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Active Shooter

Unlike the majority of calls for service that you receive, if an active shooter call goes out, you know that citizens' lives are in danger and that they are facing an immediate, deadly threat. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, these deadly threats start and end in a span of nearly ten minutes on average. This Spotlight on Safety provides you and your agency with resources on safety considerations intended to increase your safety and awareness when responding to an active shooter event.

Active Shooter: Officer Safety Considerations

Unlike the majority of calls for service that officers receive, when an active shooter call goes out, officers know that citizens' lives are in danger and that they are facing an immediate, deadly threat.  According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) study published in 2016 that analyzed active shooter incidents in 2014 and 2015, 20 active shooter incidents happened each year.1  The FBI study states that of the 40 active shooter incidents in 2014 and 2015, four officers were killed and ten others were wounded.2

An article for the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin states that "The average active-shooter incident lasts 12 minutes.  Thirty-seven percent last less than 5 minutes."3  Training to respond to an active shooter event has become a necessity of each agency for every officer.

When the first officer arrives on the scene, one of the first evaluations that needs to be made is whether the incident is a hostage/barricade situation (i.e., active negotiations) or an active shooter event (i.e., active gunfire).  Since a hostage/barricade situation can escalate to an active shooter event or vice versa, the initial response can be drastically different.  It is imperative that law enforcement officers know their policies and procedures prior to responding to a barricade/hostage or an active shooter situation.  

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Program, a VALOR partner, suggests using the 5 Cs method in a hostage/barricade situation.

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5 Cs

A hostage/barricade situation can be one of the most tactically complex operations to conduct. In most hostage/barricade situations, the suspect has not preplanned the event and mass murder is not the primary purpose.  Historically in the United States, these hostage/barricade situations often lead to the release of hostages4 and the apprehension of the suspect(s).5

Because the mind-set of an offender in an active shooter event is more violent, the primary purpose of the attack may be mass murder, therefore the response must be swift and organized.  To help officers and agencies respond to active shooter events, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Program has developed the “Active Shooter Incident Management” (ASIM) model.  Using ASIM, the first officer on the scene has four key actions:

Infographic of give a size-up report, identify the hot zone, establish command, and engage Infographic of give a size-up report, identify the hot zone, establish command, and engage Infographic of give a size-up report, identify the hot zone, establish command, and engage

While none of us want an active shooter incident in our communities, we owe it to those we have sworn to serve to be properly equipped and organized to respond to any threat presented.

Consistently wearing your bullet-resistant vest, becoming proficient in Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), obtaining advanced training in negotiations, or taking advantage of a variety of other training opportunities will help improve personal skills, while raising the standard within your agency and within our profession.  We must be fully prepared to successfully engage each challenge that comes our way.

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The posters below are available for you to print and post around the office.

Off-Duty Considerations Poster

This poster reviews ways in which officers can stay safe during an off-duty critical incident.

Go-Bag Visor Card

Are you prepared for an active shooter situation?

VALOR Bulletin: Active Shooter

This bulletin provides an overview of active shooter considerations for law enforcement officers based on events that happened between 2014 and 2015.

VALOR for Blue eLearning

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Responding to an Active Shooter Event: First Officer Considerations

This webinar discusses the statistics surrounding active shooter events, risks associated with response to active shooter events, ALERRT best practices for the first officer arriving on scene, and considerations for off-duty officers. Recorded August 16, 2016, at 2:00 p.m., ET.

Exploring Active Shooter Response and Training

This webinar provides law enforcement officials with an overview of the research and analysis of active shooting incidents from the last several years and to share information regarding training strategies and best practices for law enforcement response to an active shooter. Recorded February 17, 2016, at 2:00 p.m., ET.


Avoid Deny Defend

As the number of active shooter events increases in communities across the nation, training for our law enforcement professionals is essential.  It has become even more critical for our citizens. There is no restriction on where such an event may take place—it may happen where we work, where we go to school or church, or where we play.  Law enforcement officers and agencies are frequently asked for direction on what to do to protect themselves and reduce the danger when faced with an active shooter event.  Developed by ALERRT, the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) course provides strategies and guidance in case of an active shooter event.  The focus of the course is Avoid Deny Defend, designed to instill knowledge and confidence in individuals to enable them to survive an active shooter event.  More information for leadership and employees describing Avoid Deny Defend is available at Introductory Videos describing Avoid Deny Defend™.

"Don't Name Them"

Some shooters are motivated by a desire for fame, notoriety, and/or recognition.  When members of the news media focus on the shooter, they provide this fame, notoriety, and recognition.  Researchers at Texas State University have found that many shooters are partially motivated by fame and have looked to past shooters for inspiration.  Now the FBI is encouraging media organizations to rethink the way they cover these stories by not focusing as much attention on the shooters.  They call it the  "Don't Name Them" campaign.  The “Don't Name Them” campaign encourages media, law enforcement, and public information officers to move their focus from the shooters to the victims and families.  The focus of the campaign is to shift the media focus from the suspects who commit these acts to the victims, survivors, and heroes who stop them.

Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015

An analysis of 2014 and 2015 active shooter incidents has identified 20 incidents in each of the years. The information provided will advance available research and assist federal, state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement officers, other first responders, corporate leaders, and educators in their efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to active shooter incidents.

A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013 (FBI)

In 2013, the president signed into law the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012, which granted the attorney general the authority to assist in the investigation of “violent acts and shootings occurring in a place of public use” and in the investigation of “mass killings and attempted mass killings at the request of an appropriate law enforcement official of a state or political subdivision.” To provide further clarity on these threats, the FBI in 2014 initiated a study of “active shooter” incidents.

An Examination of the Individual and Contextual Characteristics Associated With Active Shooter Events (Open Access Journal of Forensic Psychology)

In recent years, the United States has experienced a substantial number of mass shooting incidents. This type of shooting incident has been termed “active shooter event” and encompasses shootings that occur in school settings as well as public settings and workplace venues. Much of the recent published literature addressing active shooter events appears to focus on tactical issues, such as training for and responding to this type of incident. Very little research, however, has examined the individual and contextual characteristics associated with active shooter events. In the current study we examine a number of factors related to 88 active shooting events involving 92 perpetrators.

Active Shooter: How to Respond (DHS)

Quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. Remember that customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of employees and managers during an active shooter situation.

Active Shooter Preparedness (DHS)

Active shooter incidents are often unpredictable and evolve quickly. In the midst of the chaos, anyone can play an integral role in mitigating the impacts of an active shooter incident. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aims to enhance preparedness through a "whole community" approach by providing products, tools, and resources to help you prepare for and respond to an active shooter incident.

The Police Response to Active Shooter Incidents (PERF)

In the summer of 2012, following the mass shooting event at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) decided to conduct a “Critical Issues in Policing” project on the topic of active shooters. During the fall months, PERF was conducting research and preparing for a national summit where police chiefs and others would discuss the changes in policies, training, and strategies that have resulted from the onset of active shooter incidents.


Through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) VALOR Initiative, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) provides research-based, no-cost training on active shooter response throughout the nation.  With the support of BJAU.S. Department of Justice, more than 85,000 law enforcement officers have been trained in ALERRT operations and tactics to respond to active shooter situations and to keep citizens and law enforcement professionals safer.

Federal Bureau of investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) partners with the Bureau of Justice Assistance VALOR and Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Initiatives to provide active shooter training nationwide.  The FBI is an intelligence-driven national security and law enforcement agency whose mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

National Center for Campus Public Safety

The National Center for Campus Public Safety provides useful resources and information to support safer campus communities to campus police chiefs, directors of public safety, emergency managers, and key campus safety stakeholders. The National Center is a catalyst that brings together all forms of campus public safety, professional associations, advocacy organizations, community leaders, and others to improve and expand services to those who are charged with providing a safe environment on the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities.

Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC)

The U.S. Department of Defense's Tactical Combat Casualty Care  (TCCC) course, conducted by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, introduces evidence-based, life-saving techniques and strategies for providing the best trauma care.  TCCC addresses optimal casualty care when there is an unknown or variable evacuation time or a potential delay in casualty transport.


1Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015.



4ALERRT Train-the-Trainer Manual.

5Hostage negotiations: Psychological strategies for resolving crises.