Are you ready to run, hide and fight/defend?

Active Shooter and Critical Incident Response training customizes emergency preparedness to your workspace.

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Knowing how to respond to an active shooter could save lives. Are you prepared to act in those critical seconds between calling 911 and the arrival of first responders?

Following the shooting death of associate professor Zijie Yan on Aug. 28, 2023, people on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus have been particularly interested in improving their emergency preparedness. Hundreds have taken part in the active shooter response training offered through UNC Police. Called Active Shooter and Critical Incident Response, the one-hour sessions take basic emergency response training and customize it for individual workspaces.

Before leading one recent training session, UNC Police Sgt. James David walked through a University office on Franklin Street to become familiar with his surroundings. He identified exits, examined doors and windows, and pointed out office equipment that could be used to make barricades or even impromptu defensive weapons.

David shared what he found during his walk-through as part of his talk, presented to a group of co-workers in a conference room. This is the kind of preparation he encourages every person living or working on campus to take now, before an emergency. Figure out the quickest exit from the building, the safest place to hide, how to lock and unlock doors, and the best way to defend yourself.

“Here are some strategies if you are right there,” David said. “Run, if you can safely evacuate. Hide, if evacuation is not an option. And fight or defend.”

David explained how strategies in response to active shooters have evolved over the years, based on tragic events. “There has been a shift from passive to active response as we learn from the past,” he says.

For example, police learned from the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 that all first responders — not just the SWAT team — needed to be trained to respond in a crisis. The 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech had a major impact on emergency communications, particularly on college campuses, leading to the installation of sirens, like the ones on Carolina’s campus. The sirens and the related Alert Carolina messaging system were used to signal the campus-wide lockdown on Aug. 28, 2023.

At Virginia Tech, some students and teachers were able to survive by taking action, some by jumping from windows and others by barricading their classroom doors with furniture.

David encouraged University employees to consider what barriers they could use or what they would do if forced to confront the shooter. “There are lots of ways of resisting,” David said. “You can use a group effort, a swarm technique. You can throw something, yell or make noise. You can use weapons of opportunity, like a fire extinguisher.”

In addition to this specialized training, David encouraged faculty, staff and students to take advantage of online training and resources on the Carolina Ready website and to download the Carolina Ready safety app. Its features include a take action guide, Friend Walk location sharing and Mobile BlueLight, which calls 911 and shares your location with the dispatcher when activated. The app also has a brand-new feature called “I’m OK!” that lets users quickly notify contacts about their whereabouts and status during a campus emergency.

If you are interested in Active Shooter and Critical Incident Response training for your department, building or student group, email dhjames@psafety.unc.edu.