Is Your Citizen Communication Strategy Prepared for an Active Shooter?

Written by CivicPlus

One of the most vital responsibilities of a local government is to offer citizen protection. The rising threat of active shooters in our nation has placed a spotlight on the need for greater resources to help protect citizens from the dangers of community violence. While no municipality can fully protect its citizens from dangerous situations, all are empowered to put systems in place to notify citizens when active shooters and other community threats have been identified, helping to reduce the risk of citizen exposure to life-threatening situations. 

The Rising Threat of Active Shooter Events 

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), active shooter events are on the rise and, frighteningly, are more prevalent now than in any period within the last 16 years of our nation’s history. According to the FBI, 2014 and 2015 each saw 20 active shooter incidents in the United States, representing nearly six times as many as the period between 2000 and 2001. The perception of sheer randomness, and the unpredictability of those unstable individuals who conduct public rampages has left citizens feeling unsafe and unprotected in even their own home communities.  


With shootings having occurred across the nation in colleges, schools, restaurants, shopping malls, places of worship, and even government offices, Americans fear unexpected disaster at every community corner and familiar place. It is the responsibility of civic leaders to use all available means to communicate threats, safety measures, and available safe resources to their citizens in times of emergency, especially when an active shooter threat is imminent, or an event is in progress. The most effective way to communicate vital information is with an integrated citizen mass communication system that utilizes a multi-channel strategy not just during events, but during periods of recovery – keeping citizens informed every step of the way. 

Click here to watch a recorded webinar from our safety experts with more tips on preparing for an active shooter event in your community.

The Multi-Channel CivicReady Citizen Mass Communication System 

The CivicReady citizen mass notification system from CivicPlus allows emergency managers and local government leaders to quickly and effectively communicate with citizens in times of danger or disaster. CivicReady provides a trusted, official source of safety information, keeping citizens informed at every key stage in an emergency, from early warnings, through event duration, and recovery. When every second counts, CivicReady allows administrators to draft a single message to be distributed across multiple channels, such as email, text message, voice message, social media, and the web. The ability to allow citizens to opt-in to receive notifications via their preferred communication method means the greatest opportunity for citizen response. Coupled with CivicReady's integration with the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), CivicReady maximizes citizen reach in times of danger and disaster. 

Download IPAWS Product Sheet

Active Shooter Scenario without CivicReady 

If local law enforcement received a report today that an active shooter was confirmed in your community, how would you respond? If you are lacking a citizen mass communication system, your communication strategy would probably look like this: 

  • Step one: Contact the media. You would search your files for contact information for your local media rep. It may take you a few indirect attempts to reach someone in the news room who can assist, especially if the active shooter event occurs outside of business hours. Once you are in contact with an appropriate resource, you will need to provide all of the details that you are aware of so that the media can share the story on television and their website.
    Time investment: 15 – 20 minutes.  

  • Step two: Post a message to your website. Depending on the complexity of your municipal website, this may be something you can accomplish yourself, or you may need to get in touch with your web development vendor to post the message.  
    Time investment: 5 –20 minutes (if your web vendor is immediately accessible). 

  • Step three: Post a message to social media: You will need to log-in to each account separately to share your message. This likely includes at least Facebook and Twitter.
    Time investment: 10 minutes. 

  • Step four: Send a citizen email alert. If you have a database of citizen email addresses, and a system that allows you to send mass emails, you will need to draft a message, link it to an opt-in email list, test it, and then send it out to subscribers. 
    Time investment: 20 – 30 minutes. 

As new information becomes available: Repeat steps one through four.  

Total time investment: 50 – 80 minutes for each communication update. 

The frightening reality with this approach, is that by the time you have communicated vital information, the dangerous situation facing your community may have changed. The shooter may have relocated, other areas may be in danger, or new safety information may be available that you are physically unable to disseminate in time for it to be actionable, and all the while, citizens may be unaware of the danger they face. 

Active Shooter Scenario with CivicReady 

If your local government has implemented CivicReady, your citizen safety communication workflow will look like this: 

Step one: Draft your message or leverage an existing template within the CivicReady IPAWS connectivity interface. Include all IPAWS channels and CivicReady mass notification channels. Click send. Your message is distributed via:

  • Radio
  • Television
  • Mobile push notification
  • Various connected internet services
  • Email to opted-in subscribers and databases 
  • Text message to opted-in subscribers and databases
  • Phone call to opted-in subscribers and databases
  • Integrated social media sites
  • As a message on your civic website

As new information becomes available: Repeat this step.  

Total time investment: 5 minutes for each communication update. 

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When every second counts, emergency managers and other local government officials are enabled to use multiple communication channels to distribute life-saving information to citizens with CivicReady. With updates distributed as close to real time as possible to the greatest number of citizens possible, during an active shooter event emergency managers are able to help keep citizens safe and informed.

CivicReady also provides: 

  • Two-way communications and interactive voice response

  • Geo-targeted notifications via Environmental System Research Institute (ESRI) Mapping

  • Mobile app

  • Conference bridge

  • Geofencing

  • Automated multilingual translations

Don't wait for your communication plan to be tested by an active shooter, or another community emergency, before implementing a proactive mass notification solution to citizen safety. Click below to sign up for a demonstration of our powerful CivicReady solution and learn how it can help you maximize the reach of your message when every second counts.

Sign up for a demonstration of the CivicReady Mass Notification System