Community reminded to review Penn State's active attacker protocol

January 26, 2021

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.  

Based on 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 encourage all members of the Penn State community to memorize Run, Hide, Fight because it is a simple guide that can be recalled and implemented during an emergency,” said Charlie Noffsinger, associate vice president for University Police and Public Safety. “Should anyone ever find themselves in a life-threatening situation, it is critical to have a plan already in mind.”

The University regularly reminds the Penn State community about the Penn State Active Attacker Response and its action steps — run, hide and fight — because emergency preparedness is critical and requires everyone’s attention.

The run, hide, fight concept is endorsed at the local, state and federal levels, including by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. University Police and Public Safety routinely offers Active Attacker Response Program training to campus groups, and such training can be requested here

University Police and Public Safety also has robust policies and procedures in place for active-attacker situations, and Penn State police officers train regularly for such potential circumstances. However, it is vital that community members take the time to familiarize themselves with the University’s Active Attacker Response Program because 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.

Depending on individual circumstances, it is important to 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 urged.

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. 


  • 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, as this creates an easier target.
  • Lock and barricade doors with whatever is available, such as desks, chairs or door wedges. Shut off lights.


  • 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.

Employees who may find it difficult to review such subject matter or take part in the trainings offered by University Police can seek support through the Employee Assistance Program. Students at University Park can find support through Counseling and Psychological Services. Students at other Penn State campuses can find support here

In the event of any report of an active shooter or attacker, a 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 would occur. Initial alert messages would quickly be followed by critical information and regular updates.  

All Penn State students and employees receive PSUAlert messages by email, and they can choose to also receive the notifications by text message or phone call by visiting PSUAlert online. At that online 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 January 27, 2021