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Active Shooter Situations - When Seconds Count

Security guard looking at monitor

When seconds count, it’s important to be prepared. The moments following a mass shooting are the most crucial for crisis response teams and first responders. In that time, it is vital that law enforcement is able to quickly gather as much information as possible to most effectively respond to the threat. As evidenced in the following research and case studies, mass shootings can happen almost anywhere and the more information that law enforcement has access to regarding the shooter’s location, appearance, weaponry, and movements, the better they can neutralize the threat.

The Department of Homeland Security points out that 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. Active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes[1], so it is crucial for law enforcement to be as informed as possible before arriving on the scene.

While school shootings tend to dominate headlines, the truth is that many places are at risk for shooters and other serious emergency situations. Although between 2000 and 2013, 70.0% of active shooter incidents occurred in either a commerce/business or educational environment, the FBI identified the major location categories for mass shootings as such: schools (Pre-k to grade 12), institutes of higher education, sites of commerce (mainly businesses open to pedestrian traffic such as malls), government buildings, houses, or worship, and healthcare facilities.[2] Since 2000, there have been 154 hospital-related shootings involving 148 hospitals.[3] About 60% of shootings have occurred inside the hospital and 40% outside the hospital.

It is crucial that law enforcement is as informed as possible about the shooter’s appearance, weaponry, and potential movements as many mass shootings are not exclusively confined to one location. For example, on August 8, 2005, at 2:40 p.m., Louis Mitchell Jr., 35, armed with a handgun, began shooting in the California Auto Specialist facility in Colton, California. The shooter then fled to a nearby apartment complex and continued shooting. Three people were killed; three were wounded. While the shooter was apprehended the next day, having a visual could have helped responders better anticipate his movements and establish a location by having a visual as to which direction he was headed.

Being informed about every detail is also essential in protecting law enforcement officials and other first responders. Law enforcement suffered casualties in 21 (46.7%) of the 45 incidents where they engaged the shooter to end the threat. This resulted in 9 officers killed (4 of whom were ambushed in a shooting) and 28 wounded. In 3 (1.9%) of the 160 incidents, armed, non-sworn security personnel were killed.  In 2 additional incidents, 2 unarmed security officers were killed and 2 were wounded.

Having a crisis plan is an important part of any emergency preparedness plan and is often required by insurers and other regulatory bodies. In 2016 OSHA updated their healthcare safety field Rule 3148, Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers.  Incorporating an active shooter incident plan must now be part of every healthcare facility’s agenda and emergency management plan.[4]

The FBI notes that when law enforcement was present or able to respond within minutes, civilians often had to make life and death decisions, and, therefore, may not be able to provide emergency responders with accurate or comprehensive information about the threat. The Absolute System not only makes the emergency call instantly on detecting the event such as a gunshot, but also provides law enforcement with more information than can likely be obtained by those experiencing the crisis themselves.

[1] Department of Homeland Security, Active Shooter Focus (2019), https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/DHS-Active%20Shooter%20Educational%20Sheet_0.pdf

[2] FBI, A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States (2017), https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-study-2000-2013-1.pdf

[3] Kelen GD, Catlett CL, Kubit JG, Hsieh YH. Hospital-based shootings in the United States: 2000 to 2011. Ann Emerg Med. 2012 Dec;60(6):790-798.e1. [PubMed]

[4] Schwerin, D., Goldstein, S. Active Shooter Response, NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519067/

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