Mass Attacks in Public Spaces

While the threat of mass attacks is real, we can all take steps to prepare, protect ourselves, and help others.

What are Mass Attacks?


  • Use weapons to attack crowds
  • Target less protected indoor or outdoor spaces
  • Intend to harm multiple victims
  • Use the attack(s) to intimidate
  • Can use makeshift or modern weapons

Types of Mass Attacks

  • Active shooter: Individuals using firearms to cause mass casualties.
  • Intentional Vehicular Assault (IVA): Individuals using a vehicle to cause mass casualties.
  • Improvised Explosive Device (IED): Individuals using homemade bombs to cause mass casualties.
  • Other methods of mass attacks may include knives, fires, drones, or other weapons.

Protect Yourself Against a Mass Attack

  • Stay alert
  • Seek safety
  • Cover and hide
  • Defend yourself
  • Help the wounded

If You See Something, Say Something®

Report suspicious behavior, items, or activities to authorities.

Observe warning signs

Signs might include unusual or violent communications, expressed anger or intent to cause harm, and substance abuse. These warning signs may increase over time.

Be alert to your surroundings

Observe what is going on around you and avoid distractions such as texting, listening to headphones or being on your cell phone.

Have an exit plan

Identify exits and areas of protective cover for the places you go such as work, school, and special events.

Plan to seek cover for protection

Map out places to seek cover. Place a barrier between yourself and the threat using solid objects, walls, and locked doors as protection.

Learn lifesaving skills

Take trainings such as You Are the Help Until Help Arrives and first aid to assist the wounded before help arrives.

How to Stay Safe When a Mass Attack Threatens

Prepare NOW

Be alert to your surroundings. If You See Something, Say Something®:

Observe warning signs:

  • Unusual or threatening communications.
  • Expressed grievances related to a workplace, personal, or other issues.
  • Ideologies promoting violence.
  • Suspicious behavior such as excessive questioning or attention to security details.
  • Unusual items or packages.

Know exits and areas to cover and hide

  • When visiting new places, take time to identify at least two nearby exits.
  • Identify areas in familiar places, such as work, school, and outdoor events where you could hide and seek protective cover in case of attack.

Be ready to help

  • Learn and practice skills such as casualty care, CPR, and first aid. Teach others.
  • Organize and participate in safety drills in places where people gather like home, school, and work.

Survive DURING

Stay alert

  • Pay attention to what is happening around you so that you can react quickly to attacks.

Run to safety

  • If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the building or area, regardless of whether others agree to follow.

Cover and hide

  • If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide out of view of the attacker and if possible, put a solid barrier between yourself and the threat.
  • Keep silent.

Defend, disrupt, fight

  • As a last resort, when you can’t run or cover, attempt to disrupt the attack and/or incapacitate the attacker.
  • Be aggressive and commit to your actions.

Help the wounded

  • Take care of yourself first and then, if you are able, help the wounded get to safety and provide immediate first care.


Call 9-1-1

  • When you are safe, call 9-1-1 and be prepared to provide information to the operator including location of the incident, number of injured, and details about the attacker(s).

Continue lifesaving assistance

  • If you are able, continue to provide care until first responders arrive.

When law enforcement arrives

  • Remain calm and follow instructions.
  • Keep hands visible and empty.
  • Report to designated area to provide information and get help.

Monitor communications

  • Listen to law enforcement’s messages for information about the situation. Share updates with family and friends.

Consider seeking professional help

  • Be mindful of your health. If needed, seek help for you and your family to cope with the trauma.