Building preparedness in response to active shooter incidents: Results of focus group interviews Article

Zhu, R, Lucas, GM, Becerik-Gerber, B et al. (2020). Building preparedness in response to active shooter incidents: Results of focus group interviews . INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DISASTER RISK REDUCTION, 48 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.101617

cited authors

  • Zhu, R; Lucas, GM; Becerik-Gerber, B; Southers, EG



  • Active shooter incidents present an increasing threat to the American society. Many of these incidents occur in building environments, therefore, it is important to consider design and security elements in buildings to decrease the risk of active shooter incidents. This study aims to assess current security countermeasures and identify varying considerations associated with implementing these countermeasures. Fifteen participants, with expertise and experience in a diverse collection of operational and organizational backgrounds, including security, engineering, law enforcement, emergency management and policy making, participated in three focus group interviews. The participants identified a list of countermeasures that have been used for active shooter incidents. Important determinants for the effectiveness of countermeasures include their influence on occupants' behavior during active shooter incidents, and occupants' and administrators' awareness of how to use them effectively. The nature of incidents (e.g., internal vs. external threats), building type (e.g., office buildings vs. school buildings), and occupants (e.g., students of different ages) were also recognized to affect the selection of appropriate countermeasures. The nexus between emergency preparedness and normal operations, and the importance of tradeoffs such as the ones between cost, aesthetics, maintenance needs and the influence on occupants' daily activities were also discussed. To ensure the effectiveness of countermeasures and improve safety, the participants highlighted the importance of both training and practice, for occupants and administrators (e.g., first responder teams). The interview results suggested that further study of the relationship between security countermeasures and occupants' and administrators’ responses, as well as efficient training approaches are needed.

publication date

  • September 1, 2020

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


  • 48