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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Emergency preparedness training -- active killer/shooter situations

Date: 12/01/2013

New Mexico State University has implemented a plan to provide information to our students and employees regarding emergency preparedness guidelines, tips and procedures. The first topic to focus on is how to survive an active killer/shooter situation. This topic has been chosen because it is one that has generated the most questions in recent months, and this type of incident remains a concern not only for universities, but for all aspects of society.

This is a photo of an NMSU Police badge.
The New Mexico State University Police Department can schedule workshops or training sessions for NMSU departments on topics such as how to survive an active shooter/killer incident. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Active killer/shooter response

At NMSU, there has been extensive planning on how to minimize the risk of active killer/shooter incidents as well as emergency response to such incidents. While this preparation is important for the institution, it is even more important to make sure each of our students and employees know what they should do if they are ever caught in an active killer incident. While there are no guarantees in these cases, the following is based on the latest guidelines issued by both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This information is consistent with the guidance NMSU has been providing since 2006.

Recognize what is happening

During an active killer event, the criminal is in the process of trying to kill large numbers of people. While news stories make it seem like this is always done with a firearm, it can also be done with cars, knives, explosives, etc. And while NMSU has put in place a robust Emergency Notification System, it is likely that warnings coming out from it will not be of any benefit to those already close to the scene. For those close to the scene, the sounds of gunfire or explosions, yelling, and sirens, as well as seeing people fleeing from an area are the first and best indicators that there is a dangerous situation. Don't wait for an emergency message to be issued - trust your instincts and take immediate action to protect yourself.


If you can, escape from the area as fast as you can. Getting away from the danger is the single most important thing a person can do to increase odds of survival. As you escape, warn others in the area of the danger, but do not allow them to slow you down. As you gain distance, put large objects like buildings between you and the danger. If the danger is coming toward you, run laterally (sideways) to the threat. This gets you off of the "line of attack" as fast as possible.


If you cannot escape from the danger, your second best option is to find a place where you can shelter yourself until the danger is contained. Ideally, this is in a room where you can lock the door and hide behind large, heavy objects that can help protect you from gunfire or explosions. If the door cannot be locked, try to block the door from opening by placing large, heavy objects against it and/or placing door stops firmly against it. Avoid making unnecessary noise. If you are sheltering, be aware that it may take a long time for police or other emergency personnel to get to you and escort you to safety. This is because they will be focusing on stopping the threat first before any more lives are lost. Only after the threat has been stopped and those with serious injuries have been treated will they be able to go through the building to help escort people who are sheltered.


As a last resort, if you cannot flee and cannot shelter in place, be prepared to fight the attacker. This requires you to be 100 percent committed to surviving the incident, as any hesitation could result in losing the opportunity of surprise. Use makeshift weapons to strike the attacker in the head and neck, and if you can grab the attacker's weapon, consider doing so. If you are able to grab the weapon and point it away from you, direct others in the area to attack the criminal's head and neck while you keep hold of the weapon.

A good video that covers this was produced by Ready Houston under a grant from Homeland Security. It (and a number of other emergency preparedness videos) can be found at http://readyhoustontx.gov/videos.html. We encourage you to share this video with your family, friends and coworkers to make sure as many people as possible know what they can do to save themselves if they are caught in an active killer/shooter incident.

For academic units, departments, and campuses, the NMSU Police Department can provide free customized training specific to your facility. To date, the Police Department has provided training workshops and seminars to dozens of NMSU departments, as well as at national and regional conferences. We are always happy to work with you to make sure you have the information necessary to help take care of yourself and to do your job effectively.

If you have any questions regarding this material or would like to schedule a workshop or training, please feel free to contact the NMSU Police Department at police@nmsu.edu or by phone at 575-646-3311.

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