Active Shooter in the Workplace: Run, Hide, Fight Tips

Posted on in Education/Training

By Dorothy de Souza Guedes, VGM Education

Would you know what to do if someone started shooting in your business? What would you do if you heard gunfire while making a delivery to a hospital or a customer’s home?

Although school shootings generate more media attention, nearly double the number of shootings take place in commercial settings – retail stores, office buildings, warehouses, and shopping malls. Health care facilities are also targets: six active shooter incidents occurred in health care settings between 2000 and 2015. That may not seem like a lot, but note that active shooter incidents are becoming more frequent.

An active shooter is defined by FEMA as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” The FBI noted that 60 percent of active shooter events end before police arrive – even on campuses with campus police. Experts agree that doing anything is better than doing nothing if shooting begins.

Just as following “Stop, drop, and roll” if your clothing catches fire, remembering “Run. Hide. Fight.” during an active shooter incident, no matter where you are, can improve your odds of survival.


When we are really afraid, a desire to stay put and hide may override our body’s natural fight-or-flight response. But, if someone is shooting in your vicinity, you should get out. Leave your stuff behind and run.

It may be difficult for health care professionals to follow one of the recommendations: do not stop to care for wounded victims. Only help someone if it won’t put you in danger.

Prepare: No matter where you are working, make yourself aware of at least two exit routes. Know where stairwells are in any multi-story building. No doorway out? Be prepared to break a window and jump.


If running isn’t a safe option, find a place to hide. Locate a place where the shooter is less likely to find you and lock the door. If the door doesn’t lock, barricade it with something heavy or tie the door shut with a belt. Hide behind heavy objects such as filing cabinets, copiers, or a refrigerator. Turn off the lights, mute your phone, and keep quiet.

Prepare: Do you know if doors in your workspace open in or out and which have locks? Look around your workplace and determine where you could hide if you couldn’t get out of the building. Every time you go into a new building or facility, make yourself aware of rooms with doors and large objects.


If you can’t escape and there is no secure place to hide, fighting the intruder is your only option to survive. Experts agree: doing anything is better than doing nothing. Statistics indicate that you’d be very unlikely to persuade a shooter to surrender or let you go: only 14 percent of active shooter situations ended in a non-violent way, such as a negotiated surrender.

The odds are better if you fight. In a study of 51 active shooter events that ended before law enforcement arrived, the potential victims stopped the attacker themselves in 17 instances. In 14 of those cases, they physically subdued the attacker.

Working together with others trapped by a shooter can increase the likelihood that you will live. Once a shooter sees you, throw objects and make noise to distract.

Prepare: Are there small, heavy or sharp objects in your workspace that could be used to harm a shooter? Look around your office for furniture that you could hide behind to surprise a shooter.

Educating your staff about their options is a good first step toward ensuring their safety. Your business strategy should also include creating an active shooter response plan and holding practice drills.

VGMU Active Shooter Course

The VGMU course “SAFE027 - Active Shooter: What You Can Do” is a one-hour program that gives employees the basic information they need in an active shooter situation, no matter where they are. It is included with a VGMU subscription or as a standalone course through the online store. Or, contact Megan Kraft with VGM Education at [email protected], or call 888-786-6628.

Additional Resources

Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event” video produced by city of Houston, Texas, depicts an active shooter situation in an office environment.

MESH Coalition video “Responding to an Active Shooter in a Healthcare Setting” depics Run. Hide. Fight. in a hospital setting.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security video, “Active Shooter Situation: Options for Consideration.”

What Would You Do?” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office workplace violence training and video.

Active Shooter Planning and Response” includes detailed step-by-step guidance to hospitals and other health care facilities. Updated in January 2017, this 115-page document also includes incident statistics, describes five response plans, and details law enforcement’s response.