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What to Do in the Event of an Active Harmer

You don’t need a black belt to protect yourself

minute read

Michael Bear, director of Emergency Management at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, says three simple actions can be taken to save your life: run, hide and fight. Bear, joined by CU Anschutz Police Chief Randy Repola, discussed important steps to take to be prepared if you are faced with an emergency situation. 

At the recent presentation, Bear stressed the importance of situational awareness, being conscious of your surroundings. He said, “There is no one location that is exceedingly dangerous. These things can take place anywhere.” There are also no typical characteristics of a shooter, he said, so if you notice anyone acting suspicious, you should report him or her to campus police. 

Dos and Don'ts

Chief Repola explained the ways to contact law enforcement, depending on the situation. University Police can be reached anytime at 303-724-4444 regarding urgent situations, suspicious activity and any general safety concerns while on campus. If you are calling due to an emergency, Bear highlights the dos and don'ts when speaking with dispatch in order to get help as quickly as possible: 

  • Do: Speak clearly and concisely. Giving straight and short answers is the most efficient way to communicate the emergency.. 
  • Do: Know your location, including the building and floor. Even though buildings may have several names, responders are trained to know them all and will know where to find you.
  • Do: Cooperate. “Don’t let stress get the better of you, even though that is easier said than done,” says Bear. In high-intensity situations, it can be hard to keep your composure, but when speaking to the dispatcher, try to speak slowly, remain calm and focus only on answering the questions asked of you. 
  • Don’t: Hang up. Staying on the line is crucial when speaking to dispatch for a variety of reasons. Hanging up and calling back means you will have to go through the process of identifying yourself, your location and situation all over again. In addition, remaining on the line allows you to update the dispatcher on your circumstances so law enforcement knows the best course of action to take when they arrive. 

If calling is not an option, there are other actions you can take to notify law enforcement of an urgent situation. 


Michael Bear, director of Emergency Management at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, talks about steps to take to be prepared for an emergency situation. 

Due to the CU Anschutz classroom security project, all classrooms in the Education buildings and one of the Research buildings are equipped with a panic button, strobe light, severe bleeding control kit, electronic door locks and opaque film on the reinforced windows. The panic button, strobe light and bleeding control kit are set with alarms that notify law enforcement when opened or activated. 

SafeZone App

The officers also strongly suggest downloading the SafeZone App. “It’s a panic button in your pocket,” says Bear. The app is directly connected to University Police and provides response to emergencies, medical assistance, CU Campus Alerts and a check-in feature which briefly allows law enforcement to track your location until you declare yourself safe. 

Three actions can be taken when faced with an active harmer situation.

  • Run. If you can, the best course of action is always to evacuate as quickly as possible. Try to determine where the shooter is, and go the opposite way, out the nearest exit.
  • Hide. If you are not in the position to vacate the premise, hide yourself. Typically, active harmers usually aim at what they can see, and won’t go out of their way to search through rooms or blocked doors. Hide behind large objects, turn off the lights, silence your phone and barricade the door. Repola stressed the importance of not using your body to barricade a door, even if there is nothing else to use, because you can end up becoming collateral damage. 
  • Fight. As an absolute last option, prepare to defend yourself against the harmer. This does not have to be hand-to-hand combat. Distracting them by making noise or throwing objects at them will give someone else the ability to take them down. Use what is at your disposal. Classroom objects, your clothing, a purse – almost anything can be used as a weapon. 

Repola highlights what to do when law enforcement officers arrive at the scene: 

  • Keep your hands up. Oftentimes the harmer will not have been clearly identified, so you want to make it abundantly clear that you are not the harmer. This makes the process of locating him or her much faster.
  • Listen to directions. You will be given clear instructions on where to go, and if you have relevant information, you are advised to share it with the officers.
  • Don’t open the door. If you are hiding in a room in which the automatic door locks have been activated, they are not accessible from the outside. Only officers have the ability to open those doors, and will do so when they arrive. “If someone knocks and says they are law enforcement, do not open it,” states Repola, “Wait for help to come to you.”

Maintain situational awareness

Simply, being prepared is the best thing you can do. Familiarize yourself with the building you are in, and make note of at least two possible exits. When walking on campus, limit headphone use so you can maintain situational awareness. Take any drills that are conducted seriously, and finally, report any suspicious behavior. Bear adds that he sticks to the tried-and-true saying: “If you see something, say something.” 

When it comes to unusual behavior of campus affiliates, please report concerns to either the CARE (Campus Assessment, Response & Evaluation) Team (for students) at 303-724-8888 or the FaST (Faculty and Staff Assessment) Team at 303-315-0182 (for employees).

You are encouraged to report suspicious behavior, as it can prevent a situation from escalating to a lethal one. Repola concluded by stating, “It’s the one area we can preemptively intervene.” 


Emergency Services resources:

University Police: 303-724-4444

Emergency Management: 303-724-4999

CU Anschutz Information Line: 877-INFO-070

CU Anschutz CARE Team: 303-724-8888 / CareReport.CUAnschutz.edu

FaST Team: 303-315-0182 / FacultyStaff.Assessment@ucdenver.edu

Colorado State Employee Assistance Program: 303-866-4314 / 800-821-8154

Run. Hide. Fight. Video: www.fbi.gov

Guest contributor: Elise Martin, Office of Communications