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Safety Guidelines for Active Shooter Situations on Campus

If you witness any armed individual on campus at any time or if an individual is acting in a hostile or belligerent manner, immediately contact Cornell Police at (607) 255-1111 or dial 911 from a campus phone. This document provides guidance to faculty, staff, and students who may be caught in an active shooter situation, and describes what to expect from responding law enforcement officers. Be aware that the 911 system, as well as cell phone systems, may become overwhelmed.

What is an "Active Shooter?"

An active shooter is a person or persons who appear to be actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in populated areas on campus. In most cases active shooters use firearm(s) and display no pattern or method for selection of their victims. In some cases active shooters use other weapons and/or improvised explosive devices to cause additional victimization and act as an impediment to law enforcement and emergency services responders. These improvised explosive devices may detonate immediately, have delayed detonation fuses, or may detonate on contact.

What makes an Active Shooter situation different from a hostage or barricaded subject situation?

Active shooter situations are dynamic and evolve rapidly, demanding immediate response by the community and immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to stop the shooting and prevent further harm to the community.

Hostage or barricaded subject situations often take place over a longer period of time, and usually there is no ongoing injury or loss of life. These situations are often managed through the deployment of specialized units, as time allows. Both hostage and barricaded subject situations can rapidly shift to Active Shooter situations, and vice versa.


In general, how you respond to an active shooter will be dictated by the specific circumstances of the encounter. If you find yourself involved in an active shooter situation, try to remain calm and CALL 911 as soon as possible.

What should I do if I find myself involved in an Active Shooter situation?

If an active shooter is outside your building or inside the building you are in, you should:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Try to warn other faculty, staff, students and visitors to take immediate shelter
  • Proceed to a room that can be locked or barricaded
  • Lock and barricade doors or windows
  • Turn off lights
  • Close blinds
  • Block windows
  • Turn off radios or other devices that emit sound
  • Keep yourself out of sight and take adequate cover/protection, i.e. concrete walls, thick desks, filing cabinets
  • Silence cell phones
  • Have one person CALL 911 and provide:

    "This is Cornell University (give your exact location) we have an active shooter on campus, gunshots fired."

What additional information will law enforcement be looking for?

If you were able to see the offender(s), give a description of the persons(s) sex, race, clothing, type of weapon(s), location last seen, direction of travel, and identity ? if known.

If you observed any victims, give a description of the location and number of victims.

If you observed any suspicious devices (improvised explosive devices), provide the location seen and a description.

If you heard any explosions, provide a description and location.

What else should I look for?

  • Wait patiently until a uniformed law enforcement officer, or a university official known to you, provides an "all clear".
  • Do not respond to voice commands until you can verify with certainty that they are being issued by a law enforcement officer or university official; unfamiliar voices may be an active shooter trying to lure you from safety.
  • Attempts to rescue people should only be attempted if it can be accomplished without further endangering the persons inside a secured area.
  • Depending on circumstances, consideration may also be given to exiting ground floor windows as safely and quietly as possible.

What if the Active Shooter comes into the area where I am?

If an active shooter enters your office or classroom, you should:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Try not to do anything that will provoke the active shooter
  • If there is no possibility of escape or hiding, only as a last resort when it is imminent that your life is in danger should you make a personal choice to attempt to negotiate with or overpower the assailant(s)
  • Call 911, if possible, and provide the information listed in the previous guideline
  • If the active shooter(s) leaves the area, barricade the room, or proceed to a safer location

If you are in an outside area and encounter an active shooter, you should:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Move away from the active shooter or the sound of gunshot(s) and/or
  • Look for appropriate locations for cover/protection, i.e. brick walls, retaining walls, large trees, parked vehicles, or any other object that may stop bullet penetration
  • Try to warn other faculty, staff, students and visitors to take immediate shelter
  • CALL 911 and provide the information listed in the first guideline

What should I expect from responding officers?

The objectives of responding law enforcement officers are:

  • Immediately engage or contain the active shooter(s) in order to stop life threatening behavior
  • Identify threats such as improvised explosive devices
  • Identifying victims to facilitate medical care, interviews and counseling
  • Investigation

Law enforcement officers responding to an active shooter are trained to proceed immediately to the area in which shots were last heard in order to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers may be in teams; they may be dressed in normal patrol uniforms, or they may be wearing external ballistic vests and Kevlar helmets or other tactical gear. The officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns or handguns.

Do exactly as the team of officers instruct. The first responding officers will be focused on stopping the active shooter and creating a safe environment for medical assistance to be brought in to aid the injured.

In case you must flee, do not go to the normal gather site for your building. Get as far away from the shooting scene as possible, and call 911.