Active Violence Awareness: Enjoy Community Celebrations While Staying Alert

ASHI and MEDIC First Aid Blog

Although it can be difficult to acknowledge, active violence events can happen anywhere at any time. Unfortunately, this includes during community celebrations, such as parades, festivals and other public events. But that doesn’t mean you have to live your life in fear and avoid large gatherings.

Instead, by recognizing that we aren’t always safe, we can prepare for the unknown while still enjoying community celebrations and remaining in the moment with our loved ones.



Active violence situations can happen in public places, as well as personal residences. But the majority of active shooter incidents occur in workplaces, open spaces, retail establishments, schools, government facilities and places of worship.

Open spaces include public or private properties that are openly accessible to the public. This might include open-air locations such as:

  • Holiday parades and community celebrations
  • Music festivals and concerts
  • Community events (e.g. farmers markets)
  • Public gatherings (e.g. protests and demonstrations)
  • Privately organized functions (e.g. running events)
  • Parks and other open land

Many people assume active violence equates to an active shooter situation only. But active violence can involve other means of harm, including using an edged weapon or driving a vehicle into a crowd.

By acknowledging these scenarios exist, we can actively prepare to respond — ultimately giving you more peace of mind to enjoy these community celebrations with your family and friends.



A person with high situational awareness has time to plan and react quickly if something dangerous happens. Situational awareness is made up of four parts:

  1. Be attentive to your surroundings.
  2. Identify possible threats.
  3. Formulate a plan of action.
  4. Be ready to act if danger occurs.

If you’re attending a community celebration or public event, think about the nearest entrance and exit points relative to your location. Note any security measures that have been put in place, so you know who to alert and where to find help. Scan the crowd for any unusual or suspicious behaviors or items, such as an unattended bag.

Once you’ve done a quick assessment, mentally rehearse what you might do if active violence occurs. If you have children with you, be sure to communicate what they should do if you’re separated.



If you see something suspicious or out of the ordinary, say something.

If you’re at a community gathering, look for someone in an authority position, such as a law enforcement officer, security guard, or event organizer. Stay calm and communicate exactly what you saw. Provide as much detail as possible, including what the person is wearing and where they were last seen.

Note that for some, reporting suspicious behavior might be easier said than done. You might second guess yourself to try and make sense of what you’re seeing, or you might be hesitant to report someone out of fear of offending them. So, it’s important to acknowledge these hesitations now and stand firm in knowing that you might save a life by coming forward with your suspicions.



Everyone reacts differently in violent situations. You might think you know how’d you react, but you won’t truly know until you’re faced with danger. That being said, preparing for an active shooter event through training and mental rehearsal can help you react more quickly and decisively toward safety.

When active violence occurs, your body is under immediate duress. Normal reactions to this stress include flight, fight, and freeze responses.

Whatever your reaction, you can train and practice to escape, evade, and attack.

If there’s an immediate threat during a community celebration or public gathering, you should prepare to:

  • Escape from the threat. Leave your belongings behind and evacuate the area immediately. Direct others to “Move” or “Run” if you notice they’re having a freeze response.
  • Evade by finding cover or concealment. Your environment will dictate where you can potentially hide from an active shooter or other assailant. You might be able to hide behind a vehicle or slip into a nearby store to conceal yourself.
  • As a last resort, attempt to distract or disarm the aggressor. If you are near the threat, running and hiding might not be an option. If your life is in immediate danger and you choose to attack, there are specific ways to be proactive and aggressive.

Running and hiding might come naturally for most people. But having the confidence and ability to defend yourself by distracting and disarming an assailant in an active shooter incident needs additional training.



The HSI AVERT program (short for Active Violence Emergency Response Training) is designed to help individuals and organizations anticipate potential danger and prepare to react quickly if active violence occurs. Additionally, it teaches you to become an immediate responder to life-threatening bleeding.

To learn more about situational awareness and practice escape, evade, and attack techniques, us for more information.