Shots Fired on Campus: When Lightning Strikes

Why develop this program at UD?

The brutal reality is that shooting incidents have happened at college campuses and there is the stark possibility that it will happen again. Virginia Tech (April 2007), Northern Illinois (February 2008) and University of Alabama at Huntsville (February 2010) are reminders of how these events can happen on any campus.

The goal of the University of Delaware Police Department is to provide our on-campus community with some strategies and tools to help you act as quickly and appropriately as you can in a shooting incident. There is no “right” answer, so use what will work best for you.

A notice about broadcasting rights:

To promote safety and enhance preparedness for emergencies, the University of Delaware has acquired the rights for members of the campus community to view the "Shots Fired on Campus: When Lightning Strikes" video from its production company, the Center for Personal Protection and Safety. Under this agreement, students, faculty and staff need to use their UDelNet ID and password to access the video and the University cannot grant access to non-UD personnel.

Watch the Shots Fired on Campus Video

Read Transcript (.pdf)


There is no foolproof answer to how to respond in a shooting situation. There are guidelines that can be followed to maximize success. The University of Delaware Police Department points out the following key messages:

Awareness and Preparedness

  • This type of event can happen here. Universities are inherently open environments, and are difficult to secure.
  • Be knowledgeable of resources available for persons who appear to need psychological or emotional help.
  • Is there someone you know who may be showing signs of instability or concern? Recommend counseling services or consider calling the police for guidance. Counseling Assistance for UD students is available at the Center for Counseling and Student Development.
  • Active shooting incidents create chaos. Expect a confusing environment. React with a simple plan.
  • There may be more than one “right” answer for your situation.
  • Your approach to the situation may change if conditions change.
  • Know you will act and will survive.

Action Steps

If an active shooting incident occurs near you, try to:

  • Get out: Get away from the shooter. Go inside, away from the shooting or as far a distance from the shooting as possible. Call 9-1-1 and, if you can, provide the location of the shooting and a description of the shooters.
  • Hide out: If you cannot get out of the building where the shooting is occurring, find a room in which you can hide. If you have to hide out:
    • Lock door
    • Turn off lights
    • Spread out in the room; do not huddle in a group
    • Silence cell phones
  • Take out: This is the ultimate “last option.” You and classmates or friends may find yourself in a situation where the shooter is attacking you. If such an event occurs, quickly develop a plan to attack the shooter. Use items such as computers, bags, backpacks, purses and textbooks for improvised weapons, consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive.

Law Enforcement Response

Law enforcement agencies in Delaware, including the University of Delaware Police Department, have trained on responses to active shooting incidents. Be mindful that police response will come as expediently as possible, but in the first few minutes of such an incident you may have to rely on your own actions to assure your safety.

Remember: law enforcement officers are taught that “hands kill.” When the officers arrive, they may have a description of the shooter, but have no way of knowing who exactly is a threat. If you are a bystander and are approached by police during a shooting incident, put your hands up and out with fingers spread. Tell them any information you have on the shooter. And be prepared for them to continue past you to the shooter. If you can, and if the officers tell you it is clear, you may consider leaving the building the way the officers entered.

Department of Homeland Security

Active Shooter Preparedness:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aims to enhance preparedness through a "whole community" approach by providing training, products, and resources to a broad range of stakeholders on issues such as active shooter awareness, incident response, and workplace violence. In many cases, there is no pattern or method to the selection of victims by an active shooter, and these situations are by their very nature are unpredictable and evolve quickly. DHS offers free courses, materials, and workshops to better prepare you to deal with an active shooter situation and to raise awareness of behaviors that represent pre-incident indicators and characteristics of active shooters.

If you have any questions about this video, or would like UDPD to provide a presentation to your group, please feel free to contact the University of Delaware Police Department at (302) 831-2222.