Senior living: armed intruder emergency planning

Active Assailant Emergency Planning for Assisted Living Facilities Chart

While the risk of a violent attack at your long-term care or assisted living facility might seem remote, it is not an impossibility. According to the FBI, active shooter incidents have risen dramatically during the last several years (ABC News).

The good news is there are actions your organization can take to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from violent incidents. In fact, a recent FBI report shows 21 incidents from 2000-2013 were ended by unarmed citizens who safely and successfully restrained the shooter. Review the following four steps to learn how to better protect your people and organization from violence.

Step 1: Prevent

The best way to protect your residents, employees and visitors is to prevent an incident from occurring in the first place. Assess your facility and people to minimize the risk of violence.

Active Assailant Emergency Planning for Assisted Living FacilitiesBehavioral risk threat assessments: You and your staff should always be on the lookout for suspicious behavior and the threat of violence. Use a Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment approach to identify characteristics that may indicate the potential for violence.

  • Residents: Evaluate emotional health and look for new or unusual warning signs of potential violence.
  • Staff: Screen your employees prior to hiring using Trusted Employees and Insight Worldwide. Keep on the look-out for these Indicators of Potential Violence.
  • Visitors: Security or reception staff should request identification of visitors at the door and require visitors to sign in. Take note of suspicious behavior and contact law enforcement if necessary.
  • Social media: Monitor social media channels to identify communicated threats.
  • Physical security: Assess key systems such as lighting, alarms, security cameras, and physical barriers such and gates, doors, locking systems, and more. Review your emergency policies and procedures and refer to Four Ways to Protect Your Community for more information on hardening your perimeter.


Develop an internal reporting network and central repository for the gathering of behavioral and threat-related intelligence. Involve law enforcement to discuss the situation if you have a specific concern.

Step 2: Prepare

You can save lives by developing and documenting emergency plans. Train employees and share your plan with residents and visitors. Take the Free Healthcare Self-Assessment to evaluate your preparedness.

  • Active Assailant Emergency Planning for Assisted Living FacilitiesResidents: Create a custom plan for residents based on their abilities. Those able to run, hide or fight should be advised to do so. Share tips for safe evacuation and locking or barricading doors.
  • Staff: Train staff on your plans and conduct drills. Staff should be advised to assist residents when time and safety permit by evacuating residents, locking and barricading doors and hallways, and creating hiding spots. As the threat increases, staff should be encouraged to focus on their personal safety and evacuate if possible.
  • Visitors: Make visitors aware of your plan by posting signs with emergency information, including exit locations, lockdown procedures and shelter-in-place suggestions.


Share your plan with law enforcement. This will enable a more swift response in an emergency and give them the opportunity to provide you with additional suggestions and feedback.

Step 3: Respond

ALICE is an acronym for:

Alert: Announce the presence of a violent intruder by utilizing any communication channels available. This may include PA / speaker systems, social media, telephones, and more. Always remember to use plain language for understanding by all.

Lockdown: Create safe places for residents, staff and visitors and shelter in place. Fortify your safe place as much as possible to make your location a hard target.

Inform: Provide real-time updates during the event if possible to alert residents, staff and visitors to the location and description of the intruder.

Counter: In a last-resort scenario, distract and disorient the intruder by throwing objects, making noise and creating confusion. Make it as difficult as possible for the intruder to accomplish their mission.

Evacuate: Whenever possible, put as much time and distance between you and the intruder as possible.

Your main options during a violent incident include the following: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE). Your situational awareness will help you decide which responses may be appropriate in certain situations and for certain groups of people.

  • Residents: Based on their abilities, residents should follow the ALICE responses whenever possible.
  • Staff: Staff should be trained to save themselves first using the principles of ALICE. If the situation permits, they may take additional actions to assist residents and visitors to preserve the greatest number of lives possible.
  • Visitors: Visitors will rely on their instincts in an emergency situation. Visitors should be expected to preserve their own life. Provide verbal directions and assist them in following the ALICE technique.


Refer to Active Shooter Planning and Response in a Healthcare Setting for a comprehensive guide in incorporating active shooter response into your emergency plans.

Step 4: Recover

Once the initial threat is over, deliberate action must be taken to recover from the event. Your actions after the event could reduce the lasting psychological affects and safeguard the continuity of your operation. Consider the following:

  • Active Assailant Emergency Planning for Assisted Living FacilitiesResidents: Reference your resident roster and ensure all residents are accounted for. Alert family members once an event has occurred. Evaluate residents and arrange for medical treatment and emotional counseling as needed. Express your plan for continued care and any plans for relocation.
  • Staff: Reference your employee roster and ensure all employees are accounted for. Evaluate staff and arrange for medical treatment and counseling as needed. Debrief staff on the event and discuss the immediate plans for business continuity.
  • Visitors: Reference your visitor sign-in sheet and ensure all visitors are accounted for. Address physical and emotional health as needed.

After ensuring the safety of your residents, staff and guests, turn your attention to crisis communication and implement your plan for post-crisis communication.

Finally, well after the incident, debrief residents, staff and family members on the event and share any revised plans for business continuity and future safety considerations.


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Armed Intruder Webinar Series

Church Mutual has partnered with industry experts to keep your people safe before, during and after a violent attack. Watch our Armed Intruder Webinar Series for more information on how you can protect the greater good from violence.

Additional Resources:

If you have additional questions, or need help with armed intruder planning and prevention, call our Risk Control Consulting and Research Center at (800) 554-2642, ext. 5213, or email

Our Claims Center is here to help! To report a claim, call (800) 554-2642 and select Option 2, or email

The purpose of this workplace violence guide is to educate employers, employees and others about ways to reduce risks and injuries from workplace violence. It is not intended as a substitute for a specific workplace security program tailored to any particular work environment. These safety tips and guidelines are not all inclusive, but if understood and followed up with periodic reminders and training when feasible, it can increase your chances of surviving an active shooter incident. Church Mutual accepts no liability and shall not be held liable for the consequences of any actions taken or forgone on the basis of the information provided in this workplace violence guide. In no event shall Church Mutual be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary or consequential damages however caused under any theory of liability, whether in contract, strict liability or tort (including negligence or otherwise) arising in any way out of actions taken or not taken on the basis of the information provided in these materials, even if advised of the possibility of such damage.

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Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer)
P.O. Box 357 | 3000 Schuster Lane | Merrill, WI 54452-0357
Telephone (800) 554-2642 or (715) 536-5577

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Church Mutual is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.