A-Z Index

Hostile Intruder

First and foremost, it is important to know and understand that no safety measure is 100% effective. We cannot stop violent acts from happening. There is no way to predict when or where, the date or time an active shooter event will occur. We can, however, mitigate our preparedness efforts in an attempt to save lives by having a better knowledge of our response options.

Profile of a Hostile Intruder

A hostile intruder is an individual actively engaged in killing, attempting to kill or inflicting serious bodily harm to people in a confined and populated area. In most cases, hostile intruders use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.

Hostile intruder situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. 

Because hostile intruder situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an hostile intruder situation.

Good practices for coping with a hostile intruder situation

  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
  • If you are safely able to do so, evacuate the building to a safe area.
  • If you are in an office and cannot evacuate, secure the door, turn out lights and silence your cell phone.
  • If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
  • As a last resort, attempt to take the hostile intruder down. When the intruder is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.

Call University Police when it is safe to do so!

How to Response When a Hostile Intruder is in Your Vicinity

Several recent and very tragic incidents in public spaces around the country have heightened the public’s concern and awareness about what steps to take if ever confronted with a similar situation. The Northwest Missouri State University Police Department offers the following recommendations and asks that you share them with other members of the campus community.

First, quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life and those around you. Remember that students and visitors are likely to follow the lead of faculty and staff during a hostile intruder situation.

Second, if you ever find yourself in the middle of a hostile intruder event, your survival may depend on whether or not you have a plan. The plan doesn’t have to be complicated and may be as simple as three things that you can do that make a difference: 

Run.  Hide.  Fight.

  1. RUN

    When an active hostile intruder is in your vicinity and it is safe to do so:
    • Attempt to evacuate if there is an escape path
    • Evacuate whether others agree to or not
    • Leave your belongings behind
    • Help others escape if possible
    • Prevent others from entering the area
    • Call University Police at 660.562.1254 when you are safe

  2. HIDE

    If an evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide.

    • Lock and/or blockade the door with heavy furniture
    • Silence your cell phone
    • Turn off any source of noise (i.e., radios, television)
    • Hide behind large objects
    • Remain very quiet

    Your hiding place should:

    • Be out of the shooter’s view
    • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction
    • Not trap or restrict your options for movement

  3. FIGHT

    As a last resort, and only if your life is in imminent danger:
    • Attempt to incapacitate the intruder
    • Act with physical aggression (your life depends on it!)
    • Improvise weapons (i.e., chairs, books, cell phones, computers)
    • Commit to your actions

Be aware of your environment and each facility you visit daily. Familiarize yourself with those emergency plans and always have an exit strategy.

Know that in an incident like this, victims are generally chosen randomly. These events are unpredictable and often evolve quickly. Remember, the quicker you decide to act, the greater your chances of survival should you find yourself confronted with a hostile intruder situation.

Your actions can make a difference for your safety and survival. Be aware and be prepared.

And, if you should ever find yourself faced with a hostile intruder, there are three key things you need to remember that will help you be prepared:  Run.  Hide.  Fight.

How To Response When Law Enforcement Arrives

Law enforcement’s purpose is to stop the hostile intruder as soon as possible. Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the intruder was last seen or where the last shots were heard.

  • Officers usually arrive in teams of four, but may be two or even one.
  • Officers may wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment.
  • Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns and handguns.
  • Officers may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
  • Officers may shout commands and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.

The first responding officers' priority is to make contact with the intruder and stop all aggressive behavior. These officers will not stop to help injured persons, but instead proceed forward in an attempt to engage the intruder as quickly as possible and prevent any further harm to innocent bystanders.   

When law enforcement arrives (if weapons are involved):

  • Remain calm and follow officers’ instructions
  • Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets, cell phones)
  • Immediately raise your hands and spread your fingers
  • Keep your hands visible at all times
  • Avoid making quick movements towards officers such as holding on to them for safety
  • Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling
  • Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises

Information to provide to law enforcement or emergency operator:

  • Location of the hostile intruder
  • Number of intruders, if more than one
  • Physical description of intruder
  • Number and type of weapons held by the intruder
  • Number of potential victims at the location

Expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises.

Once you have reached a safe location or an assembly point, you will likely be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Do not leave until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.

De-escalating techniques for dealing with angry or upset individuals:

  • Remain calm and attentive
  • Be respectful and professional
  • Be non-judgmental
  • Listen
    • ask questions for clarification
    • paraphrase or restate to ensure your understanding
    • Try to be empathetic to their feelings
    • Be positive
    • Provide explanations when possible

Training Staff for a Hostile Intruder Situation

To best prepare staff for a hostile intruder situation, create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), and conduct training exercises. Together, the EAP and training exercises will prepare staff members to effectively respond and help minimize loss of life.

Components of an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

Create the EAP with input from several stakeholders including University Police and Health and Safety.  An effective EAP includes:

  • A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • An evacuation policy and procedure
  • Emergency escape procedures and route assignments (i.e., floor plans, safe areas)
  • Contact information for, and responsibilities of, individuals to be contacted under the EAP
  • Information concerning local area hospitals (i.e., name, telephone number and distance from your location)
  • An emergency notification system to alert various parties of an emergency including:
    • Individuals at remote locations within premises
    • Local law enforcement
    • Local area hospitals

Assisting Individuals with Special Needs and/or Disabilities

  • Ensure that EAP’s, evacuation instructions and any other relevant information addresses to individuals with special needs and/or disabilities
  • Your building should be handicap-accessible in compliance with ADA requirements

Components of Training Exercises

The most effective way to train staff to respond to a hostile intruder situation is to conduct mock hostile intruder training exercises. Northwest's University Police Department is an excellent resource in designing training agendas and training exercises which could include:

  • Recognizing the sound of gunshots
  • Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard and/or when a shooting is witnessed:
    • Run / Hide / Fight
  • Calling the University Police Department at 660.562.1254
  • Reacting when law enforcement arrives
  • Adopting the survival mind set during times of crisis


For more information, please contact:

University Police Department
Northwest Missouri State University
660.562.1254 |