Active Shooter Incident Preparedness

The recent horrific shooting at the high school in Parkland, Fla., raised concerns about what to do in the event of an active shooter at NOVA. While the prospect of an active incident is scary, it is most unlikely you’ll ever be harmed by an active shooter. There are 28 million college students in over 5,000 US colleges. On average, 10 college students die annually on campus at the hand of an active shooter. (Probability=~ 1/3,000,000) You are more likely to die due to a texting driver (11 people die every day) or while shopping in your neighborhood.

The odds of confronting an active shooter are very low. However, the innocents at Newtown, Las Vegas, the Washington Navy Yard; and Charleston never expected to confront a deadly threat. You can empower yourself and help save lives by learning how to respond and make a plan.

An active shooter situation occurs when a person or persons armed with a deadly weapon is active, systematically and presently employing weapons against victims, even upon the arrival of the police.

Run Hide Fight


The following information is intended to empower you and help keep you and others safe:

1. Expect the unexpected. Today’s friend/colleague could be tomorrow’s shooter. Look at people critically. Look for behavioral changes; suspicious packages; inappropriate dress (ex. a long coat on a summer day could conceal a rifle); seeming depression; absenteeism; loss of interest in school, friends, and favored activities; etc.)

2. If you see concerning behavior that makes you uncomfortable or arouses your suspicion, report your concerns immediately to the NOVA College Police at 703-764-5000. The police rely on information from the entire NOVA community to keep our campuses safe and will investigate/respond to all reports. The free LiveSafe mobile safety app is a great way of providing emergency information to Dispatch in an unobtrusive way. It also contains lifesaving information on what to do in the event of a shooter. Download LiveSafe.

3. Police may not arrive at the scene for several minutes. During this time, you are responsible for ensuring your own safety. Develop a plan for each location you frequent.

4. Time is critical. Be prepared to act decisively and commit to survive. In the event of an active shooter on campus, you have three options, which are summarized in an excellent active shooter response video on the NOVA Police website.

  • Run. Evacuate the area immediately. If you can evacuate, this may be your best chance of survival! Even if the shooter is approaching you, you are more likely to survive by running away, since a moving target is difficult to hit and most shooters are not trained, marksmen. Furthermore, if you are injured, you will receive medical attention sooner if you can evacuate.
  • Hide. If you cannot evacuate, lock the doors; turn off lights,  and silence cell phones. Hide behind articles like desks as far out of view from windows as possible, and remain quiet. Spread out; do not huddle together.
  • Fight. If, during evacuation or sheltering in place, you actually confront the shooter, putting your life in imminent danger, go on the offensive. Yell, improvise weapons, throw articles, attack, and (with others) secure the shooter in a sustained attack to neutralize the shooter until help arrives. A shooter on the defensive will interrupt killing and reduce casualties.

5. Police will respond aggressively. Don’t get in the way or contribute to an already confusing situation. The immediate goal of the police is to end the threat. They will not stop to help the wounded or assist evacuees.

  • Don’t allow yourself to be considered a suspect. Keep your hands visible and make no quick/unpredictable movements. Leave handbags and backpacks, which police may assume is hiding a bomb or weapon, in the classroom.

NOVA Police offer detailed active incidence response training to classes, faculty and staff meetings, convocations, clubs, etc. If you want to receive training, call NOVA Police Outreach via dispatch at 703-764-5000 or email Lt. John Weinstein or Officer Juan Cardenas.

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