Active Shooter Incidents

Bullet Holes in Door of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area, and recent active shooter incidents have underscored the need for a coordinated response by law enforcement and others to save lives. The FBI is committed to working with its partners to protect schools, workplaces, houses of worship, transportation centers, other public gathering sites, and communities. 

Although local and state law enforcement agencies are virtually always the first ones on the scene, the FBI has played a large role in supporting the response to every major incident in recent years and has much to offer in terms of capacity, expertise, specialized capabilities, training, and resources before and after an incident occurs. The successful prevention of these active shooter incidents lies with a wide range of public and private entities all working together.

To that end, the FBI provides operational, behaviorally-based threat assessment and threat management services to help detect and prevent acts of targeted violence, helping academic, mental health, business, community, law enforcement, and government entities recognize and disrupt potential active shooters who may be on a trajectory toward violence. The Bureau also continues its research to identify indicators that could signal potential violent intent. 

Overview of FBI Roles 

FBI Jurisdiction in Active Shooter Incidents

Shortly after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, the FBI sought ways its personnel could better assist its law enforcement partners. Two actions enhanced these efforts.

First, the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012, signed into law by the president in January 2013, permits the U.S. attorney general—at the request of appropriate state or local law enforcement personnel—to provide federal assistance during active shooter incidents and mass killings (defined by the law as three or more people) in public places. The attorney general delegated this responsibility to the FBI.

Second, working with other cabinet agencies, the FBI is finding ways to help prevent and respond to active shooters. A White House working group—consisting of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services—is part of a broader initiative, Now is the Time, undertaken after the Sandy Hook shootings. DOJ, led by the FBI, was specifically tasked with training law enforcement and other first responders to ensure that protocols for responding to active shooter situations are consistent across the country.

ALERRT/Other Training Initiatives

In response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, the FBI—with the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance—teamed up with the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program, which was developed in Texas, supported by the state of Texas, and housed at Texas State University. ALERRT has trained more than 114,000 law enforcement first responders in a response protocol adopted by the FBI as the national standard for special agent tactical instructors. Many state and local police departments have also adopted it as a standard for active shooter response, ensuring law enforcement officers arriving on the scene understand how others are trained to respond.

Approximately 225 FBI tactical instructors from around the country were trained in the ALERRT protocols after attending its 40-hour train-the-trainer course and are using what they learned to assist with the increased demand for the training by state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement agencies.

In addition to offering ALERRT to first responders, FBI field offices are bringing law enforcement command staff together to discuss best practices and lessons learned from prior mass shooting incidents. These two-day conferences include discussions and instructions related to specific aspects of active shooter incidents, including pre-event indicators (i.e., behavioral analysis), complex crime scene management and evidence collection, crisis management, victim assistance, media matters, and improvised explosive devices. To date, more than 64,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, and law enforcement executives from state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement have participated in these conferences, which will be held on an ongoing basis to ensure that the law enforcement community is prepared for future threats.

FBI field offices also host tabletop exercises—focusing on how to respond and recover from an active shooter incident. These exercises bring together our partner federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, federal prosecutors, and district, county, and states’ attorneys.

Active Shooter Training

Operational/Victim Assistance

Once an active shooter incident occurs, the FBI proactively assists state, local, campus, and tribal law enforcement first responders to supplement resources as needed. We can send multiple investigators to the scene, integrate into the command post, and/or mobilize and deploy evidence response teams, behavioral analysis and crisis management personnel, bomb technicians, SWAT teams, and experts in working with the news media. As appropriate, we may also establish a command post at FBI Headquarters composed of various operational and behavioral Bureau components.

Another essential part of our operational response is our victim assistance program. The FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance (OVA), established in 2001, provides a variety of support services to victims/family members, first responders, investigative teams, and other operational elements. OVA assets available to support active shooter incidents include our field office victim specialists and members of our Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Team from around the country, who are specially trained to handle mass casualty incidents.

For the Public: Responding to an Active Shooter Crisis Situation 

For Law Enforcement: LEEP 

The FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) is an important element in the effort to provide access to tools and resources for law enforcement, intelligence, and criminal justice communities by using single sign-on technology. A primary LEEP component—the Law Enforcement Online (LEO) website—offers a variety of active shooter materials for law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help ensure preparedness for these types of events, including crisis resources, law enforcement training, assistance on dealing with victims, and a directory of FBI field offices.