Calling 911 during an active shooter event is not as easy as many believe. We see people struggling with providing the basic information time and time again during scenario training. It is an important thing to be able to do. This video, recorded live on Facebook, provides information that you need to know when calling 911to get law enforcement officers responding. The information you provide can increase their speed in stopping the shooting which will save lives.

Information to Provide when Calling 911

The responding law enforcement officer’s primary duty is to stop the threat. Any information you can provide when calling 911 to help with their mission will be helpful. Keep the information you provide to what you know. If you don’t know something, don’t speculate or guess. Good information is accurate information. Things that will be helpful:

  • Description of Bad Guy. If you saw the bad guy, or bad guys, provide the information you could identify and remember. Tell how many armed intruders you identified. Describe what the intruder looks like by clothing, head gear, height estimate, weight estimate, color of skin, and any other descriptors. Describe any weapons such as rifles, hand guns, explosives strapped to body, etc. Tell the operator if you saw any bags, backpacks, or other cases carried by or with the intruders. Provide information on the intruder’s behavior if possible (calm with the 1000-yard stare vs. running around erratically) and anything you may have heard the intruder say or yell.
  • Location of Bad Guy or Bad Guys. It takes a long time to clear a large building or school. Knowing the location of the bad guy inside saves a considerable amount of time for those responding to the threat. The more specific the location provided to law enforcement, the quicker they can stop the shooting. Law enforcement most likely won’t be familiar with the building and its layout. Use descriptions they will be able to understand and follow. Floor numbers, specific room numbers, cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West), and so on. One thing the schools in our community did was to put room numbers facing outside in the classroom windows. If you say room 123, the police will be able to identify room 123 from the outside of the building. Another thing we discuss with schools is that young students often remember the room as Mrs. Smith’s room rather than room 123. Putting the name and number may be prudent in case of someone calling and only remember what teacher’s room, and not the actual number. (Having the number on the inside of the classroom, as well as out in the hall, would make this easier for callers too.) Be as specific as you can, but remember every bit of information can be helpful. Even if you don’t know the room, saying, “he came in the entrance on the West end of the building and the shots are coming from a classroom on that end.” That at least narrows it down some and will make it easier for the police to know where to start looking. Obviously, before you can tell them the West end of the building, you must be able to tell them the address you are located, and if you don’t know the cardinal directions, provide something that will assist the officers in finding the correct location. For example, “I’m at the Southgate mall and a man wearing jeans and a black t-shirt is shooting at people with a semi-automatic handgun near the Clock Tower in the middle of the mall.”
  • Your location and description if relevant. If you have escaped to safety and are calling 911 from a safe location away from the shooting, your description and location isn’t going to be that helpful and you probably don’t need to provide it. Information that is not helpful is best left out of the communications. If you are barricaded in a certain room, that could be relevant as it at least provides a location police don’t have to search and clear. You may say, “I’m barricaded in room 132 with three other people and we are safe right now.” If you had to attack back and stop the attacker, you will want to provide this information. Describe the bad guy, but also give a description of yourself as the good guy. Tell them your exact location to the best of your ability. I’ll provide some additional information regarding this scenario in one of the next sections.
  • Location of injured and type of injury. As I’ve said, the first priority of the police is to stop the shooting. The second priority is to ensure there are no other shooters or additional threats. Only after they have accomplished these tasks will they turn to helping wounded. That’s why it is critical that you know how to stop bleeding and have tourniquets and pressure bandages available in first aid kits. It is still important to provide the 911 dispatcher information on those injured. This information will also help the paramedics who will come in to treat wounded once cleared to do so by the police. Focus on life-threatening injuries. If John twisted his ankle while barricading in a room, he is going to be okay until everyone else is treated. The 911 dispatcher needs to know about life-threatening injuries, those that need immediate treatment or they may die: How many injured? How bad and what kind of injury? Where are they? You may also add what treatment has been provided, and if the injured person is mobile or not.

Practice calling 911 so you can do it quickly and accurately if you have to.

Calling 911 During an Active Shooter Event