Active Threat

A page within University Police Department



An active threat is a person who appears to be actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. In most cases, active threats use firearms or other deadly weapons and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. There have been many instances in the last few years where an armed and dangerous individual has threatened the security and safety of the people on and around college campuses. Studies have shown that individuals who are trained to react in this type of situation have the greatest chance of survival.

To protect members of the University and the public, UWL has adopted a program called ALICE -- Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The ALICE philosophy provides guidance to faculty, staff, and students who may find themselves in an active threat situation. This concept also teaches what to expect from responding police officers in the event of an active threat.
Guidance to faculty, staff, and students

How you respond to an active threat is dictated by the specific circumstances of the encounter, bearing in mind there could be more than one threat involved in the same situation. If you find yourself involved in an active threat situation, try to remain calm and use the ALICE guidelines to help you plan a strategy for survival.


If you observe a dangerous person, notify UWL police department immediately at 608.789.9999 or dial 911. Studies show that most active threats are resolved within minutes of police arriving on scene. Answer the dispatcher’s questions as accurately as you can. This will include providing the description of the person or person’s height, weight, clothing, weapon, and the suspect’s location. Put the UWL police department number in your phone contact list to ensure quick access in case of an emergency. You can also access the UWL police dispatch center by pressing the call button on one of the blue light stations located around campus. When an alert is received, dispatchers start by directing officers to the scene and alerting the campus using the university’s emergency notification system.


If you are in a classroom or office and receive an alert notification through email, phone, or text and cannot escape the building, you should close and lock your door immediately. However, there are many doors on campus that cannot be locked. If you encounter one of these doors, try to barricade it with chairs or desks. Alternately, wrap a belt or cord around the handle or swing arm of the door to assist in keeping it shut. In an alert situation, prepare yourself to distract an intruder and start planning how you might escape. If an intruder enters a room, do not hide under a desk or in a corner. Instead, spread out to create a distraction and prepare to counter the intruder or escape.


In a crisis-situation, getting accurate information is crucial to improve your chances of survival. This information will give you the knowledge to make the right decision about your safety. In the event of an emergency, UWL will provide information several ways. Text messaging, email, and phone messages will be sent by the UWL police emergency notification system.


The main goal in this step is to disrupt the ability of the intruder to a weapon. If the armed intruder enters a classroom, and escape is not possible, everyone should throw some type of object -- a book, backpack, purse, water bottle, chair, or whatever else may be available -- at the head of the intruder. Then scatter around the room and head towards an exit or swarm and subdue the attacker. If you can control the intruder’s head, you can control the body. However, you have to immobilize the intruder first by having people take hold of each of the arms and legs and force the intruder to the ground while another person controls the head. If the weapon comes free, grab it and remove it from the area of the struggle. Place the weapon in a garbage can and phone UWL police while continuing to hold the subject on the ground until the police arrive.


The best-case scenario is to exit the room as quickly as possible to escape the danger. As you enter a classroom for the first time, take a moment to observe different ways you can exit a room in case of an emergency. If there is only one door to the room, observe the windows. Do the windows open manually or would you need to break them to exit. How would you break the windows safely to avoid injury? When an intruder enters, do not attempt to hide in a corner or under a desk. Everyone should scatter, run towards an exit or swarm the assailant.

Think about these questions to develop an escape plan before trouble occurs. Do not attempt to carry anything while fleeing. Move quickly, keep your hands visible, and follow the instructions of any police officers you encounter. Do not attempt to remove injured people. Leave wounded victims where they are and notify authorities of their location as soon as possible.

What to expect from responding police officers

Police officers responding to an active threat are trained to proceed immediately to the area where the threat was last seen or heard. Their purpose is to stop the threat as quickly as possible. Responding officers will be armed with a variety of weapons and might be using pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation. Regardless of how they appear, remain calm, do as the officers tell you, and do not be afraid of them. Put down any bags or packages and keep your hands visible at all times. If you know where the threat is, tell the officers.

The first officers to arrive will not stop to aid injured people. Rescue teams composed of other officers and emergency medical personnel will follow the first officers into secured areas to treat and remove injured persons. Keep in mind that even once you have escaped to a safer location, the entire area is still a crime scene. Police personnel will usually not let anyone leave until all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Remain at whatever assembly point authorities designate until you are released.


We hope you are never involved in this type of situation, but knowing the ALICE philosophy and using it when necessary will increase your chances of survival. When confronted by an intruder we believe our students, staff, and faculty should have a greater opportunity to avoid injury and death by following these steps. For more information about the campus ALICE program or to sign up for a full training session, contact us at the UWL police department at University Police or 608-789-9000 to set up an appointment or class.