Published: Oct. 27, 2020

Although uncommon, everyone should be prepared for how to react when faced with an active harmer situation. We use the phrase "active harmer" because the weapon is not limited to a gun. It could be a knife, a car, a bomb or something else. 

At CU Boulder, we use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s program called Run, Hide, Fight. These response steps work whether you are at the mall, in a grocery store or even here on campus. 

The steps of Run, Hide, Fight are simple and are appropriate no matter what the weapon the attacker is using:

  • Run: Once you realize that you are near an active harmer situation, run away from danger to a safe place. Leave your belongings behind and help people who may need it. Once safe, stop other people from entering the dangerous situation and call 911.
  • Hide: If escape is not possible, hide from the attacker. Silence all electronic devices and turn off vibration mode. If possible, lock the doors and turn off the lights. Try not to hide in large groups, and stay in place until law enforcement tells you it is clear to go.
  • Fight: As an absolute last resort, fight. Commit to your actions and act with aggression towards the harmer. Get others in the room involved, and use improvised weapons such as a chair or a fire extinguisher.

Law enforcement will respond, but it could take a minute or two before the first units arrive. When you see law enforcement, keep your hands visible and empty. Officers may be armed with large weapons and may shout commands to get you to safety and initial responders may not stop to help you. They are focusing on finding the active harmer.

Being prepared for such an incident may increase your chances at surviving an active harmer incident. You can find more information and watch a short video that reinforces the steps to Run, Hide, Fight on the CU Boulder Police website.