An active shooter is considered to be a suspect or assailant whose activity is immediately causing serious injury or death. The incident can involve one or more shooters. It can be a close encounter or from a distance. It can be targeted at a student, faculty/staff, or a random victim. It might involve just one room or multiple locations. No two situations are alike. A shooting can occur anytime, anyplace, and involve anyone.

What to do if there is an active shooter or assailant

You need to take immediate responsibility for your personal safety and security. If you are able, attempt to secure-in-place immediately. Try to remain calm as your actions will influence others. Have a survival mindset because the consequences are potentially catastrophic.

What to do if you are in an unsecured area

If you find yourself in an open area, immediately seek protection. Here are three guidelines to follow:

  • RUN: If you know the location of the shooter and there appears to be a safe route immediately available, then proceed quickly and safely. If you decide to evacuate, do not spend time convincing others. Encourage them if necessary, but keep moving. Do not attempt to remove injured person(s). Leave your belongings behind, you will be able to retrieve those items at a later time. Follow instructions of any first responders on scene as you exit.
  • HIDE: If you decide not to run, and cannot secure-in place: try to place yourself somewhere out of view. Find an object large enough to shield you and provide protection from a bullet. If you choose to hide, leave yourself multiple exits to avoid cornering yourself.
  • FIGHT: If running or hiding are no longer options, you should prepare yourself to fight back. This is dangerous, but depending on your situation, this could be your last option. If you find yourself in this situation act with extreme aggression. Take objects around you to utilize as improvised weapons. If your only option is to fight, commit to taking the shooter down, no matter what.

Remember, always use common sense. It is imperative to understand that this is general guidance. Every situation is unique and not every suggestion will apply. There are exceptions to all guidance and prescribed directions. Do what is necessary to protect yourself and others.

Law enforcement response

The Virginia Tech Police Department will immediately respond to the area, assisted by other local law enforcement agencies if necessary.

  • Remember that help is on the way so try to remain calm.
  • Law enforcement will first locate, contain, and stop the assailant(s).
  • Remain inside a secure area. The safest place for you to be is in a secure room.
  • The assailant may not flee when law enforcement arrives, but instead may target arriving officers.
  • Once the threat is neutralized, Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services will begin care for victims and evacuation of the area. Be prepared to explain this to others.
  • You may be searched, instructed to keep your hands on your head, or even placed in handcuffs. Do your best to cooperate.
  • After evacuation, you may be taken to a triage or other holding area for medical care, interviewing, counseling, etc.

Reporting an incident by calling 911

When calling 911, DO NOT hang up! Be prepared to provide as much information as possible:

  • WHERE: Where is the incident taking place? Where are you located? Where is the assailant?
  • WHO: What does the assailant(s) look like? Do you recognize the assailant? Do you know his/her name?
  • WHAT: What is the assailant carrying? What type of weapon(s) did you see? A handgun, rifle, or explosive? Was he or she carrying a backpack, bag, or carrying case? What did it look like? What did you hear before, during, and after the confrontation? Explosions? Gunshots?
  • HOW: How is the assailant communicating? What language is being used? What threats or commands are being said?

For more information on how to react to an act of violence, see: