active shooter in the workplace

How to Plan for an Active Shooter in the Workplace: Check Out These 5 Critical Concepts

How can you plan for an active shooter in the workplace? Most businesses have policies in place outlining responses to different types of crises. Every business follows fire codes and many have a response plan in place for critical incidents such as a bomb threat.


The same concept of writing policies, creating a plan, training staff, and then practicing these procedures does not apply as it should regarding a violent intruder or disgruntled employee. Building a thorough plan is critical to combatting a tragedy in the workplace, such as an active shooter incident. Check out our active threat safety and preparedness podcast here.

Planning for an Active Shooter in the Workplace: Execute these 5 Critical Concepts to Create a “Bulletproof” Plan

#1: Non-Emergency Lockdown Procedures [Incident Close to Facility]

A non-emergency lockdown is necessary when there is a known THREAT OFF-SITE, BUT CLOSE to the facility.

An example of a non-emergency lockdown would be when police establish a perimeter close to the facility and search for a suspect.

  • SECURE all exterior doors and fencing to keep the problem out.
  • Operate as usual on the inside. DO NOT PERMIT entrance into the facility.
  • Ensure to secure the facility from the outside
  • Create LAYERS OF RESISTANCE to block a potential intruder from entering the site.
  • Call the police to gain information.
  • INFORM OPERATOR that the facility is on a non-emergency lockdown (also known as “lockout” or “standard lockdown”).
  • REQUEST NOTIFICATION when threat is clear.
  • ALL-CLEAR: Once law enforcement says that the location is safe, operations will go back to normal.
  • Keep Your Employees updated.

“Being in a non-emergency lockdown for a potential threat off-site, puts the workplace at an advantage in the event the facility moves to an emergency lockdown.”

#2: Emergency Lockdown Procedures [Incident within Facility]

An emergency lockdown is necessary when an unwanted intruder ON SITE or WITHIN the FACILITY.

Keep in mind that this threat may be mobile!

  • REPORT the incident to law enforcement as quickly as possible.
  • UTILIZE an intercom system or other means to reach employees.
  • Activating an emergency lockdown could discourage the threat from executing their plan.
  • CARRY OUT your plan while waiting for police to arrive.
  • WEAPONS: Keep in mind the threat may be concealing his/her weapon.

Most of all, a disgruntled customer, client, or former employee should be taken seriously because the intention is unknown.

“Instead of implementing layers of resistance on the outside, the mindset needs to switch to creating resistance on the inside.”


#3: Expanding the Run. Hide. Fight. Model – [During an Active Threat]

Below, Steve S. Smith and his team of law enforcement professionals share their expansion of the Run. Hide. Fight. model, developed by the Department of Homeland Security.

RUN: Where You Should Run and When You Should Go

Our Recommendation: EVADE and EVACUATE

  • If the decision is to “Run”, the response is to EVADE or EVACUATE.
  • The action shall not be to blindly “Run” from the threat.
  • EVADE (MOVE) when the threat’s location is not close to you.
  • MAINTAIN COVER or CONCEALMENT if possible. Then, EVACUATE to safety.
  • If there are no auditory sounds of a threat, it is possible that evading to a secure area, rather than evacuate, is your best choice.
  • “Work with the known.”
  • BE AWARE of any avenue of escape or exits.
  • Take time for internal “field trips” of your work space.

Under stress people resort back to training or previous experiences. Simply learning the layout of the facility can assist employees to recognize the avenues of escape.

HIDE: How You Should Hide and Where You Should Go

Our Recommendation:  ISOLATE and SECURE

  • Unfortunately, evacuation may not feasible for all employees and they may need to isolate and secure themselves from the threat.
  • In choosing to “Hide,” there should be a clear understanding of the location to hide and the material that is chosen to hide behind.
  • When selecting a location to isolate, it would be most beneficial to access areas less known or regularly travelled.
  • Adjoining rooms that bring one deeper into the facility and further away from the threat is a good option for isolation.
  • Once the location has been chosen, secure the area by creating layers of resistance.
  • Simply securing the door allows staff time to react to the situation.
  • It should be noted that a locked door is sometimes all that is needed to win an active killer incident. The threat is aware of limited time to locate victims and it would be a “waste of time” to attempt to force their way into a room that may have nobody inside.
  • If the threat decides to force their way through the locked door, build a barricade (the second layer of resistance).
  • The barricade could be built from desks, tables, chairs, or cabinets.
  • If you cannot secure in an enclosed area, than shielding oneself behind the proper material for “cover” is imperative.
  • Cover is something that can stop bullets from penetrating through it.
  • An example of cover is concrete block or a potentially a filing cabinet filled with papers.
  • If cover cannot be located, then concealment would be the next option.
  • Concealment only affords the benefit of stealth and it should be noted that bullets will penetrate through said material.
  • Examples of concealment are dry wall, most doors, desks, tables, and closets.
  • If concealment is the only option available, then locate a closet or material that conceals all the way around the body.

“Hiding under a table is NOT a good choice of concealment because most tables have visual openings that allow the threat to see one from different angles!”

FIGHT: When You Should Fight and How You Should Do It

Our Recommendation: DEFEND

  • FIGHT” may come first, last, or not at all.
  • The need to DEFEND oneself is dependent upon the location and nature of the threat.
  • If you fight, you must COMMIT 100% to winning that battle.
  • If possible, PROCURE a WEAPON.
  • A weapon of choice could be a sharp object, like scissors, or a blunt object, like a heavy trophy or bat.
  • Position yourself in a low, aggressive stance.
  • Aim for the head, rather than attempting to disarm the attacker.


#4: Staff Training – [Independent Decision Making in Case of a Threat]

  • TRAIN staff.
  • TRUST them to make independent choices.
  • EMPOWER staff with the independence to initiate a lockdown or to call the police.

We have experienced in many schools, for instance, that teachers are taught to call the front office or the principal first. We highly encourage trusting the judgment of the teacher or staff member.


#5: Frequent Training – [Practice, Practice, Practice]

  3. PRACTICE in the form of table-top exercises or actual drills in sections of the facility at a time.
(Original article: Preparing for the Lone Wolf Attack: The Building Blocks of Planning for an Active Shooter in the Workplace published in the Preferred News newsletter sponsored by Public Risk Underwriters of Florida)

Make a Plan

I hope that after reading this, you understand that an active shooter incident or violent attack could happen at any business, school, mall, restaurant, movie theater, church, hospital, or public place.
Therefore, it is critical to BE PREPARED and have a plan in place. At Guardian Defense, we specialize in helping your workplace, school, place of worship, or public venue create a customized training plans placed on its unique needs.
If you are looking for more information on how to respond to an active shooter incident, check out our active shooter response guide.

As the list of these tragedies continues to grow, it is the duty of every business owner, city manager and principal to formalize plans now and prepare for an active shooter attack.




To learn more about our active shooter training programs, visit our homepage, and look for your place of work in the dropdown menu.

To schedule a consultation with one of our safety experts, click here.

Check out what other clients say about our training.

About Steven S. Smith

Steven S. Smith, the President and Founder of Guardian Defense, offers active shooter training programs to staff within schools, colleges, churches, law enforcement agencies, businesses, and hospitals; in order to build confidence and save time in the event of an intruder, active shooter or killer, or other terror attack. Mr. Smith is a current certified law enforcement officer and has a range of experience on school and public safety, and investigation work. He is currently a team leader and instructor on the SWAT Team, for which he joined in 2009. Mr. Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a concentration in Criminal Justice, in 2005 from Nova Southeastern University.