Safety Policies

SY41 Active Attacker Policy

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Wesley Sheets, 814-863-6054,

Policy Steward: 

Chief of University Police and Public Safety



To outline the University’s policy regarding planning, training, and response to an Active Attacker threat.


The threat and reality of dealing with an Active Attacker both on and off campus continue to be a hazard for our society. These threats, by necessity, require the immediate action of procedures to maintain the safety of our University community.


This policy applies to all University locations. It is the responsibility of all members of our University community to be aware of training standards and the role that they play.


Active Attacker - One or more subjects who participate in a random or systematic attack, demonstrating their intent to harm or kill others.  This would include, but not be limited to, an attack with a firearm, knife, explosive, vehicle or any other object or weapon.


Penn State University Police and Public Safety

  • Responding to and investigating the initial active attacker event.
  • Coordinating and working with outside law enforcement agencies in the response and investigative phase of the active shooter event.
  • Will send out the first PSU ALERT message to the University community, advising of the situation and directing them to avoid the area.
  • Coordinates efforts to assist University Emergency Responders and staff during an Active Attacker Incident.
  • Operates the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) if needed.

Emergency Management Group (EMG)

  • Staff the Emergency Operations Center and support the response effort during an Active Attacker situation.
  • Provide policy and financial guidance during an Active Attacker incident.
  • Coordinate and support recovery efforts for the University Community after an Active Attacker situation.

Student Affairs

  • Respond to student needs and facilitate advocacy efforts when appropriate.
  • Provide counseling services as needed.
  • Act as a liaison with concerned family members of students during and post-emergency.

Office of Human Resources

  • Determine employee(s) campus involvement.
  • Conduct outreach to employees.
  • Act as a liaison with concerned family members of employees during and post-emergency.

Strategic Communications

  • Alert and activate leadership.
  • Establish ongoing communication with appropriate parties (local authorities, University Police and Public Safety (UPPS), emergency services, University leadership, Board of Trustees, etc.)
  • Quickly and continuously share critical safety instructions with students, faculty, and staff, in coordination with UPPS PIO.
  • In collaboration with UPPS PIO, draft and disseminate subsequent PSU ALERT messages for the University community. These messages are also captured on social media platforms operated by Strategic Communications and may be disseminated on Penn State News and via email as deemed appropriate.
  • Work in collaboration with UPPS PIO to gather accurate information/facts and disseminate information appropriately to students, faculty, staff, parents, media, and others during and in the days/weeks following.
  • Provide timely, transparent, accurate, and ongoing communications in partnership with UPPS PIO. Provide details on the event as it becomes available, with regular updates.
  • Use multi-channel approach for sharing information with key audiences.
  • Monitor media and social media channels to answer inquiries and look for relevant new information.
  • Respond to inquires (from students, employees, families, media, alumni, etc.) quickly with verified information.
  • Organizes press briefings and media updates in concert with UPPS PIO and UPPS.


Penn State University Police and Public Safety Public Information Officer (UPPS PIO)

  • In collaboration with Strategic communications, draft subsequent PSU ALERT messages for the University community. These messages are also captured on social media platforms operated by Strategic Communications and may be disseminated on Penn State News and via email as appropriate.
  • In partnership with Strategic Communications, will provide factual, ongoing information related to the situation and important advisories on actions being taken by University officials, as well as expected actions to be taken by University Community members.
  • Acts as liaison to leadership in EMG in providing critical information updates to the community, general public, and media.


Anyone at Penn State University who witnesses an act of violence on University Property should immediately report it to the University Police and Public Safety or local law enforcement agency by dialing 911 or a local telephone number for locations with their own police agency.

Specific response procedures for Penn State University Police and other public safety entities are proprietary and for official use only.

During such an emergency, the Chief for Police and Public Safety or his/her designee shall be immediately notified. The Chief for Police and Public Safety shall notify the Senior Vice President for Finance and Business, or their designee.

The Chief for Police and Public Safety or designee will also immediately notify Strategic Communications/University Public Relations so that factual information can begin to be disseminated.

With the advent of social media and its ability to push out information faster than University personnel can react, it is imperative that official information from the University begin to flow outward as quickly as possible to attempt to stop any rumors or misinformation from spreading.

Notification to the Campus Community will be made by various forms of notification, to include the PSU ALERT system, e-mail, social media, websites, fire alarms, and personal notifications.


The Penn State University Police train for response to Active (Attacker) Shooter situations. The University Police also train with other local law enforcement agencies on a coordinated response to this type of an incident.



Guidance on how to respond to an Active Attacker situation for Faculty, Students and Staff can be obtained through the Run, Hide, Fight Active Attacker program presented by the University Police and Public Safety. The Run, Hide, Fight Active Attacker program provides information on the steps you can take to mitigate the actions of an Active Attacker.

The Run, Hide, Fight Active Attacker program includes the following steps to protect yourself if an active attacker is in your vicinity:

  • RUN: Do what you can to get to a safe place. Leave the area in the opposite direction from any shooter.  Once you are safe and away from danger, call or text 911.  Give as many details about what you saw or heard and your current location.  Do not assume that someone else has called – you may have new information for the police.  Do not call anyone else, as the 911 operator may call you back for additional details.
  • HIDE: If you cannot leave, turn off the lights of the room you are in, lock or barricade the door and hide until help arrives. Avoid hallways, turn your cell phone on silent, and remain as quiet as possible.
  • FIGHT: This is the last resort when you have no other option, this is the life or death situation. Attempt to take out the attacker however you can. If you choose this option, DO NOT hesitate and be decisive.

Additional information on general police response and how you should react are included in the program. Information on this and other educational programs are available at the University Police and Public Safety department website under "Community Education." The Run, Hide, Fight Active Attacker program is available online with PSU ID web access at


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact University Police & Public Safety.


Other Policies in this manual should also be referenced, especially the following:

SY03 - Emergencies Involving Students

SY05 - Persons, Other Than Students or Employees, Who Are Injured or Become Ill on University Property

SY12 - Weapons, Fireworks, and Paintball Devices


Most recent changes:

  • June 8, 2023 - Update to policy steward and subject matter expert.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • May 18, 2022 - Numerous content updates 

  • September 7, 2018 – Updates to reflect the change to the Run,  Hide, Fight Active Attacker program, from Stay SAFE.
  • October 12, 2015 - Changes to the EDUCATION FOR FACULTY, STAFF AND STUDENTS section, updated to reflect current operations, migrating from the 5 Outs model to StaySAFE.
  • June 19, 2014 - Editorial changes to the policy, updated to reflect current operations. Addition of policy steward information, in the event, that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy. References to the "PSUTXT" changed to "PSU ALERT."
  • October 29, 2012 - New policy.