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Active Shooter Scenarios Part 1: Proactive Preparation Tips

2018 June 5
by Bethany Wilson

Active Shooter situations have become of increasing concern to library staff and their patrons. Fortunately, cases of workplace violence involving active shooters in libraries are rare, but proactive preparation through active shooter response training and working through scenarios with staff can better equip library personnel to handle such a dynamic and traumatic event.

Recently, the Texas State Library & Archives Commission partnered with Dr. Steve Albrecht to present a webinar on this topic entitled, “Active Shooters and Armed Assailants-Responses and Realistic Tools”. A recording of this webinar along with other helpful resources can be found in our webinar archive.

Before beginning my library career, I served as a police officer in Tucson, Arizona for the University of Arizona Police Department (UAPD) for approximately 10 years. I spent approximately 4 years of my career at UAPD as a member of the Crime Prevention Unit. As part of that assignment, I provided dozens of Active Shooter Response trainings, building security surveys, and Emergency Action Plan consultations.

I would like to take this opportunity to expand upon some of the points Dr. Albrecht made in his presentation through a series of blog posts. This one will address the action you can take right now to be proactive about preparing for emergency situations.


According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the purpose of an Emergency Action Plan is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. You can begin moving into the right frame of mind for emergency planning by looking through an Emergency Action Plan template. Your governing agency may have a template that they prefer you use when creating an Emergency Action Plan for your facility. If they do not have a specified template, you might consider using this template from the CDC.

  • The Emergency Action Plan will force you to consider what resources you should have in place to handle several different types of emergencies.
  • Work with your staff as you begin creating the plan. The diverse perspectives, experiences, and specialized skills they may have might prove crucial as you begin planning how you will respond to an emergency.
  • Involving your staff in the planning process creates a sense of ownership, ensures familiarity with chosen procedures, and empowers them to act if necessary to initiate the plan should an emergency situation arise.


Bring in a security professional to analyze your space and identify areas that could prove hazardous during an emergency or areas that might invite crime. Someone trained to look at a space with emergency preparedness in mind:

  • Will see obstacles prohibiting quick evacuation
  • Have suggestions for signage or instructions to aid in an emergency
  • Can help you put together an emergency preparedness kit
  • Could provide suggestions for improving your Emergency Action Plan.

Additionally, you might consider finding someone trained to conduct a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) survey of your space. CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts by affecting the built, social, and administrative environment. For example, if you have a window at your library that is not well lit at night and hidden from view, you might consider planting a barrel cactus or bougainvillea beneath it to deter someone from breaking in through that window. A beautiful plant can serve as a deterrent to crime just as easily as bars on a window and will not add rather than detract from the aesthetics of your space.

These services are often provided by your local law enforcement agencies and they are eager to help you take a proactive approach to crime prevention. Not only do these partnership benefit you, they also benefit the law enforcement agencies as they provide them with first hand information about your site and your plan for handling emergencies.


Scenario training will help identify issues with your Emergency Action Plan so they can be corrected before a real emergency occurs. Schedule regular scenario training with staff to ensure that new employees are made aware of the plan and their responsibilities during an emergency. Scenario training does not have to be complicated or formal. Anyone can initiate and facilitate it. It can be as simple as sitting around the breakroom and sharing ideas and suggestions for handling an emergency.

  • Begin your scenario training with a “What if” statement. For example, “What if someone cut themselves badly in the breakroom”.
  • Use this statement to begin brainstorming what action could be taken to address the emergency.
  • If someone suggests, get a towel to wrap the wound, counter that suggestion by saying there are no towels available and ask what other action they might take.
  • This encourages and strengthens skills in quick thinking and adaptability which are crucial during an ever-evolving scenario.
  • Keep doing this until you feel everyone has worked through the scenario and has a good idea about how they might handle such a situation.

I hope some of these suggestions will help you begin the process of working proactively to prepare yourself and your workplace to handle an emergency situation. In a later post, I will go into further detail about the Department of Homeland Security’s RUN, HIDE, FIGHT response to an Active Shooter situation and what you can expect to encounter from yourself and others when faced with each of these steps. If you have any questions or would like further information about any of the information provided in this post, please do not hesitate to contact Bethany Wilson, Youth Services Consultant, at or 512-463-4856.

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