In Case of Emergency: Active Shooter Awareness

Active shooter

With the unfortunate happenings surrounding active shooters in the workplace, it is essential to ensure your staff is trained in case of such events. The first few minutes are crucial for the survival of potential victims and casualties.

Gary McGuire visited the Lovitt & Touché Learning Academy to share his expert knowledge on surviving the unthinkable – an active shooter situation in the workplace. McGuire is a retired deputy sheriff with 30 years in law enforcement, including four years with the military police. During his career, he spent time as a detective in narcotics, auto theft and the gang unit, along with five years in homicide. McGuire also worked in several federal- and state- run task forces, including the FBI Bank Robber Task force. He has also spent time in SWAT in the Tactical Operations Unit as an operator, later becoming the team leader and Sergeant.

Since McGuire’s recent retirement, he has dedicated his time to a security business he formed in 2003 and a consulting business he owns. Through his consulting business, he has counseled and educated businesses with the “Run, Hide, Fight” philosophy in active-shooter situations.

McGuire compares his “Run, Hide, Fight” philosophy to the mantra we all learned in elementary school – when there’s a fire, you need to “Stop, Drop & Roll”. In the same way, we need to have our “Run, Hide, Fight” strategies planned out so that should the unthinkable happen, our reactions will be instinctual. McGuire is adamant about the fact that if you have a plan, you will be able to react to save your life. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t react – and that makes you an easy target.

What Would You Do in an Active Shooter Situation?

We all hope this never happens to us, but if it did, what would you do?

According to McGuire, situational awareness is the key to survival. You have to allow yourself to see and think about these situations before they even take place. When you go into a conference room, movie theater or any type of crowd situation, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Look around you – where would you run, where would you hide? And if it comes down to it, what could you use to fight?


If you find yourself in an active shooter situation, the first option is to run and just get out. Do not let others hold you back, and do not let others convince you to abandon your plan. You need to rehearse your plan mentally, over and over again. If you have a plan and you have rehearsed it, you will do it automatically, almost subconsciously.

Make sure you know all of your exit plans. Tip – when you check into a hotel, look at the fire escape plan on the back of the door, pace it off and then write it down (ex. 37 paces to the right = the exit).

It’s important to remember that if you are in a dangerous situation, you need to think about yourself… get out and get away from the danger. Run smart (but don’t throw people out of the way). Remember the episode of Seinfeld, where George Castanza was at the children’s birthday party and a fire broke out? He knocked over all the women and children as he was running for the door- try not to do this! Also, if you are running, make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t accidentally barricade yourself in a room with no exit.

McGuire’s advice is that if your first instinct is to run, then leave your belongings behind and run. You can come back after for your stuff, but you can’t reclaim your life. Your cell phone or purse can be replaced, but you can’t! In the process of running, try to convince others to leave, but don’t let it slow you down.


McGuire talked about visiting office buildings with very open environments and how he helped them come up with a plan. In that kind of environment, you simply have to take “hide” out of your equation. Now you have two options… run or fight.

If you are going to hide, make sure you think through your hiding spot. Don’t be the person like in cartoons, hiding behind the curtain with your feet sticking out. If you are going to hide, make sure you hide smart. Think about where you would go in each situation, and in each room you enter. Silence your cell phone if you can. Remain very quiet.

Remember, for the most part, these people are just moving through and looking for “soft targets”. They will simply move from one location to the next, and if it’s too complicated to get to you, they’ll just move on. For example, if the door is locked or blocked, they will most likely not spend any time trying to get it open. They are looking for the easy targets.

McGuire mentioned that the statistics show that all the mass shootings in the United States have lasted for 6 minutes or less. Most often the shooter will take their own life when confronted, and in most situation, law enforcement will not be able to get there before it ends, since it happens so quickly.

McGuire suggests the use of “Buddybars” secure your door. It’s a cheap option that really works. There are other options available online for this kind of product. If you do purchase something like this, be sure to actually practice using the tool.


McGuire has worked 5 ½ years in homicide and has never once seen someone prosecuted for hurting or killing an active shooter. His advice is that if you can’t run or hide, you need to use any physical aggression you can. Aggressive behavior will stop a lot of situations, and grouping up and banding together with others is an effective tactic.

You can use anything as a weapon – a coffee pot, baseball bat, or even a fire extinguisher (either hit with it, or spray it in their face), etc.

Make sure you are committing to your actions. As McGuire says, “Keep fighting until the lights go out – it’s better than sitting there and just giving up.”

McGuire made an interesting point in that the first responders (usually the police) are trained in such a way that when they get to the scene, they are not there to help you or render aid. Their job is to get the bad guy. Remember, they don’t know who the bad guy is when they get there. Show your hands, tell them where the bad guy is, or what he looks like. Help and first aid will come, but first they need to secure the situation. Attempt to remain calm and follow instructions.

We certainly hope you are never in this situation, but remember if you are – Have a plan and then Run, Hide or Fight.

Thank you to Gary McGuire for coming to our Learning Academy and sharing this life-saving knowledge. Please contact your Lovitt & Touché representative with any questions.