How to Make a Family Active Shooter Plan - Joy Through Chaos

What to Do in an Active Shooter Situation

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mom and daughter at store

You’re out in public and you hear gunfire. Would you know what to do? Would your kids understand what gunfire sounds like and what it means? Fear is not my thing. I never write with the intent to scare anyone, that’s not my goal. But we live in a time where mass shootings have become common, and as parents, we need to have an active shooter plan for our family and be ready to implement it when necessary.

Local municipalities have emergency plans for active shooter situations. Schools hold drills to practice their active shooter plan. Children learn to take cover under desks and tables while their teachers turn out lights, close shades, lock doors for lockdown mode. Or the class follows an evacuation plan, and the teacher leads their students to safety.

But what about when your kids are with you?

As a stay-at-home mom of young kids, anytime I go out to run an errand, my kids are with me. They’re too young to understand lockdown mode or evacuation drills.

The internet is full of resources for schools and businesses, but there is very little out there to help families develop an active shooter plan.

Make a Family Active Shooter Plan

Your plan is simple: survive.

Escaping should always be your first priority, but if there is active gunfire, escaping with children safely becomes more difficult.

I’ve created an entire active shooter plan blueprint in the toolkit and I break down escaping safely, but for this post, I want to focus on what to do if you cannot escape. Because, in my mind, it’s a much more likely situation that I’ll have to stay in the building with my kids.

If you cannot escape, you need to prepare yourself and your children for what to do next:

Get Down

As soon as you hear gunfire get down immediately. Get as low to the ground as you possibly can and shield smaller children with your body.


While staying low to the ground, find somewhere to hide. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

At the grocery store, behind a display or endcap would be good choices. If you’re somewhere like Target, hiding inside a dressing room or in a clothing rack are also good options.

Use a Code Word

Part of your active shooter plan should be to develop a family code word that everyone understands. The purpose of the code word is to quickly communicate that everyone must move quickly, quietly and stay together.


Your code word is also the word that you should be prepared to text your family. One word. That’s it. You don’t want to text an entire paragraph. Send one word and share your location from your smartphone.

Go ahead and create an ICE (in case of emergency) group chat. Let everyone know what the code word is and what it means and what you need them to do if they ever see it.

Your family should be prepared to call the police. The last thing I want to do is fiddle with my phone for an extended period of time. My mind is going to be focused on protecting my children. I need to trust my family to contact the authorities.

As parents, we need to have a family active shooter plan and be ready to implement it when necessary. Explaining step by step how to protect your family.


Ok, you’re not going to sleep. But, that’s what I teach my kids.

‘We’re going to pretend to sleep now, ok?’

What you’re actually doing is playing dead. Fighting tears? It’s ok. This is not something you ever want to do. But it could save you and your kids. Small children are powerless against a person intent on hurting others, so this technique could save all of you. Especially if you’re unable to find a good hiding spot.

Prepare your Kids

The realization that we even need to discuss this topic with our kids is paralyzing and it is awful that we have to talk about this. The hate and violence in the world feels overwhelming to us as parents, but we must prepare our kids.

Be frank and age appropriate. Tell them that there are bad people in the world that do scary things. And then explain to them step by step what you will do in those situations. How you’ll protect them and what you’re going to do in the event of an active shooter.

Practice at home. Go through all of the steps together, use the code word.

The more that your children are mentally prepared for the actions they’ll need to take, the quicker they’ll be to react in the situation.

It is my deepest hope that you and your family never need to use your active shooter plan. But if you do, I pray that knowing the steps and practicing them with your children keeps you all safe.

Until Next time! Chrissie

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