Safety First: 4 Tips for Conducting an Active-Shooter Training

July 16, 2019 | By: Molly Looman

Every emergency requires a plan. While the real estate industry is no stranger to communications plans for emergency protocol, active shooter trainings are not as common. In the next few years they may become as common as fire-drills. Here are a few tips on how to safely conduct an active shooter training and how to start the conversation.  

  1. Prepare your Team for Real Stressors 

  One of the main purposes for running an active shooter practice is to give staff confidence in case of an emergency. The training scenario should be designed to be challenging, but winnable. Paul Merritt with Fortress consulting said that proper training should teach people to asses and situation quickly and act. Conducting a practice exercise will allow the whole team to identify holes in the response plan in a controlled environment.  Just like a communications plan for systems emergencies needs to be tested, an active shooter protocol cannot just live on paper.  

  2. Create an Understanding Environment 

 Effective training exercises will only occur if the environment is safe. As active shooter practices and the conversations surrounding them are newer, it is important to make sure all those involved feel safe. First, alert everyone in the building that a training exercise will be occurring. The training scenario should be completed when the building is as empty as possible. The goal is to train the staff at a time where they do not have to worry about the tenants. Tenant-focused training should be completed at a separate time.  

  Secondly, reassure all participating that their jobs are not on the line and that they will never be made to do anything they are not comfortable doing. Merritt said it was important to emphasize that no one will be asked to be in harm’s way. Lastly, try to use language such as training and practice rather than drill or test. This way people feel like they can make mistakes without repercussions. 

3. Practice in Phases 

Unlike a fire drill, an active shooter training exercise should occur in phases. Before staging a full practice, classroom training should be held. A classroom session is a good first step because it is a chance to tell everyone why the training is important, what everyone’s role is and how the exercise will be facilitated. Merritt said the second phase is to ask everyone to perform their task in an environment with no stressors. This is a chance for people to build their skills. Leaders can practice delegating and front-line employees can practice their tasks. After people become comfortable at that stage, a scenario-based training can be done. Merritt said it was important to let everyone know that each phase is of equal importance.   

4. Cross Train  

In the case of a building engineer, they can play a unique role in active-shooter protocol.  An active shooter situation is a security threat, so cross training building engineers and security personnel will create more people that can quickly identify a situation. Building engineers also have unique access to PA systems, cameras and a deep knowledge of the building. They can use building systems to limit the suspect’s movement and aid the emergency response team with their knowledge of the building.  In addition, security personnel can be trained to identify leaks or other building emergencies for the building engineers.  


Whether active-shooter training may be new to your company or you’ve been conducting it for a while, there are always new considerations and improvements to be made to the process. Taking the right steps when introducing the process can mean more comfortable, safer and educated employees.

Sources: Paul Merritt, Fortress Consulting