How to Prepare for an Armed Attack on Campus

By Garid Faria, Administrative & Fiscal Support Specialist

A hand holding a pistol


According to the US Department of Homeland Security, when an armed attacker or active shooter is in the immediate vicinity, run first and hide only when you are unable to escape. When an attacker is not in the immediate vicinity, you will need to know where he is as well as what has transpired (i.e. recognize the threat) to decide. Ideally, you want to stay as far away as possible from his location when evacuating. If attacker’s location and other critical details are unclear, it may be better to shelter in place.


If possible, you should have multiple premeditated places to hide and at least one escape route (other than your point of entry) at locations where you spend a lot of time or frequent. Listen to your gut instincts and always maintain your situational awareness. In buildings such as the library, in the event an armed attacker is on campus, a lockdown command will be issued via DPS/UH Alert System. Staff will then implement the lockdown and instruct occupants on where to go to shelter in place. You may choose to follow these instructions or seek shelter or evacuate on your own. 

Whatever your circumstances, your ideal hiding place will have as much of the following characteristics as possible:

  • Distances you from the attacker as far as possible (i.e. away from the main entrance or where the attacker will likely enter the building or space you are in)
  • Covers/protects you from the attacker as much as possible (i.e. provides substantial physical barriers such as walls, locked doors, etc.) 
  • Conceals you from the attacker (i.e. places you out of his sight); able to turn lights off
  • Few or no windows to lessen your chances of being seen (pull drapes, curtains, or blinds shut)
  • Minimal entry points, ideally only two: a primary entry point that you are able to barricade and a secondary escape route either through a door (best) or accessible window (note: this may not work for a disabled, elderly or large person)
  • Little or no glass, especially avoid large glass doors or windows (due to visibility, glass is a poor barrier to bullets/entry, and extremely hazardous once broken)
  • Lockable door(s), preferably with a doorknob and a deadbolt locks as well as a solid core (metal or wood) without a door window.  
  • Doors that swing inward are preferred because they can be barricaded with furniture and other objects to obstruct the attacker’s entry.  
  • Doesn’t show signs or clues that you are hiding there (silence your phone/ensure you are completely hidden from being seen or heard) 
  • Hard to find: a lesser known, exposed or inconspicuous place


Both prior and when attempting to hide, be prepared and identify items you can use as an improvised “weapon” and barricades (to prevent the attacker from entering the space) along with barriers behind which you can take cover from bullets. Whether you are hiding alone or with others, use the element of surprise to your advantage. 

Learn and rehearse the Five D’s plus 1. This is important because you will need to target the attacker’s weapon and apply the five D’s plus 1 the moment you decide to fight and then take action (only as your last resort). You must fully commit to your actions and if possible, work as a team to overwhelm the attacker to accomplish the mission. Remember: anything goes, don’t hold back and don’t stop until the attacker is disabled or incapacitated.

As the video illustrates, a poor decision or execution (i.e. an inability to close the Distance or Distract, Deflect, Dominate, Disarm and Disable the shooter/listed in order of operation) can put you at risk and may ultimately cost you your life. In other words, when fighting alone, you need to be confident in your decision and execution as well as effective (at all five D’s plus 1).  It is critical that you impose your will over the attacker as quickly and decisively as possible. When fighting as a team, it becomes a coordinated decision, execution and effectiveness process but when done right, it can turn the tables, neutralize an attacker’s advantage and stop the attack.

Your Top Priority: Have a Plan to Run/Hide

By Garid Faria, Administrative & Fiscal Support Specialist.

As part of my ongoing series of blurbs on personal safety and emergency preparedness, please consider specific ways you can be prepared to protect yourself during an armed attack (knife, bomb or gun wielding assailant) on campus. Here are a few guidelines:

#1 RUN

  • Assuming there is enough time (i.e. distance between you and the attacker) and you have the physical ability, running may be the best option, if you have a viable escape plan and don’t feel safe at your present location. Conversely, the closer an attacker is to you, then the less viable this alternative becomes.
  • As part of your planning, viable means multiple premeditated escape routes that quickly take you away from the likely location and/or route that an armed attacker would take to get to you.
  • If you are near an emergency exit, back door, or other lesser used exit, having this as one of your designated escape routes may be your best option during an attack, especially if this route is out of the line of sight of an attacker.
  • It is critical that you escape before an attacker is near you (i.e. close enough to shoot or stab you) because it is the safest response.
  • Ideally, this escape route provides you with concealment along the way, should the attacker somehow close the distance while you are escaping.
  • Be vigilant during your escape, avoid major walkways/open areas and be prepared to quickly take cover/hide.


  • Next best in terms of safety.
  • Like playing “hide and seek”, seek out areas with better physical security (i.e. rooms with no or less windows/able to lock or block the door).
  • As much as possible, find multiple premeditated hiding spots or locations that provide both concealment (out of sight) and cover (physical barrier to bullets or a knife).
  • Seek to avoid contact with an attacker by getting as far away as possible from his last known location and/or his likely entry point into the building or the room/space you are hiding in.
  • Although it may be difficult, with proper planning, it is often possible to find a hiding spot with good concealment and an escape route, so you aren’t easily found and don’t become trapped.
  • Wherever your hiding spot, be sure that you can properly lock/barricade the door(s) and turn off the lights.
  • Remain hidden/silent and don’t forget to silence your phone.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Should the attacker have a knife, remaining inside a secured interior room or building is your best option because he shouldn’t be able to gain entry.


  • Given the fact that you will likely be unarmed or poorly armed and less prepared then an attacker, you will be at an extreme disadvantage. Therefore, fighting is the most dangerous option and should be avoided at all costs; should you decide to fight, fight for your life.
  • In other words, fight only if you are unable to run or hide or if the attacker is about to find you.
  • If possible, use the element of surprise and team up with others to defend yourself.
  • If you are in imminent danger from an attacker, you will need to close the distance and then then follow the 5 D’s (first, read this article and then watch the narrated video for examples).