Active Attacker: How To Respond

Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

Although extremely rare, Active Attacker situations have become something that is, unfortunately, more and more common. The annually recorded events have steadily increased ever since the mid 70s when data was first collected. While the way people and companies are preparing for these tragic events is improving every single year, the information on how to respond to the situations has generally stayed the same. When faced with an active attacker, shooter or malicious assailant, there are three courses of action that you can take that may save your life: Run, Hide or Fight.

While being able to recognize an active attacker situation may sound easy, more often than not, people have a hard time believing it is occurring and do not respond quickly. This first step in responding to such an event is to recognize that it’s happening and remove yourself from the situation. Do not have a pre-planned exit route or designated meeting spot that is dedicated for such an event. If the attacker becomes aware of such a route or meeting location, they may set up at that location. Evacuate and run in the complete opposite direction of the attacker and do not stop until you feel safe. Then go a bit further. Everything is up for grabs during an evacuation. Use windows, fire exits or “staff only” areas as means of egress, if needed. If someone that you are with does not want to evacuate, attempt to encourage them to leave. If they do not want to go, leave without them.

If running or escaping seems to increase your chances of being seen by the attacker, or if the exits are blocked, your next best means of action is to hide or seek shelter. Hiding is sometimes your best option, but if you do hide … then make sure you are truly hidden. If you are in a room, turn off the lights. If you are near a TV, computer or radio, turn it off to give the appearance that no one was there. Silence your phone! Nothing quite says, “Hey, I am right here” like a phone ringer going off or a text or email alert. Ensure that you do not make noise and always have it in the back of your head to run if the opportunity presents itself or if the attacker has moved out of sight. While hiding behind things that are bullet proof is preferred, sometimes concealment is just as good as protective cover. Use door locks, chairs, desks or anything else available to barricade doors and slow the attacker down.

It would be hard to train for a physical altercation between yourself and an attacker, and generally hard for companies to tell their employees that they need to put up a fight or to attack an intruder, but in a life or death situation you need to do just that. Only as a last means of effort, you want to exert as much energy as possible in dealing damage to the attacker. It is never a good idea to go looking for the attacker and try to “take them down” unless you are a trained law enforcement officer. Only attack if there is no means of safe exit or there is nowhere else to hide. Use anything you have nearby to increase damage to the attacker. Take a moment now to think about all the items you work with or near that could be used as a weapon in such a situation.
Other considerations to think about are interactions with law enforcement officers. Police are going to be in a heightened state of alertness. Ensure that any time you see an officer, your hands are empty and are up so they can immediately tell if you are the attacker or not. If you are a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) holder and are actively carrying, it may be wise to not bring out your concealed weapon unless you are faced with the “fight situation,” as police may mistake you for the attacker.

If you’re interested in more in-depth training on this topic, you may reach out to us at

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