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The Truths about Active Shooters

The Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area,” on its website adding, “in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”

We’ve all seen or heard news reports about an active shooter in the workplace and most of us think that it will never happen to us. The truth is, most victims thought the same thing until they experienced an active shooter incident at their workplace.

Of course, nobody can accurately predict who has the potential to commit such violence – or there would be far fewer incidents. Experience, however, has taught us something about past active shooters. The 2012 NYPD Active Shooter Report includes the following information about 230 active shooter incidents that occurred in the U.S. between 1996 and December 21, 2012:

  • Active shooter incidents typically last 10 – 15 minutes and typically end before police arrive.
  • 97% of all active shooter incidents were committed by men, according to the 2012 NYPD Active Shooter Report.
  • The typical active shooter at a school is between 15-19 years old. In a non-school facility the typical active shooter is between 35 and 44 years old.
  • 98% of active shooter incidents are carried out by a lone individual.
  • Some active shooters act impulsively while others plan every detail. Some use information they learned from previous active shooter incidents in their planning.
  • 26% of active shooter victims had no prior relationship with the perpetrator.
  • 38% of victims had a prior professional relationship with the shooter.
  • 22% of victims had a prior academic relationship with the shooter.
  • 6% of victims had a familial relationship with the shooter.
  • An active shooter uses multiple weapons 36% of the time.
  • The vast majority of active shooter incidents also end violently for the shooter with 43% ending in applied force and 40% ending in suicide. 16% ended with no applied force and less than 1% ended with the attacker fleeing the scene.

The report divided active shooter incident locations into five categories. Of the 230 cases they studied, there were 279 locations since some of the active shooter incidents studied took place at more than one location.

  • 24% (68) of active shooter incidents occurred at a school.
  • 24% (67) of active shooter incidents occurred in an open commercial space.
  • 12% (33) of active shooter incidents occurred in a factory or warehouse.
  • 11% (31) of active shooter incidents occurred in an office building.
  • 29% (80) of active shooter incidents occurred in a place other than these. Other includes airports, medical centers and religious facilities among others.


According to the report, “The NYPD has not observed evidence of an increase in active shooter incidents in the U.S. from 2006 to 2012. However, there is some evidence that active shooter incidents in the U.S. have become more frequent since 2000; five out of six years between 2000 and 2005 had lower incident counts than the quietest year between 2006 and 2012.”

2009 had the most with 22 active shooter incidents and 2000 had the least with 2.

The number of casualties and wounded vary from incident to incident, but the majority of incidents result in 0 – 5 deaths and 3.9 wounded.

While you may not be able to predict who has the potential to become an active shooter, or commit some other sort of violent act in your workplace, it is possible to take steps to prevent such incidents.

Huffmaster uses their 100+ years of cumulative experience to provide proven, personalized workplace violence solutions and make office safety, shop security and asset safekeeping a realistic and achievable goal. Contact Huffmaster today and see how they can make your workplace a safer place.

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Mike Saad, CPP

Senior Director Consulting Services at Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC
Michael Saad is Senior Director of Consulting Services, Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC. He is responsible for the security consulting line of business for the company. In that capacity he manages security program evaluation, corporate policy and procedure development, federal security compliance initiatives, corporate investigations, security threat and vulnerability analysis, and business risk management.
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