With students back in school, concerns about physical safety, including active shooter threats, return for parents and students. According to an August 2022 Gallup poll, 44% of K-12 parents fear for their children’s physical safety at school. That is the highest parental fear has been since 2001, following a shooting at Santana High School in Santee, California. The record high was 55% in April 1999, when parents were polled shortly after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado.
Active shooter incidents are certainly not limited to K-12 schools. They can occur at institutes of higher education, bars and nightclubs, places of worship, private businesses, government facilities, hospitals and medical clinics, and sports stadiums or arenas. The FBI designated 50 shootings as active shooter incidents in 2022, with the highest number of incidents, 23, taking place in open spaces, followed by the next highest number, 14, occurring in places of commerce.
Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2022, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Page 12
Active Shooter Definition
Prior to Columbine, the term “active shooter” was not commonly part of the public vernacular and “active shooters” were not considered cause for alarm in the United States. Now the term regularly appears in the news, on social media, and in public settings as school officials, government offices, and private businesses weigh their options for active shooter training and drills.
The FBI defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” Not all active shooter incidents result in fatalities, and most do not turn into mass killings, which is defined by the FBI as three or more people killed at one time in a single location.
More recently, the term “active threat” has emerged as a broader way to categorize a dynamic situation involving an individual (or individuals) using deadly physical force, to include firearms, bladed weapons, explosives, and vehicles.
The enactment of the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012 strengthened the ability of many federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to dedicate greater resources to help address the active shooter threat, including investigation, research, and law enforcement training.
The FBI releases reports intended to “provide an overview of active shooter incidents to help law enforcement, other first responders, and the public better understand the levels of threat associated with active shooter incidents.”
According to the FBI’s report Active Shooter Incidents 20-Year Review, 2000-2019, the number of active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2019 shows an overall upward trend.
Active Shooter Incidents 20-Year Review 2000-2019, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Page 4
Jumping to their most recent report from 2022, it notes that while total active shooter incidents decreased by 18% from 2021, the number increased by 66.7% compared to 2018, and thus for the period 2018-2022 “data shows an upward trend.”
There are many different databases that track incidences of school shootings, mass shootings, mass killings, and active shooter. The criteria and definitions used in these databases vary widely, resulting in vastly different stories being painted about incidence and trend. Regardless of these differences, what remains is public perception of safety and anxiety over the threat of active shooters.
Active Shooter Incidents 20-Year Review 2000-2019, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Page 5
Exercises and Training to Save Lives
According to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University (ALERRT), whose researchers work with the FBI to catalog and examine active shooter attacks, slightly more than half of incidents from 2000 to 2022 ended before law enforcement arrived. To help prevent loss of life, it’s important for individuals and organizations to take additional steps to plan and prepare for active shooter events.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has developed a series of materials to help schools, businesses, and communities prepare for and respond to an active shooter incident. Active shooter situations are often sudden and unpredictable, as the shooter may not have method to their selection of victims. Paying attention to warning signs in the behavior and habits of a potential shooter can help prevent an incident before it happens.
CISA’s Active Shooter Attacks Action Guide notes that “some shooters demonstrate progressively escalating risk factors in their mindsets and behaviors that characterize them as violent prior to an attack.” Potential warning signs include increasingly erratic, unsafe, or aggressive behaviors, claims of marginalization from friends or colleagues, sudden and dramatic changes in home life or personality, drug and alcohol abuse, financial difficulties, and more. Taking note of these types of drastic changes and reporting behavior or concerns to a supervisor if at work, or a school official in education settings, may facilitate intervention and mitigate potential risks.
SummitET® provides customized preparedness solutions to reduce the risk posed by active shooter incidents. Much of this risk can be mitigated through the development of an effective preparedness system that includes internal policies and compliance, intelligence and information sharing, physical security protections systems, training, planning, and exercising.
We offer a suite of tailored preparedness solutions for many public and private sectors and organizations including hospitals, private industry, government facilities, public facilities, schools, and more.
Our industry experts with extensive backgrounds in law enforcement, infrastructure protection, counterterrorism, counter-WMD, emergency medical/fire rescue, and more can help your organization prepare for the threat of active shooters. Contact us today.
Contact our experts
to discuss your training and exercise options.
The APSTER Process is a SummitET proprietary process for building organizational resiliency and preparedness within strategic communications.
Integrating Preparatory Consequence Management and Law Enforcement Operations During “Left of Boom” Terrorist Threats
A new planning approach enabling all levels of government to integrate their operations to maximize their ability to stop the terrorist.