Staying Safe During an Active Shooter Event

The VCU Police Department works hard to keep our community safe from all types of threats, including active shooters. Our officers are well trained and well equipped to handle active shooter incidents, but just like any other type of emergency, you should know how to keep yourself safe until help arrives to stop the threat.

  • Stay informed by signing up for VCU Alerts ( before emergencies occur. During an emergency VCU Police will advise the community of any immediate danger by activating the campus emergency notification system which includes outdoor warning sirens, indoor Alertus beacons, text messages, e-mails, desktop alerts, digital signage, and social media. Follow instructions provided by VCU Alert and VCU Police officers.
  • Stay Calm. During an active shooter event police will move quickly to end the threat. VCU Alert will advise you to “lockdown” until the situation is resolved. Remember that safety is everyone’s responsibility, meaning you will need to act quickly and make smart decisions in order to stay safe.

How do I lockdown during an active shooter event?

  • Lock and barricade doors if possible. If you are in a room that cannot be secured or feels unsafe, consider seeking refuge in another nearby room that is more secure. 
  • Turn off lights and silence electronic devices, hide out of sight and away from doors and interior windows. 
  • Do not let anyone enter the room once it has been secured. Wait quietly until you receive further instructions from VCU Alert.

Doors without locks can be secured using a belt or tie to secure the arm of the door. 

Photo: a person uses a belt to secure the arm at the top of a door.

How can I contact VCU Police during an active shooter incident?

  • Call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234
  • Do not place a phone call if you are at risk of being heard by the shooter. Wait until you are relatively safe to make the call.
  • If it is unsafe to make a phone call, you can use the VCU Police LiveSafe App to text with our dispatchers. This app is free users can send texts, photos and video to VCUPD 24/7.
  • If you see the shooter, try to remember a detailed description of their appearance, clothing, location and any weapons they are carrying.


While VCU Police are well trained, equipped, and capable of stopping threats to the VCU community, it is important to remember that safety is everyone’s responsibility.  During an active shooter event, you must be prepared to make the important decision to either run, hide, or fight if you find yourself in immediate danger.


Run: If you can safely escape the threat without putting yourself or others at risk, do so immediately. Know multiple evacuation routes and do not move towards the threat. Leave your belongings behind and exit the area as quickly as possible.

  • Do not stop once you decide to run, and try to prevent others from entering unsafe areas as you evacuate.
  • If you encounter any police officers, keep your hands in the air with fingers spread, follow their instructions and do not make any sudden movements or gestures. The first officers on scene are there to stop the threat, not to treat injuries or provide comfort. Keep moving and other first-responders will be in the area to assist you once you escape danger.

Hide: If unable to evacuate safely, follow the lockdown procedures outlined above to stay safe until the situation is resolved. Make smart choices about where to seek refuge. Ideally you will hide in a place that is out of sight, can be secured or locked, and provides some cover or concealment from the shooter.

Fight: As a last resort, if the shooter is an immediate threat to yourself you must take physical action to protect your life and stop the threat. Act with aggression and speed, attack the shooter at close range until the threat is stopped. Consider fighting as a group and using improvised weapons such as chairs and fire extinguishers.


For more information, review the following additional resources below for steps to take should you find yourself in an active shooter event. You can also watch the short YouTube video which outlines and gives examples of the steps you can take to increase your safety should you face an event:

FEMA IS 907 Course - Active Shooter: What You Can Do

RUN - HIDE - FIGHT - Surviving an Active Shooter Event (YouTube Safety Video)

A gunman opens fire in your building.  What do you do?