Fort Leonard Wood Antiterrorism Awareness Month: Reacting to an active shooter

By Mr. Lee Porterfield (Leonard Wood)August 17, 2017

Fort Leonard Wood Antiterrorism Awareness Month: Reacting to an active shooter
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

As we continue with Antiterrorism Awareness Month this week, we take a look at the active shooter threat.

Hopefully, none of us are ever in a position of having to react to an active-shooter situation.

In dealing with an active shooter, it is important to know what to do if it happens. It is just as important to be aware of the indicators to look out for, both in the workplace and at home, which may lead an individual to resort to becoming an active shooter.

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Here are some indicators:

-- Aggression or threats toward coworkers

-- Presence of unauthorized weapons

-- Abnormal mood swings or depression, withdrawn behavior, decrease in hygiene or paranoia

-- Increased use of alcohol or illegal drugs

-- Suicidal remarks or comments about "putting things in order"

-- Repeated violations of policies, regulations or laws

-- Talk of severe financial problems

Being proactive and asking the person if they are okay, or reporting the suspected indicators to leadership, or police if they are becoming an increased threat, is the first step toward countering an active shooter. However, countering is not always possible.

Specific action should be taken in the event an active shooter event erupts around you. Responding to an active shooter is a different situation than handling threats while deployed.

I've heard Soldiers say the Army response should be to attack the individual. I understand the Warrior Ethos mentality that a Soldier has, and Soldiers are trained and equipped to handle those threats in hostile environments. However, an active shooter scenario is different, as often Soldiers are not equipped to respond adequately to the threat.

The Army's main concern during an active shooter response is the preservation of life. The circumstances you may find yourself in during an active shooter situation will dictate your response, as every situation is different.

The choices that you have should be followed in this order, depending on the situation you find yourself in: evacuate, hide and take action.

These are three separate choices. If you cannot evacuate, then hide. If you cannot hide and your life is in imminent danger, then you take action and fight.


You should already have at least two exit routes planned for everywhere you might find yourself during the course of your day in the office. Have two planned for when you are in your office or cubicle, and two planned for when you are in the copier room, or break room. Have two exit routes planned for when you are in someone else's office.

If you're at the Exchange, commissary, or shoppette -- be aware of your surroundings and note all exits.

When evacuating, leave your belongings behind and remember that law enforcement may only have a general description and maybe a name of the active shooter. Not all law enforcement personnel will immediately be able to distinguish you from the active shooter.

Keep your hands visible and up at all times when evacuating so that law enforcement can see that you are not a threat. If you meet law enforcement inside of a building, follow their directions, even if those orders are to immediately lay on the ground. This is for your safety and for theirs.


If evacuating is not an option, then hide. Hide in an area that is out of the active shooter's view.

Do what you can to barricade yourself into the hiding place.

Active shooters typically shoot targets of opportunity and will not waste much time trying to get into an area that is not easily accessible. If law enforcement enter the room, identify yourself and follow all their orders.

Take action and fight

This should only be used as a last resort if you cannot evacuate and you cannot hide. This should be used only when your life, or the lives of others who also cannot evacuate or hide in your immediate area are in imminent danger.

When you take action, do so quickly; commit to your action and do your best to incapacitate the active shooter.

When law enforcement arrives, keep your hands up and visible at all times and follow all of their directions.

Know that you are in the same room as the active shooter who has just been incapacitated, and law enforcement doesn't know who is who yet.

Expect to be ordered to the ground until everything is sorted out.

An active shooter can be a very dangerous and high-stress situation for everyone involved.

Law enforcement has the mission of preserving life and eliminating the immediate threat of an active shooter when they arrive on the scene -- they are trained and equipped to eliminate the threat.

They may receive initial reports that there is a lone gunman, but they have to sweep the entire building to ensure that there are no additional threats to themselves or others in the building.

If you feel that someone shows some of the signs, please tell someone. You may be able to stop a situation before it even happens by identifying that person, detailing the signs that you are seeing, and getting some help for him or her.

To report anything of a suspicious nature, call the Fort Leonard Wood Directorate of Emergency Services at 573.596.6141 or report it online at

Remember, if you see something, report it immediately. Even if it just doesn't look right.

(Editor's note: Porterfield is an Antiterrorism.Force Protection operations specialist at Fort Leonard Wood.)

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