Mass shootings include mass murders and spree killings. They are conducted by one or more “active shooters.” The FBI defines mass shootings as “Four or more murders occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involve a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident.” There may or may not be additional persons injured in such events. With exceptions, many acts of mass murder end with the death of the perpetrator(s), whether by direct suicide or being killed by law enforcement personnel. Though a mass murder differs from a spree killing in that a mass murder may be committed by individuals or organizations, whereas a spree killing is committed by one or two individuals, we group them together here. According to an article in Psychology Today, FBI crime data indicate that since 1980, single victim killings have dropped by more than 40 percent, but mass shootings are on the rise. A New York Times article researched the frequency of mass shootings and found that during the 20th century there were about one to two mass murders per decade until 1980. Then they spiked, with nine during the 1980s and 11 in the 1990s. Since the year 2000 there have been at least 27, including the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, and in Newtown, CT.
An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a conﬁned and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use ﬁrearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation. Spend the time to familiarize yourself with resources such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Preparedness webpage so that you are able to confidently respond to an active shooter incident.
To best prepare your staff for an active shooter situation, create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and conduct training exercises. Together, the EAP and training exercises will prepare your staff to effectively respond and help minimize loss of life.
Create the EAP with input from several stakeholders including your human resources department, your training department (if one exists), facility owners/operators, your property manager, and local law enforcement and/or emergency responders.
For more information on creating an EAP contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
Good practices for coping with an active shooter situation
- Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers
- Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit
- If you are in an ofﬁce, stay there and secure the door
- If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door
- As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot ﬂee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.
Call 911 when it is safe to do so!
A high profile event of this magnitude can result in confusion and distress among communities across the state. Distress can result in distortion about the facts of the event. Therefore, special attention should be given when communicating with community members
A number of resources have been compiled below to assist those involved with aiding community members’ efforts to cope with the aftermath of a mass shooting.
- Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting – American Psychological Association
- Resources for families and caregivers – National Child Traumatic Stress Network