Safety Guidelines for Active Shooter Situations on Campus

Active Violence Response

An active violence incident involves an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; the individual may be armed with a firearm or bladed weapon or may in engage in other violent acts such as driving a vehicle into a crowd. There may or may not be a pattern or method to their selection of victims.

Active violence situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the violence and mitigate harm to victims. Chances are you will never find yourself in an active shooter situation, but everyone must take the time to prepare.  You can take decisive action to improve your chances of survival.

Active Shooter Preparedness Video

Before An Incident Occurs

  • Don’t assume it will never happen.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times along with any possible dangers.
  • Know where all of the exits in your area are located.
  • Determine whether the space you are in can be locked.
  • Know your exact workplace address including the office number.
  • Have an escape plan, same as in a fire.

Discuss with colleagues the plan you would enact in an incident (exits, sheltering in place, securing doors, assembly points, etc.) The phrase Run, Hide, Fight ® is a registered trademark of the City of Houston. Training concept is used by special permission.

When An Incident Occurs


  • Take decisive action if you hear gunshots—don't wait until others tell you to act.
  • Know your surroundings, have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Run and call 911 from a cell or campus phone when it's safe to do so. 
  • Help others if you can, but keep moving. 
  • When calling 911, be sure to provide an exact location—don't assume a dispatcher knows where you are located.


  • If you can't run, hide as a second option. 
  • Do not huddle together as it makes one easy target.
  • Lock and/or use items to barricade doors, shut off lights.
  • Put your cell phone on silent and call 911, but do not speak loudly to avoid being heard. 
  • Keep others calm around you. 


  • As a last resort, when running and hiding are not an option, fight when your life is in imminent danger. 
  • Assume a survival mindset and know that often times active violence situations are over in a few minutes.
  • Find an object to use as a weapon—fire extinguisher, chair, book bag, letter opener, etc.
  • Develop a plan with others to take out a potential shooter, be decisive and commit to action. Keep others calm around you. 

What should I tell the 911 operator when calling or texting?

  • 911 calls from your cell phone will go to either the Chicago Police Department, the Evanston Police Department or Illinois State Police dispatch centers, be sure to tell them you are on the campus of Northwestern University.
  • 911 calls from campus phones go directly to the Northwestern University Police dispatch center. (Do not dial 7 to get an outside line.)
  • Text to 911 is an option in both Chicago and the City of Evanston. Simply place “911” in the to line from your mobile phone and enter the details into the message field.
  • Be specific about the location where the incident is occurring. (e.g., “There is an active shooter on the campus of Northwestern University, first floor of Norris Center.”)
  • Provide a specific description of those involved, including clothing and weapons.
  • Pre-program your cell phone with the Northwestern University Police Department emergency number: 847-491-3456.

What should I expect when police officers arrive?

  • Remain calm and be prepared to show your hands to arriving police officers.
  • Do not slow down responding officers, follow their instructions and keep moving. Do advise them where the suspects may be in the building.
  • Don’t assume someone else is calling 911. If you have specific information and have made it out safely, call the police.

How can my residence hall, student organization, division or department receive training on active shooter response?

Every residence hall, student organization, division and department at Northwestern is encouraged to contact the Department of Safety & Security for specific training on active violence response. Please email University Police at to schedule training.