Run-Hide-Fight and University Mass Notification and Active Shooter Protocols

Mass notification messages should complement the instructions we’re giving our campus communities.

In light of active shooter incidents in the United States and abroad, many institutions of higher education were quick to adopt and integrate the “Run-Hide-Fight” system into their organizational protocols. The system, in short, encourages individuals to run away if possible, hide as a second option and fight as a last resort. Run-Hide-Fight is promoted by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as many university police departments and crisis management departments.

Implications of Run-Hide-Fight in Higher Education
In higher education, the significance of adopting the Run-Hide-Fight system and the empowerment of individuals to choose their response to an active shooter situation is a shift in responsibility and accountability from the institution to the campus community.

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After transitioning to the “Run-Hide-Fight” approach, it’s important to understand a few things.

  • 1. The Run-Hide-Fight based approach should not be contradicted until or unless it is directed by the law enforcement.
  • 2. In active shooter situations, there is no telling how the students and the faculty are going to perceive a particular environment and what mode of action they will choose based on their interpretations.
  • 3. As the situation evolves a lot of people will change their mode of action based on the perception of the current situation.
  • 4. Educators should be directly responsible for the students and the students should be directed to follow the command of directions that come from them.

Using Run-Hide-Fight with Mass Notification and Active Shooter Protocols
From a pragmatic point of view mass notification and active shooter protocols must take into consideration the expected results of the Run-Hide-Fight guidelines.  Mass notification should also be used in conjunction with Clery Act guidelines.

  • 1. When applicable mass notification should deliver the message from first responders.In other words, if police deem it necessary to lockdown, the institution should deliver a lockdown message.
  • 2. The institution’s message should be informational and up to date.
  • 3. Mass notification active shooter wording needs to be chosen carefully, preferably using pre-approved language.
  • 4. Higher education active shooter protocols must embrace decision making neutrality, allowing for the individuals to make and act on their own decision.

Active shooter protocols should assist decision makers by providing information on where to run, how to effectively hide and when to fight.

Following the instructions above, an example of an active shooter message would be “……has been reported. Take immediate action to secure yourself. If you are off campus remain off campus. We will continue to provide updates when additional information becomes available.”

In the case of an active shooter situation, institutions of higher education that adopt the Run-Hide-Fight system need to evolve their mass notification and active shooter protocols to reflect the shift in responsibilities and assist to the best of their ability the campus level-decision makers.

Oren Alter is the Associate Vice Chancellor of Crisis Management for a multi-campus University in the Southeast United States. Mr. Alter has more than 20 years of experience both government and private entities.

Brandon Biederman is the Associate Vice Chancellor of Compliance for a multi-campus University. Mr. Biederman has more than 13 years of experience in the compliance arena in both the non-profit arena and governmental sector.

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