Active Threat Preparation

As promised, I typed up my notes from a recent Active Threat/Active Shooter Preparation Training that I attended. While notes are better than nothing, I’d highly recommend attending a live session to hear some first-hand experience. Anyone interested in the company we used, or the speaker who presented (located in Pittsburgh) can send an email to and I’ll provide you with the information. Also, keep in mind that these are pretty much word-for-word my notes, with very little editing. Sorry if they don’t make sense to anyone but me. 🙂


Focus of the training: To mitigate losses and limit Targets of Opportunity in crisis situations.

Indoor Gunshot Detection – activates a room’s live feed to law enforcement if a gun goes off. This is like the outdoor gunshot detection cameras we see in certain high-risk areas (like Homewood) now. Some detection companies are now offering a $10,000 grant for buildings to implement this technology.

Active Threat vs Active Shooter:

An Active Threat is deliberate in nature, an immediate threat, and an imminent danger to the campus or community. Active Threats do not have guns; instead, they have bombs, IEDs, knives, their fists, etc. Once a gun is added to the mix, it becomes an Active Shooter situation.

Mentality of an Active Shooter:

  • Have a desire to kill without concern for their own safety or the threat of ramifications. They don’t care if they get caught; their mind has been made up.
  • Have intended victims in mind and will actively search them out.
  • Accept Targets of Opportunity while searching for or after finding their intended targets.
  • Committed to the act of violence they are pursuing.

Mentality of a Victim:

  • Fight/Flight/Freeze
    • One of these three actions will always be the first response.
    • Even veteran police officers can be caught off guard and freeze for a moment before taking action.
  • The second response is that people revert back to their highest level of training.

Mass Shootings – consist of 4 or more people shot.

  • for the most current statistics
  • 80% of perpetrators obtained their weapons legally.
  • Acute paranoia, delusion, and depression is rampant among shooters.
  • Over half of shooters committed suicide at or near the scene of their crime.

Workplace Violence – Do people just snap?

  • Video of Mark, a man who is going through a divorce and has a lot of problems happening. Mark gets abnormally angry about a coworker taking “his” parking spot in an uncrowded parking garage and confronts the coworker. Another coworker intervenes and Mark peels out in search of another spot. Inside the company break room, the two coworkers are discussing the altercation and mention that both have noticed that Mark seems to be different lately – under a lot of stress, getting unusually angry, and just unpleasant to work with – when he used to be one of the nicest guys in the office. HR casually drops by and mentions she heard the incident and decides to have a talk with Mark. HR pulls an angry Mark into her office to discuss the incident, and mentions that Mark’s work has been suffering for the past few months and places him on a one-month probation. When she asks Mark if he has questions, he says a curt “No” and storms off. Next we see Mark in the parking garage, getting a big bag from the trunk of his car and then walking back to the building with a determined look on his face. It is implied that Mark had weapons in the bag and returned to the office to seek revenge on HR and his coworkers since he perceived that they ratted him out to HR.
  • There are many signs to look out for, and while it may seem that someone is snapping, there are usually precipitating factors:
    • Depression/Withdrawal
    • Change in situation (ex: divorce, losing custody of kids)
    • Change in behavior (ex: the nice guy becomes the office jerk)
    • Talk of severe medical or financial concerns
    • Escalation of domestic or work problems
    • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
  • If you see someone changing, make a conversation with the person and ask if they’re okay and if they want to talk. Simply making conversation with a person in a friendly and not-overbearing way can make the difference between a person shooting up their workplace or choosing not to. (Essentially, people want to feel like someone cares about them, and to feel like they’re being heard.)

Shepherds – people who ensure persons served, staff, and others get to a safe place. They are the last people into safe rooms and act as the door gatekeeper and barricades the door if a lockdown is called.

  • Don’t stand in front of the door – hide beside or behind (if possible) a concrete, solid wall that a bullet can’t easily breach.
  • When possible, choose safe rooms with doors that open inwards; those doors can be barricaded.
  • Braided cables can be mounted to walls for doors that open outward.

Shepherd Responsibilities:

  • “Secure, Shelter, Safeguard”
  • Get flock to the safe room and secure the door. Expect to allow about 30 seconds for people to get into the room. That doesn’t sound like much time, but in an active threat scenario, 30 seconds is an eternity.
  • Attend to the wounded and sick to the best of their abilities – buildings should have First Aid kits in their safe rooms.
  • Silence all cell phones or turn them off entirely. This could mean life or death.
  • Have one shepherd per safe room, plus a backup in the event the shepherd is out of the office or incapacitated.
  • Each safe room should have a Lock Down Emergency Kit on the wall. The Shepherd should remove the envelope from the kit and review the authentication word or phrase.
  • Take a head count and document by name staff, persons served, visitors, and any others in the safe room.
  • Ignore all verbal commands, door knocks, and fire alarms unless authentication code or phrase is used by authorized personnel or law enforcement! NEVER OPEN THE DOOR FOR ONE INDIVIDUAL!
  • Cover any/all windows so the shooter can’t see what or who is inside.

SWAT Placards in the safe room:

  • Green = no active threat in or near the safe room.
  • Yellow = there is a threat in the area.
  • Red = there is an immediate threat either in the safe room, or the shooter is trying to get into the safe room.
  • Put these placards up in the windows to the room (facing interior) to wordlessly help the SWAT team and alert them to changing situations.
  • These placards should be switched out as the situation changes.
    • For example, if you’re at Green and then hear a gunshot in the vicinity, change it to Yellow.
    • SWAT will see the change in the window and this will direct their attention to that area if they’re not there already.
    • The placards need to be used responsibly – just because you’re scared, you should not change the placard to yellow or red if there’s no active threat near you. Not using the placards responsibly could distract the SWAT team and could allow for additional casualties.


  • Only evacuate if an evacuation has been announced.
  • Close and lock office doors if you know for a fact you do not have any explosive devices in there – this will save the bomb-sniffing dogs some time by not bothering with your office.
  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Complete a head count of all persons before departing the area.
  • Follow the instructions of the officers, if any are given.
  • Have more than one safe place/meeting place.
  • Evacuate whether or not others agree to follow.
  • Don’t attempt to retrieve belongings; go only with what you have on you.
  • Help others escape when possible.


  • Protects people from an INTERNAL threat.
  • Use multiple safe locations.
  • Shooters take the path of least resistance, so lock doors.
  • Do NOT allow your safe room to be your office – most victims are unaware they are targets until the event happens. If the shooter knows where you should be, then you have less of a chance to make it out alive.
  • When Law Enforcement arrives, put your hands up and spread your fingers.
    • Avoid pointing, screaming, or yelling.
    • No quick movements.
    • Do not ask officers for instructions.
  • Law Enforcement Mission: Neutralize the threat. The first responders are not there to save you or attend to you.
  • Rescue Teams – will follow initial officers and will treat and/or remove injured persons.
    • Hartford Consensus – EMS must now be moved into the warm zone to help prevent the injured from bleeding out.

Authentication Process:

  • Never open the door for one individual – Law Enforcement is always in groups of 4 or more in these situations.
  • Just because a shooter may know where the safe rooms are (in the event of a disgruntled employee), that doesn’t mean they know where the target is, so long as there are multiple safe rooms.
  • Authentication Code – should be two words familiar to the organization and uniform for all safe rooms. For example, if the authentication codes are “Harry” and “Potter,” the exchange will go something like this:
    • Police knocking on the safe room door: “Pittsburgh Police! Harry!”
    • Shepherd responds “Potter,” which authenticates the phrase, ONLY if things are okay in the room.
    • If things are NOT good in the room, use a different word. This will alert Law Enforcement that there is a threat in the room.


  • Complacency can lead to casualties!
  • We cannot predict the origin of the next threat.
  • Most victims are unaware that they’re a target until the event happens.
  • There are no “cookie cutter” plans for buildings; each one is unique.
  • Lock Down Emergency Kits should contain (at minimum):
    • Laminated Red/Yellow/Green SWAT placards (no writing, just a square of paper in the color that’s been laminated)
    • Double-sided tape (to affix the placards to windows)
    • Evacuation instructions
    • Map of the building with safe room location designated by a symbol (red dot, etc.)
    • Authentication code and instructions for use
    • Safe Room Rules (ex: silencing/turning off all cell phones)
  • Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event video.


With luck, I’ll never have to use any of these techniques, but if the worst does happen, I know that I’m at least a little prepared. Hopefully this can help others be prepared as well.


About Lindsay

I'm a Burgher who loves trying new foods and activities. I also seem to love getting myself into trouble. Basically, I'm a trainwreck waiting to happen. :)
This entry was posted in 365 Project 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Active Threat Preparation

  1. Pingback: 2016: A Year In Review | Confessions of a Human Vacuum

  2. Nothing Personal says:

    It’s interesting that 80 percent of people who committed mass shootings obtained their guns legally. The usual argument against stricter gun laws (more thorough background checks,longer waiting periods, etc.) is that they won’t stop the wrong people from obtaining guns. The 80 percent figure suggests they could. Anyway, very informative and valuable material.


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