2008. Available at http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf.