In the past 25 years, there has been a drastic increase in the amount of active shooter situations in the United States.

An active shooter is considered a person who intentionally engages in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated and confined area. No venue seems to be immune to the presence and devastation of active shooters, including schools, hospitals and even places of worship.

While nobody anticipates encountering an active shooter situation, the unfortunate reality is – it’s always a possibility. And like any potential disaster or harmful situation, it’s best to have a plan in place.

Here are some ways to prepare for an active shooter.

Personal Readiness

One of the most important lessons the American public has learned with the prevalence of active shooting situations is, “if you see something, say something.”

This mantra refers to the idea that citizens should take responsibility in reporting unusual behavior or conditions to authorities. In addition, this requires people to be aware of their environments and those around them.

Paranoia is never healthy; however, being observant in public areas can help prepare individuals to act on their solid instincts and possibly circumvent a tragedy.

Another method of personal preparation for an active shooter is updating contact information with any work or school alert systems. Additionally, many agencies offer effective active shooter preparation training for groups and individuals.

Those who choose to participate in such training not only improve their personal readiness in the case of an active shooter, but also their leadership skills to help others who haven’t benefited from such courses.

Preparation for Others

In addition to personal readiness, it’s also important to have plans in place to aid in the preparation of families and loved ones. It can be difficult to confront the topic of experiencing an active shooting situation, especially with children.

Sadly, if they’re of school-age, your children most likely practiced active shooter drills at their schools already. But this is good news! As they’re already aware of the threat, they’ll be ready to discuss a family plan so everyone knows what to do if the situation arises.

Furthermore, people can also prepare when in populated, confined spaces by locating the two nearest exits and having a general idea of how to escape or where to hide, if necessary.

If you’re with people who have disabilities or special needs, it’s also important to consider their level of mobility and reaction time.

Recommended Responses

Most experts advocate three ordered responses during an active shooter situation: run, hide, fight.

These responses are designed and intended to provoke the least amount of violence with the greatest amount of safety. Here are the response recommendations:


This response is natural instinct for most people under threat. The recommendation is to get away from the shooter, warn and help others escape if possible, and call 911 once safety is reached. Escaping the shooter ensures your safety and the safety of others.


If escape is not possible, the next recommended response is to hide as quickly as possible. Ideally, the hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view and provide protection against shots fired.

Intuitively, people should be as quiet and stationary as possible until authorities arrive and clear the area. Though people might want to hide in a group for protection, it’s best to spread out if possible, to give an active shooter less opportunity to kill greater numbers.


If running and hiding are not viable options, the final recommended response is to fight. In the presence of deadly threat, people should be prepared to fight aggressively and use anything available as a weapon against the shooter.

Throwing items and improvising weapons might disarm or distract the shooter enough for people to get to safety.

Active shooting situations are unpredictable, swift, scary and violent, and it’s difficult to imagine having the clarity of mind to think through these recommended responses.

Humans are conditioned for fight or flight, and it’s often an instinctual reaction based on the present threat. However, knowing and preparing for these recommended responses ahead of time might result in less panic and better strategy if the event ever transpires.

Concealed-Carry Protection

One final consideration for how to prepare for an active shooter is the practice of concealed-carry. Carrying a concealed weapon typically means a citizen has a permit to have a hidden gun on their person in public.

Concealed-carry laws are regulated at the state and local level, so those who choose to participate must adhere to all legislation for their own protection. In addition, they should operate with the highest regard for the safety of others.

There are many potential benefits of concealed-carry protection as a means of self-defense, protection of others, criminal deterrence and possible elimination of an active shooter threat.

Perhaps there will come a time when society has difficulty remembering any recent active shooter incidents. Until then, being prepared is the smartest and safest precaution.

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