Campus Life

A reminder to review Penn State's active attacker protocol

Based upon the Run, Hide, FightTM model developed by the City of Houston, Penn State’s Active Attacker Response offers the same three action steps if confronted with an active assailant, making it easy to remember and act upon in an emergency: run if you can, hide if you can’t, and fight as a last resort. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Police and Public Safety reminds students, employees and visitors to familiarize themselves with the University’s official Active Attacker Response Program, as preparation for the possibility of encountering a potentially life-threatening situation anywhere.

Based upon the Run, Hide, FightTM model developed by the City of Houston, Penn State’s Active Attacker Response offers the same three action steps if confronted with an active assailant, making it easy to remember and act upon in an emergency: run if you can, hide if you can’t, and fight as a last resort.

“We understand that it can be uncomfortable or unnerving to think about the possibility that an active attack could occur at a Penn State campus or anywhere in society,” said Charlie Noffsinger, assistant vice president for University Police and Public Safety. “Please know that this training is not intended to create fear, but instead promote preparedness. We want the Penn State community to have a plan to respond should they face the reality of a random act of violence.”

The University’s Active Attacker Response is based upon three action steps: run, hide and fight.

“At Penn State, we understand the importance of emergency preparedness, which is why the University will regularly remind the Penn State community about the Penn State Active Attacker Response and its action steps: run, hide and fight,” said David Gray, senior vice president of Finance and Business. “We want all Penn Staters and visitors to have a plan in mind should they ever encounter such an emergency.”

The concept is endorsed at local, state and federal levels, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FBI.

“Educating our community about the run, hide, fight action steps will provide students, employees and visitors at all Penn State locations with tools to help them think clearly and act quickly in the face of an attack, hopefully resulting in lives saved during the first critical moments of an emergency,” Noffsinger said.

While University Police trains regularly and has robust policies and procedures in place for active attacker situations, it is critical that community members take the time to familiarize themselves with the University’s Active Attacker Response, as it is designed to provide people with options that may help them survive an attack in the first crucial moments before police arrive on the scene.

“For the first couple of minutes of an attack, people must be able to think for themselves, act for themselves, and, if necessary, defend themselves, until the police can get there,” said Noffsinger. “So those first few minutes are critical, as acting quickly and decisively can truly be a matter of survival. Sharing this scenario in a realistic way with our community will hopefully prompt a recall in people’s minds of what they can do in a high-anxiety situation.”

Please note that the run, hide and fight action steps may not always occur in this order, so memorizing them all as possible options regardless of order is a key to quick response.

Beyond the program’s namesake actions, University Police is providing the following additional guidance to community members on what to do during each step in the process.


— Have an escape route and plan in mind.

— Make sure it is safe to leave the area. Use your eyes and ears to determine if it is safe to run.

— Leave your belongings behind.

— Keep your hands visible.

— Once in a safe place, call 911 and give detailed information about what is happening. Don’t assume someone else has already called the police.

Credit: WPSU/Penn StateAll Rights Reserved.


— If unable to run from the danger, your second option should be to hide.

— Find a place that’s out of the attacker’s sight and remain quiet.

— Do not huddle together, because it creates an easier target.

— Lock and barricade doors with whatever is available, such as desks, chairs, or door wedges. Shut off lights.

Credit: WPSU/Penn StateAll Rights Reserved.


— Fighting is a last resort to be used only when your life is in imminent danger. (However, sometimes fighting may be the first and only option.)

— Find an object to use as a weapon, such as a fire extinguisher, backpack, book or chair.

— Attempt to incapacitate the attacker; commit to your actions; work with others to disable the assailant.

Credit: WPSU/Penn StateAll Rights Reserved.

University Police and Public Safety routinely offers Active Attacker Response Program training to campus groups, and such training can be requested at

If you are unable to attend a training session, you are encouraged to watch an online training video produced by WPSU and University Police illustrating run, hide, fight steps in action.

As a warning, the video contains intense depictions of violence. It is designed in a realistic manner to educate the Penn State community on best practices for responding to a violent attack. However, it does not provide comprehensive guidelines for all scenarios and does not guarantee safety. Viewer discretion is advised.    

The video can be accessed at

Employees who may find it difficult to review such subject matter can seek support through the Employee Assistance Program. Students at University Park can find support through Counseling and Psychological Services. Students at the Commonwealth Campuses can find support at

A report of an active shooter or attacker would result in rapid response by law enforcement to the scene and communication to the community by email, text, telephone and social media using the University’s PSUAlert system. Initial alert messages would quickly be followed by critical information and regular updates. 

All Penn State students, faculty and staff receive PSUAlert messages by email, and anyone can choose to receive messages by text message or phone call as well by visiting At that address, users also can choose to receive alerts for multiple Penn State campuses. In the event of an emergency, PSUAlert will be used to provide the campus community with critical information.

Last Updated August 06, 2020