Schools prepare for the worst: In case of an active shooter

Excerpt from "Schools prepare for the worst" by Scott Forstner of The Morgan Hill Times.

Four years ago, students, staff and faculty within the Gilroy Unified School District collaborated with more than 15 law enforcement agencies to help produce a “Run, Hide, Defend” training video.


Since then, just about every school district throughout Santa Clara County has shown the CMAP-produced training video to provide school communities with the best possible tactics and procedures to follow if there is an active shooter at a school.

Santa Clara County Police Chiefs’ Association used funds from the state Homeland Security Grant Program to finance the video, which casted Gilroy students in an active-shooter-on-campus dramatization and informed viewers of the appropriate actions to take in such a case. 

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) per the California Department of Education also provides actions to take in case of an active shooter:


If it is safe to do so for yourself and those in your care, the first course of action that should be taken is to run out of the building and far away until you are in a safe location.

Students and staff should be trained to:

  • Leave personal belongings behind;
  • Visualize possible escape routes, including physically accessible routes for students and staff with disabilities as well as persons with access and functional needs;
  • Avoid escalators and elevators;
  • Take others with them, but not to stay behind because others will not go;
  • Call 911 when safe to do so; and
  • Let a responsible adult know where they are.


If running is not a safe option, hide in as safe a place as possible. Students and staff should be trained to hide in a location where the walls might be thicker and have fewer windows. In addition:

  • Lock the doors;
  • Barricade the doors with heavy furniture;
  • Close and lock windows and close blinds or cover windows;
  • Turn off lights;
  • Silence all electronic devices;
  • Remain silent;
  • Hide along the wall closest to the exit but out of the view from the hallway (allowing for an ambush of the shooter and for possible escape if the shooter enters the room);
  • Use strategies to silently communicate with first responders if possible, for example, in rooms with exterior windows make signs to silently signal law enforcement officers and emergency responders to indicate the status of the room's occupants; and
  • Remain in place until given an all clear by identifiable law enforcement officers.


If neither running nor hiding is a safe option, as a last resort when confronted by the shooter, adults in immediate danger should consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by using aggressive force and items in their environment, such as fire extinguishers, and chairs.

In a study of 41 active shooter events that ended before law enforcement officers arrived, the potential victims stopped the attacker themselves in 16 instances. In 13 of those cases they physically subdued the attacker.

While talking to staff about confronting a shooter may be daunting and upsetting for some, they should know that they may be able to successfully take action to save lives. To be clear, confronting an active shooter should never be a requirement in any school employee’s job description; how each staff member chooses to respond if directly confronted by an active shooter is up to him or her. Further, the possibility of an active shooter situation is not justification for the presence of firearms on campus in the hands of any personnel other than law enforcement officers.

Please find more school violence resources here or read more about school safety and school climate topics here. ACSA is dedicated to providing K-12 administrators with content and events that focus on the most relevant issues in education administration. Become a member and join us for our world-class Leadership Summit, Every Child Counts Symposium, and other conferences, as well as professional development events, a free one-on-one mentorship program, our ongoing Equity Project and statewide advocacy efforts, members-only benefits, and much more.

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