How to Respond to an Active Shooter in the Workplace

How to Respond to an Active Shooter in the Workplace

According to The Huffington Post, the City of Houston, Texas, recently released a video intended to teach people how to respond during an "active shooter" scenario occurring in the workplace. The video, which was produced with $200,000 in federal grants and intended to be used as part of a wider safety campaign, was released early in the wake of last month's Aurora, Colo., shooting tragedy.

The nearly six-minute video has already been viewed over 400,000 times on YouTube. According to Houston Homeland Security official Richard Retz, hundreds of cities and agencies have asked to use the video to train their personnel.


The video begins with horror movie type music in the background and man dressed all in black, wearing sunglasses, and carrying a backpack walking with a purpose, as statistics from various active shooter incidents are displayed on the screen. Several people are then shown inside a large office building engaging in normal work activities.  The man in black, despite his unusual appearance, appears relatively unnoticed inside the building until he removes a sawed-off shotgun from his backpack and methodically begins shooting people inside the building.

The narrator advocates the importance of having a plan and recommends a Run, Hide, Fight approach.

Run -- Whenever possible, attempt to evacuate the building. Leave your belongings behind and do your best help others escape. Once outside the building, try to keep anyone from entering. When it's safe to do so, call 911.

Hide -- If escape is not an option, try to remain hidden from the shooter. If possible, lock and/or barricade yourself in a room. Turn off the lights, silence your cell phone, and remain as quiet as possible. Look for a large object to hide behind.

Fight -- As a last resort, the video recommends fighting the armed assailant. Whether acting alone or as a team, attempt to incapacitate the shooter. Consider using improvised weapons. Act with aggression and commit to your actions.

The video shows actors performing each of the options listed above. To illustrate the fight approach, coworkers are shown arming themselves with items such as a chair and a fire extinguisher. They are waiting just inside the doorway, to ambush the shooter when he enters the room.

While this short video is by no means an exhaustive study on how to respond to an active shooter in the workplace, it does provide a simple, prioritized plan of action that anyone who watches it can remember. Without question, videos like this one have the potential to save lives when the unthinkable unfolds.

I was impressed that the City of Houston included the fight option as a last resort. Fighting back has the potential to save lives, particularly if there is a group of committed individuals against a single gunman.

What do you think? How useful are videos like this in helping workers survive a tragedy?

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