Active Shooter Situations: Preparing for an Active Shooter Situation
As with any threat or hazard that is included in an IHE’s EOP, the planning team will establish goals, objectives, and courses of action for an Active Shooter 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. (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 routes are 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 IHE community will be notified that there is an active shooter on campus as required by the Clery Act20 This could be done through the use of familiar terms, sounds, lights, and electronic communications, such as text messages or e-mails. 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. IHE-wide “reverse 911-style” text messages sent to pre-determined group distribution lists can be very helpful in this regard. Planners should make sure this protocol is readily available and understood by those who may be responsible for sending out or broadcasting an all-IHE announcement. Rapid notification of a threat can save lives by keeping people out of harm’s way.
- How students and staff will know when buildings and campus grounds are 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 are included in the “Responding to an Active Shooter” and “After an Active Shooter Situation” sections.
Sharing Information with First Responders
The planning process is not complete until the higher ed 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 outside of the buildings, and include information about door and window locations, and locks and access controls. Emergency responders should also have advance information on where students and staff with disabilities as well as others 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, fire, and EMS officials 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 an IHE during an emergency, to ensure areas are safe, and to tend to 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 IHEs, 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 in secured locations around campus from which IHE officials can immediately provide it to responding officials or from which first responders can directly access it. The locations of these materials at the IHE should be known by and accessible to a number of individuals to ensure ready access in an emergency. Every IHE should have more than one individual charged with meeting first responders to provide them with the IHE site assessment, the IHE EOP, and any other details about IHE safety and the facility.21All parties should know who these key contacts are.