Australia: Responding to a shooting threat at your premises: Active Shooter Guidelines for Places of Mass Gathering

Last Updated: 15 November 2013
Article by Mark Lindfield

The Australian-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee recently released guidelines for planning and responding to a situation where a person uses a gun to threaten others at a transport hub, office building, shopping centre or other place where people gather in large numbers.

The Active Shooter Guidelines for Places of Mass Gathering (the Guidelines) provide a useful risk management tool of which property owners and managers should be aware, and which could potentially form part of their risk management plans.

Why have a plan for mass shootings?

In September, the world was shocked by images from the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where attackers killed 61 civilians and security personnel during a four-day siege. While we hope not to see such events repeated, the enormity of the crime in Kenya makes it easy to overlook how frequently mass shootings occur, even in more developed nations.

In the United States of America alone, in the short time since the Westgate Mall siege there have been more than 30 reported mass shootings in which four or more people have been wounded or killed. Most readers would expect that for cultural, political and historical reasons, the prevalence of mass shootings in that country would be greater than in Australia. However Australians should not be too complacent about the potential for an armed individual or individuals to cause havoc at a venue where there is a large concentration of workers, shoppers or leisure-seekers.

What are the key messages in the Guidelines?

The Guidelines are categorised in accordance with Australia's strategic approach to counter-terrorism, which encourages stakeholders to Prevent, Prepare, Respond and Recover.


  • 'Active shooter' incidents cannot always be prevented, so 'prevention' here includes reducing the severity or impact of an event by developing strategies that gather intelligence and identify vulnerabilities in order to reduce the impact on life and property.
  • Deter, detect and delay intrusions by using physical and electronic security measures.
  • Ensure protective measures are proportional to the level of assessed risk.


  • Coordinate a plan for 'active shooter' incidents within existing emergency response plans.
  • Assess the local characteristics of the venue and identify particular targets for shooting incidents.
  • Have a flexible response plan that focuses on protecting lives, facilitating evacuation, containing the threat and supporting emergency response.


  • In the initial stage of an event, evacuate occupants where safe to do so, hide occupants securely where evacuation is not possible, and consider whether taking aggressive action is necessary to protect life.
  • Consult with local law enforcement agencies when developing plans.
  • Know how you will be expected to assist emergency responders when they arrive to assume responsibility for the situation.


  • Consider how information will be disseminated to the public and how community confidence will be restored.
  • Recognise the importance of preserving the scene of the crime and assisting with investigation activities after the event.
  • Ensure that business continuity plans accurately reflect the need to allow police and investigators to complete their work.

The Guidelines include checklists which are valuable reading for all landlords and property managers, especially for venues where people gather in large numbers and where attackers can threaten or cause significant harm to persons and property before emergency services have time to respond. The Guidelines identify separate response priorities for managers responsible for these venues and also for individuals who may become caught up in such an emergency.

A copy of the guidelines is available here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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