FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Jan. 26, 2012) -- Active shooter events have occurred in America as far away as Fort Lewis, Wash., and as close as Panama City, Fla.

In order to prepare for occasions when gunmen attack or hostage situations occur, local law enforcement and Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security officials will conduct an "active shooter" exercise at Fort Rucker Feb. 8, said Manny Alvarado, DPTMS' chief of Plans, Operations and Mobilization Division.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Montgomery Special Tactics Division, Dothan Police Department and the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency will also be involved in the training scenario, he added.

"The exercise's main purpose is to teach people how to respond to a potentially deadly scenario," Alvarado said.

"One of the things we learned from (the) Fort Hood (Texas, incident) is that often, employees don't know how to respond to this type of incident correctly," he said.

If an attack or drill occurs, post officials sound the Emergency Mass Notification System sirens. For two minutes, a loud, "distinct" whooping sound permeates the installation, then is followed with an announcement over the loudspeakers proclaiming it a drill or an actual active shooter situation, Alvarado said.

"This is repeated twice more. The sound cannot be mistaken for the severe weather siren," he said.

"First of all, we're trying to get people to recognize there is a problem," Alvarado said.

When a gunman opens fire or hostages are taken, people have three ways to respond: evacuate, hide or attack the shooter as a last resort.

"If possible, evacuate," Alvarado said of the first option. "Know escape routes."

"Leaders in each office need to determine escape routes and gathering points before an attack," Michael Whittaker, installation antiterrorism officer, said. "These routes should vary from fire escape routes since those are posted and can become knowledge for the attackers."

"Routes should also be out of the sight of the building where the attack occurred," Alvarado said.

If people in the area are reluctant to leave, he added, they should be left behind.

"I know it sounds cold, but leave them. If you run, they may follow," he said. "A lot of it is adopting a mindset of survival."

If shooters or other obstacles block escape routes, the next option is to hide, whether it is under a desk or in an office area.

"If one can shut a door, do so and blockade it even if the door is locked," Alvarado said. Even if a shooter breaks the lock, then he or she still cannot get to the area.

Once hidden, stay in the area until law enforcement officers clear the area and tell you to move. Stay away from doors or windows unless you are the designated surveillance person.

Finally, if no other option is available, attack the shooter.

"Attack like your life depends on it -- because it does," Alvarado said.

During an active shooter incident, people may not be in the office in which they normally work. "Those people should follow the instructions of the supervisors of that building or office," Alvarado said.

If an attack or drill occurs, gates will close. "For the exercise, it will only be a short amount of time," Whittaker said.

Drivers are to find an open area to park their cars until the situation is resolved.

The best way to avoid harm in an active shooter scenario is to prevent it, according to information on the Department of Homeland Security website.

Prior to acting, a potential attacker normally exhibits many behavioral changes. These changes include increased use of alcohol or drugs, depression, severe mood swings, increased violent attitudes or unexplained absences, DHS advises.

Additionally, attacks usually occur on people shooters know, whether it is from customers, coworkers, former coworkers or relatives. If people see potential threats, they should alert supervisors with their concerns. If threat is imminent, call 911, according to DHS.

For more information on active shooter scenarios and what to do during an incident, visit the Department of Homeland Security's Web site at