Skip Navigation
Back to Navigation

Active Shooter Enactments

← Back

Active Shooter Enactments

Pikes Peak Library District, Colo.

Wellness, Safety and Sustainability | 2013

Innovation Summary

Problem Statement

Emergency preparedness such as fire drills and CPR training are commonplace in libraries. However, planning for active shooter and hostage situations is a challenge because real events are chaotic, deadly, and unpredictable. Unlike a school environment where lock-down procedures control access, libraries have multiple entrances and serve the entire community. The challenge is to provide active shooter training in a simulated environment where employees can experience the startling noise of gunshots and the chaos and emotions that accompany these type of events. Emergency responses to an active shooter and/or hostage crisis will be more effective if the responding police department is familiar with the layout of our library facilities and has access to floor plans, keys, camera surveillance, and communications within the building. Conducting a simulated active shooter/hostage exercise allows staff and police to work together in understanding how both parties will respond to a real event. Police teams benefit from practicing in a simulated environment, and debriefing after the event allows police and staff an opportunity to critique responses and learn more about these scenarios.


Steps in implementing these innovative training sessions included:

  • Developing an active shooter plan. The Department of Homeland Security has resources for active shooter preparedness, including the online course Active Shooter: What You Can Do, and guidelines for developing a plan. Additionally, local police departments have their own active shooter response plans.
  • Training employees in active shooter protocols. Protocols include emergency responses based upon immediate situation analysis: flight, bunker in place, then fight.
  • Providing employees with emergency notification technology. PPLD uses MyForce, a smartphone application that immediately records audio of what is unfolding, communicates this to an emergence response center, and locates the position of the call in the building through GPS technology.
  • Developing a script of an active shooter event based upon actual library incidents. Some sections of PPLD’s enactment script were taken directly from volatile in-house scenarios that have occurred within the District (such as threats to return and burn down the library and domestic fights). The fact the scenarios were based on real-life events added to their credibility.
  • Recruiting staff to be actors in the scenario.
  • Coordinating with the police department. To make the scenario more realistic for the police, it helps to ensure they don’t have knowledge of what will occur.
  • Conducting the exercise. Held before the libraries opened, each simulation was played out before dozens of library staff.
  • Debriefing the exercise. Vigorous discussions between library staff and police officers followed both enactments, and both parties emerged with more knowledge of the others’ response.
  • Modify the active shooter plan if necessary based on the debriefing analysis.