- Emergency Management
- Learn about Local Hazards
- Attacks in Crowded and Public Spaces
Attacks in Crowded and Public Spaces
Many of the same basic skills to take care of people in any emergency also apply to attacks in crowded or public spaces. Being aware of your surroundings and having a plan in place help to prepare and protect yourself and help others in the event of a mass attack.
Types of Mass Attacks
- People using firearms to cause injury and hurt many people (active shooter)
- People using a vehicle to cause injury and hurt many people
- People using homemade bombs to cause injury and hurt many people
- Other methods used in mass attacks may include knives, fires, or other weapons
- Stay alert. Always be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- If you see something, say something (c) to local authorities. That includes suspicious packages or people behaving strangely. Learn more about Crime Prevention programs such as Neighborhood Watch and Business Watch programs offered through the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office.
- Observe warning signs. Signs might include unusual threats or violent communications, extreme anger or statement of hurting people or a specific group of people, or changes in behavior. Listen to your gut - if something doesn't feel right, it might not be.
- Have an exit plan. Be aware of exits and areas to hide wherever you go, including work, school, and special events.
- Learn lifesaving skills. Take training such as You Are the Help Until Help Arrives and first aid to assist the wounded before help arrives.
If you receive a bomb threat, it is important to remain calm and notify authorities immediately. Most commonly, these threats are received by phone, but can be made in person, via email, written note, or other means. Every bomb threat is unique and should be handled in the context of the facility or environment it occurs. Notifying law enforcement is the best way to determine the credibility of the threat.
The video What to Do: Bomb Threat made by the University of Southern Florida with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) teaches on how to respond in the event of receiving a bomb threat. Download and print the DHS Bomb Threat Checklist used in this video to help develop your own plan.
- For threats made via phone
- Keep the caller on the line as long as possible.
- DO NOT HANG UP even if the caller does.
- If possible, signal or pass a note to other staff to listen and help notify the law enforcement
- Write down as much information as possible - caller ID, exact wording of the threat, type of voice or behavior of the caller. This will help investigators.
- Record the call, if possible.
- For threats made in person, via email, or via written note, review the DHS Bomb Threat Checklist and the DHS-DOJ Bomb Threat Guidance sheet for information.
- Be available for interviews with law enforcement.
- Follow instructions given by law enforcement or facility supervisors.
If you see something that is suspicious, out of place, or doesn't look right, say something. A suspicious item is any item like a bag, package, vehicle, etc. that is reasonably believed to contain explosives, an improvised explosive device (IED) or other hazard materials. Generally, anything that is Hidden, Obviously suspicious, and not Typical (HOT) should be deemed suspicious.
- Remain calm and do NOT touch, tamper with, or move the item
- Notify authorities and explain why it appears suspicious
- Follow instructions given. Law enforcement an/d/or facility supervisors will assess the situation and provide guidance about shelter-in-place steps to take or if evacuation is needed.
- If you don't feel safe and feel you are immediate danger, calmy evacuate the area. Distanct and protective cover are the best ways to reduce injuries.
- Be aware. There could be other threats or suspicious items.
Remember, not all items are suspicious! An unattended item is an item (like a bag, package, vehicle, etc.) of unknown origin and content where there are no obvious signs of being suspicious. Check out this video from CISA on What to Do: Suspicious or Unattended Items for more information.
If you are dealing with a bomb threat or a suspicious or unattended package, please see the info in the sections above on what to do. Remember, all situations are different and your response may depend on what the situation is.
In a more active incident like a hostile intruder, here are some tips and resources on what to do.
Run, Hide, Fight
- Run to Safety. Getting away from the threat or hazard is the top priority. Leave your belongings behind, direct as many people as you can away from the hazard, and get away.
- Hide and Cover. Cover and hide if you can't evacuate. Find a place to hide our of view of the attacker, and put a solid barrier between you and the threat if possible. Lock doors, close blinds, and turn off lights. Keep silent - switch the ringer and haptics off on your cell phone. If you cannot call 9-1-1, text 911 for help.
- Fight only as a last resort. When you can't run for cover, attempt to disrupt the attack or disable the attacker. Be aggressive and commit to your actions. Ambush the attacker with things to defend yourself like chairs, fire extinguishers, books, etc. Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the attacker.
- Help the Wounded. Take care of yourself and then, if you are able, help the wounded get to safety and provide immediate care. Call 9-1-1 when it is safe for you to do so.
When law enforcement arrives, understand that their primary initial goal is to stop the attacker. They will go past people who are injured or yell to direct people to safety. They may ask you if you know where the attacker is. As more help arrives, the focus shifts to taking care of the injured.
- Follow law enforcement's instructions and evacuate in the direction they tell you to go. Listen to law enforcement for information about the situation.
- Keep your hands visible and empty
- Go where they tell you to go or report to your designated evacuation area to provide information and get help.
- Check in with family and friends if you are able to.
- It's OK to not be OK. Be mindful of your mental health. See help for you and your family to cope with the trauma. New Hanover County will have resources and information to help direct you to begin the healing process and deal with this trauma.
New Hanover County Sheriff's Office Crime Awareness & Prevention Unit
Bomb Threat Checklist (CISA)
What to Do: Bomb Threat (CISA Video)
What to Do: Suspicious or Unattended Items (CISA Video)
What to Do: Surviving a Bomb Attack (CISA Video)
RUN. HIDE. FIGHT(c) Surviving an Active Shooter Incident (Video)
Active Shooter Information Sheet (PDF)
If You See Something, Say Something(c) (DHS)
Active Shooter Preparedness resources (DHS)
Active Shooter Preparedness Resources Translated (DHS)
Info on Attacks in Crowded and Public Spaces from FEMA's Ready.gov website in: