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Active Shooter Scenarios Part 2: Breaking Down RUN, HIDE, FIGHT

2018 June 6
by Bethany Wilson

WARNING: Some of the information to follow is graphic and might be upsetting. This information is being presented in a very direct way to help adequately prepare you for an Active Shooter situation.

An Active Shooter is defined as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms(s), and there is no pattern or method to their selection.

The situation is unpredictable and evolves quickly. In such a high stress scenario, it is important to understand what to expect from yourself and others and to take a proactive approach when preparing for such a situation. That means taking time right now to actively think about what you would do should you find yourself in an Active Shooter scenario.

The Department of Homeland Security created the RUN, HIDE, FIGHT approach to enhance preparedness when faced with an Active Shooter incident. While there is no formula for success when involved in an Active Shooter situation, a proactive approach to emergency preparedness is your best chance of survival. We will break down each step and discuss factors you should consider as you mentally prepare to handle yourself during this situation.


Many people have not heard a real gunshot. The sound is often mistaken for fireworks even by those who have experience with weapons because a gunshot is not something you would hear in a typical day-to-day situation. If you hear something that sounds like a gunshot to you, trust your instincts and do not second guess yourself. It is better to take action and be wrong than to not take action at all.

The RUN step requires that you exit the area as quickly and calmly as possible and get to a safe location.

  • Don’t stop to gather your belongings.
  • Take your keys and phone only if it does not delay your escape. Leave everything else behind.
  • As you are leaving, let your coworkers know what you are doing and encourage them to come with you. If they refuse, do not spend time trying to persuade them, evacuate the area.
  • Your goal should be to get out of the area and to a safe space, so you can call the police.

If you come across wounded people, do not stop to help them. While this might be tough to hear, understand that stopping to help could result in you becoming the next victim. The information you have about the situation is important to first responders. The sooner you get to a safe location, call 9-1-1, and relay the information you have about the situation, the sooner the police can target their response to stop the shooter.


When running is not an option, you might have time to HIDE.

  • A good hiding place completely shields you from view, has limited access and allows you to barricade the door.
  • Choose a room with a door that locks. Shove tables, chairs, cabinets, etc. in front of the door to barricade it further.
  • Turn off the lights in the room, silence your cell phone and remain as calm as you can.
  • Find a weapon in case the situation escalates, and you find yourself in a situation in which you need to FIGHT.
  • If it is safe to do so, call 9-1-1 and tell the dispatcher where you are and what you know about the situation.
  • If your situation changes and it is no longer safe to talk to the dispatcher, don’t hang up. Leave the line open so the dispatcher can listen to what is happening in your area and relay that information to first responders.


Right now, as you are reading this is your time to plan what you will do should you come face to face with an Active Shooter. How will you react? Will you attack? How will you attack and what specific actions will you take? The more you roleplay this scenario and think through it in your mind, the quicker you will respond should you ever be faced with such a situation.

  • If there are several people in the room with you when an Active Shooter enters, spread out and do not clump together
  • Yell loudly
  • Throw things
  • Be physically aggressive
  • Fight for your life

You must be prepared to fully commit to fighting back. As mentioned above, there is no pattern or method to an Active Shooter’s selection of victims. They have already made up their mind about what they will do and there will be no reasoning with them. You need to make up your mind right now about how you will respond.

While the RUN, HIDE, FIGHT approach is taught linearly, please understand that the steps described above could happen in any order and you may find yourself revisiting steps as the Active Shooter scenario unfolds. For instance, you may find that you have no opportunity to RUN or HIDE and may instantly have to FIGHT. Or, you may HIDE, but find you could RUN as the situation unfolds. Running through scenarios on your own or with co-workers is the best way to train yourself to handle this situation now.

In a later post, I will go into further detail about the stress response and what to expect from police responding to an Active Shooter situation. In the meantime, consider viewing videos created by The City of Houston and the University of Arizona Police Department for more information about the RUN, HIDE, FIGHT response.

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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