Daily headlines remind us of the threat and impact of violence on our community. In its most extreme form—active shooter/mass casualty—these events are sudden, unexpected, and high-profile and can have a profound impact on students, parents, faculty, and staff and the trust they have in the safety of their classrooms, residences, and workplaces.

Over the five-year period from 2017 through 2021, firearms deaths rose 33% according to the Gun Violence Archive. While still statistically rare, mass shootings—defined by the FBI as “one or more individuals who are engaged in killing or attempting to kill in a populated area”—over the same period of time doubled indicating that this is a problem that is not just endemic but increasing.  Since 1966 there have been 13 shootings at colleges where more than three people were killed, and outside of mass shootings, there have been over 300 instances of gunfire on college campuses, killing 94 people and injuring 215   Four high-profile events occurred in just 2023 – MSU, UNC Chapel Hill, Morgan State and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Understandably, with each new incident in the news, the concern on campuses grows as does the pressure on leaders to take action to prevent violent acts and keep communities safer. Yet few schools have adequately prepared beyond tactical training for police departments and ambiguous statements in their handbooks about workplace violence.

By taking steps now to develop a broad and holistic approach to mitigate, respond to, and manage the impacts and consequences of this most troubling of risks, you can help your community not just be safe but to feel safe.


Keep reading below for the four steps that you can take now to develop a broad and holistic approach to mitigate, respond to, and manage the impacts and consequences of this most troubling of risks.

Steps to take now

Hindsight is 20/20 but with such frequency of active aggressor events on campus, are the fundamentals in place on your campus to mitigate risk and protect your community? Conduct a gap analysis to understand and prioritize your campus work plan. It should, at minimum, assess robustness of the following:

  • A workplace violence prevention policy, including criteria/processes to support timely reporting, analysis, and appropriate escalation of events or threats to a trained Behavioral Threat Assessment Team
  • Capabilities of public safety operations and mutual aid partnerships, dispatch centers, and emergency communications
  • Appropriateness of security-related policies from access control, security cameras, visitor management etc.
  • Community-focused training programs that explain how to support a safe environment and provide guidance beyond the generic “Run, Hide, Fight”

Strong and well-practiced emergency response protocols are vital to ensure an effective response during an active aggressor event. Ensure that your institution has:

  • A capable, well-trained, and well-practiced Emergency Operations Team that can react in real-time to manage accountability and provide first responders and the community with much-needed resources, information, and support
  • A NIMS and ICS-compliant structure that reflects a clear understanding of the security protocols and capabilities for your campus as well as law enforcement procedures and expected response
  • Regular, ongoing active aggressor training and exercising including tabletop exercises and functional drills, ideally in partnership with local authorities

As with any crisis, the perceived effectiveness of the response can have more influence on an organization’s reputation and viability than the underlying event or issue. A Crisis Management Team focuses on the strategic and long-term impacts and consequences of a significant and violent event. To be effective, it requires:

  • A well-practiced team with clearly defined leadership, authority, membership, specific roles/responsibilities
  • An efficient process to enable fast, strategic decision-making on reputational, legal, and policy implications of the shooting
  • A stakeholder-centric focus to ensure that short, medium, and long-term needs are anticipated, and communications are consistent, compassionate, and credible

An active aggressor incident puts immense stress and emotional burdens on stakeholders, and institutions need to be prepared to provide aid, and support including:

  • Financial assistance for items such as transportation, housing, medical, funerals, tuition, and extended leave.
  • Psychological support and grief counseling for students, staff, family, and first responders
  • Family Assistance Centers
  • Guidance and planning for vigils, memorials, & charities

Need some help?

We've been there

Our team has decades of experience helping institutions grapple with the increasing risk of community violence. We’ve partnered with clients across industries from leading hospital networks, manufacturers, and academic institutions to global technology firms to develop comprehensive approaches that mitigate, respond to, and manage the impacts and consequences of this troubling risk.

We'll help you prepare

While statistically rare, active violent situations are on the rise. Our team can support you in the development of robust plans and protocols to help prevent this type of tragedy from occurring in the first place and in responding compassionately and effectively if, in a worst-case scenario, it does.