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Active Shooter

Violent incidents, including but not limited to: acts of terrorism, an active shooter, assaults, or other incidents of workplace violence, can occur on the University grounds or in close proximity with little or no warning. An active shooter is considered to be a suspect or assailant whose activity is immediately causing serious injury or death and has not been contained.

The Virginia Tech Police Department has adopted nationally accredited law enforcement response procedures to contain and terminate such threats as quickly as possible. The following information regarding law enforcement response will enable you to take appropriate protective actions for yourself. Try to remain calm as your actions will influence others. The following instructions are intended for incidents that are of an emergent nature (i.e. imminent, or in progress).


  1. Secure the immediate area. Whether a classroom, residence hall room, office or restroom:
    1. Lock or barricade the door, if able. Block the door using whatever is available, such as desks, tables, file cabinets, other furniture, etc.
    2. After securing the door, stay behind solid objects away from the door as much as possible.
    3. If the assailant enters your room and leaves, lock or barricade the door behind them.
    4. If safe to do so, allow others to seek refuge with you.
  2. Protective Actions. Take appropriate steps to reduce your vulnerability:
    1. Close blinds.
    2. Block windows.
    3. Turn off radios and computer monitors.
    4. Silence cell phones.
    5. Place signs in interior doors and windows, but remember the assailant can see these as well.
    6. Place signs in exterior windows to identify your location and the location of injured persons.
    7. Keep people calm and quiet.
    8. After securing the room, people should be positioned out of sight and behind items that might offer additional protection, such as walls, desks, file cabinets, bookshelves, etc.
  3. Open Areas. If you find yourself in an open area, immediately seek protection:
    1. Put something between you and the assailant.
    2. Consider trying to escape, if you know where the assailant is and there appears to be an escape route immediately available to you.
    3. If in doubt, find the safest area available and secure it the best way that you can.
  4. Call 911. Emergency situations should be reported to law enforcement by dialing 911. You may hear multiple rings but stay on the line until it is answered, do not hang up. Be prepared to provide the 911 operator with as much information as possible, such as the following:
    1. What is happening.
    2. Begin by saying, "I am at Virginia Tech". Next include the building name and room number.
    3. Number of people at your specific location.
    4. Injuries, if any, including the number of injured and types of injuries.
    5. Your name and other information as requested.
    6. Try to provide information in a calm, clear manner so that the 911 operator can quickly relay your information to responding law enforcement and emergency personnel.
  5. What to Report. Try to note as much as possible about the assailant, including:
    1. Specific Location and direction of the assailant(s).
    2. Number of assailant(s).
    3. Gender, race, and age of the assailant(s).
    4. Language or commands used by the assailant(s).
    5. Clothing color and style.
    6. Physical features, e.g., height, weight, facial hair, glasses.
    7. Type of weapons, e.g., handgun, rifle, shotgun, explosives.
    8. Description of any backpack or bag.
    9. Do you recognize the assailant(s)? Do you know their name?
    10. What exactly did you hear, e.g., explosions, gunshots, etc.
  6. Treat the Injured. The 911 operator will notify law enforcement and other emergency service agencies. The fire and rescue departments will respond to the site, but they will not be able to enter the area until it is secured by law enforcement. You may have to treat the injured as best you can until the area is secure. Remember basic first aid:
    1. For bleeding apply pressure and elevate. Many items can be used for this purpose, e.g. clothing, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, newspapers, etc.
    2. Reassure those in the area that help will arrive and try to stay quiet and calm.
  7. When to Leave.
    1. The assailant may not stop until his objectives have been met or until engaged or neutralized by law enforcement.
    2. Always consider the risk of exposure by opening the door for any reason.
    3. Attempts to rescue people should only be made if it can be done without further endangering either yourself or the persons inside of the secured area.
    4. Be aware that the assailant may bang on the door, yell for help, or otherwise attempt to entice you to open the door of a secured area.
    5. If there is any doubt about the safety of the individuals inside the room, the area needs to remain secured.


  1. Help is on the way. It is important for you to:
    1. Remain inside the secure area, so long as it remains safe to do so.
    2. Law enforcement will locate, contain, and stop the assailant.
    3. The safest place for you to be is in a locked/barricaded room.
    4. The assailant may not flee when law enforcement enters the building, but instead may target arriving officers.
  2. Injured Persons. Initial responding officers will not treat the injured or begin evacuation until the threat is neutralized and the area is secure.
    1. You may need to explain this to others to calm them.
    2. Once the threat is neutralized, officers will assist EMS with treatment and evacuation of injured and other personnel.
  3. Evacuation. Responding officers will establish safe corridors for persons to evacuate.
    1. This may be time consuming.
    2. Remain in secure areas until instructed otherwise.
    3. You may be instructed to keep your hands on your head.
    4. You may be searched.
    5. You may be escorted out of the building by law enforcement personnel, simply follow their directions.
    6. After evacuation you may be taken to a staging or holding area for medical care, interviewing, counseling, etc.
    7. Once you have been evacuated you will not be permitted to retrieve items or access the area until law enforcement releases the crime scene.

Assistance from local and state law enforcement agencies will be provided under existing mutual aid agreements. The decision to call in outside supporting agencies, or to close all or a portion of the grounds, will be made by law enforcement command staff. Information will be released to the VT community as quickly as circumstances permit.

Virginia Tech utilizes VT Alerts as a mechanism to provide not only alerts, but updated information following the issuance of an initial alert.

Following an active shooter incident look for directions from law enforcement, first responders, and VT Alerts as to when it is safe to move about. If you were a witness to the incident, make yourself available to law enforcement officers to aid in the investigation. Support services, such as temporary shelter, medical care, and counseling, will be made available for anyone involved in or impacted by the incident.

Learn more by taking the FEMA Emergency Management Institute IS-907 Active Shooter online course.