Protect Your People: Prevent and Prepare for Active Shooter Events

Just after the COVID-19 pandemic reached its first-year anniversary, the United States suffered seven mass shootings in seven days. From March 16 to March 22, there were active shooter incidents in places such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia and Boulder, Colorado.

This uptick is not a new trend. Between 2000 and 2018, there were 277 active shooter incidents in the US. The Gun Violence Archive lists 611 mass shootings in 2020, including 95 incidents in June alone. And 2021 has already seen more shootings in the first quarter as compared with the last four years. While these disturbing numbers are a part of our modern reality, organizations can take steps to mitigate the risk and protect their people, places and property.

Last week’s attacks took place not only on streets and in homes, but at spas, grocery stores and clubs. What does this tell us? The marked variance in geographic location, business type and victim demographic show us that active shooter events are a ubiquitous threat. While there are many theories as to both root cause and prevention, it’s undeniable that every business must be prepared to face an active shooter. Leaders of the affected organizations and first responders alike must be prepared to react quickly, notify their people and take action to minimize casualties.

Take action to protect people

Beyond vigilant monitoring, leaders must develop active shooter policies to ensure a fast, coordinated response. Tailor policies with clear language, information and directions that prepare your people to act during crisis.

The next step is to use technology, like a critical event management platform, to facilitate fast and effective responses. Organizations can monitor more effectively and gain actionable intelligence using AI-powered risk intelligence, which provides real-time visibility into emerging threats at or near any of your facilities.

A critical communications system will help you deliver alerts quickly and securely. Because each person has their own preference for how they receive messages, support for multiple modalities is crucial. The critical event management platform you choose should be able to deliver messages simultaneously via many paths, including cell phones, email, text messages, social media, TDD/TTY services, landlines, RSS feeds and FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). IPAWS is an especially important gateway to many public alert systems, including the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Collaborative Operating Groups (COG).

When choosing a critical event management platform, be sure it is fast, fully redundant and reliable, and able to deliver millions of messages simultaneously. It should also allow senders to specify particular geographic areas of notification and allow for two-way communication.

When the threat is changing moment-to-moment, an audit trail is important in order to rapidly confirm messages were sent and received. You’ll want to use notifications to gather information such as location and whether recipients are safe or need assistance, so the capacity to keep track of enormous amounts of data is imperative. In order for that data to be readily available to and accessed by your people on the ground, the platform must work seamlessly with all smart devices.

Other important features include incident management capabilities, such as the ability to send crisis plans to response teams so they can act immediately and collaborate easily.

How to stop an active shooter in their tracks

With the right policies and systems in place, the last piece of the puzzle is training, both within your organization and jointly with emergency response agencies. Combined training and drills should include everything from assessing an active shooter scene to room entry and building-clearing procedures, first aid and triage, disarming shooters and explosive devices and victim rescue. More and more cities are conducting this training with their first responders and providing resources for local organizations and businesses. The following are available through federal and national agencies:

  • The FBI’s Active Shooter Resources webpage provides training videos and best practice guidelines for developing active shooter policies.
  • In an effort to standardize and formalize preparedness and response, the National Fire Protection Agency’s (NFPA) Standards Council has developed the NFPA 3000: Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events. The committee is chaired by experts in emergency management from government, paramilitary, non-governmental and research organizations. The standard focuses on interoperability between various parts of the emergency management community, with a concentration on active shooters.
  • The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency also provides a range of information and resources for active shooter preparedness.

The OnSolve Platform for Critical Event Management can help you facilitate awareness, communication and response steps for every person in the potential sphere of impact. Organizational leadership, staff, customers and first responders are all taken into account and empowered to work together to overcome adversity. This is how you ensure your people are vigilant in the face of an active shooter crisis.

We may live in a hostile world, but we’re not helpless. When you are able to identify potential security threats early, you can act in time. Today’s technology enhances this process so that prediction, preparation and loss minimization can be a measurable reality. With a critical event management platform in place that includes AI-powered Risk Intelligence, Critical Communications and Incident Management, you will protect your people, places and property.


OnSolve® proactively mitigates physical threats, allowing organizations to remain agile when a crisis strikes. Using trusted expertise and reliable AI-powered risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management technology, the OnSolve Platform allows organizations to detect, anticipate and mitigate physical threats that impact their people and operations.