Case Study: The Risks of Centralized Rally Locations in Active Shooter Responses

Case Study: The Risks of Centralized Rally Locations in Active Shooter Responses

This paper examines the significant security risks associated with choosing centralized rally locations during active shooter emergencies within organizational properties. Drawing from a detailed dialogue with security professionals, this case study elucidates the challenges and tactical missteps of placing rally points at the center of facilities. Through a security consultant’s lens, we explore strategic, legal, and practical reasons that underscore the dangers of centralized locations. Recommendations are provided for security experts to enhance crisis response strategies and avoid the pitfalls discussed.


Active shooter incidents present unique and urgent challenges that demand effective emergency response strategies. Centralized rally locations, often considered for their seeming convenience and accessibility, can paradoxically increase risks during such incidents. This case study, based on an expert security consultant’s experience, highlights the substantial drawbacks of this approach.

Analysis of a Centralized Rally Location

1. Increased Danger in Hot Zones

Centralized rally points often fall within what could potentially become the ‘hot zone’—the area of highest risk and ongoing threat. The consultant emphasized that during an incident, law enforcement’s primary goal is to evacuate individuals from the hot zone to safer ‘cold zones’ positioned at the perimeter.

Supporting Data:

  • Statistical Analysis: Historical data on active shooter incidents shows that the epicenter typically witnesses the highest concentration of danger, thus making centralized locations highly vulnerable (source: FBI Active Shooter Incident Reports).

2. Complicated Evacuation Efforts

Centralized rally points complicate evacuation routes. In a crisis, clear and direct paths to safety are paramount. Central locations require navigating through potentially compromised areas, increasing the risk of casualties.

Supporting Data:

  • Simulation Studies: Evacuation simulations have demonstrated that peripheral rally points enable quicker and safer evacuations compared to centralized points (source: Journal of Emergency Management).

3. Legal and Liability Issues

Implementing a rally point within the heart of the facility can lead to significant legal and liability issues post-incident, especially if it can be shown that the location contributed to harm.

Supporting Data:

  • Litigation Cases: Review of past litigation shows increased liability when safety protocols are not aligned with recommended practices by law enforcement agencies (source: SHRM Foundation).

4. Complications in Emergency Response and Internal Accountability Efforts

Central rally points can significantly hinder the mobility and effectiveness of emergency services, thereby delaying critical response and aid during an active shooter situation. Additionally, attempting to conduct internal accountability and information dissemination within these centralized locations during a tactical police response can create further complications. It diverts organizational focus from essential evacuation and safety measures to internal logistics, which can interfere with law enforcement operations and lead to increased confusion and potential for harm among employees.

Supporting Data:

  1. Emergency Management Analysis: An analysis of response protocols emphasizes that integration of company internal processes during ongoing police tactical operations can delay not only the company’s own response but also the broader emergency services efforts. This is detailed in courses like those found in “Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA Active Shooter Incident training,” which suggest that the safest protocols separate internal accountability processes from immediate crisis zones to avoid such conflicts (source: FEMA)

5. Confusion and Panic

Central rally points can cause confusion and panic, as they might go against the evacuees’ instinct to exit the premises. This dissonance can lead to slower response times from the crowd and inefficient crowd control.

Supporting Data:

  • Psychological Studies: Research on human behavior during emergencies indicates that confusion significantly delays response actions (source: Psychology of Emergency Egress and Ingress).

Consultant’s Strategic Recommendations

  1. Establish Multiple Periphery Rally Points: To accommodate different incident locations and spread out potential targets.
  2. Regular Training and Drills: Incorporate real-life scenarios that train personnel on quickly identifying and moving towards the safest rally point.
  3. Collaborate with Local Law Enforcement: Ensure that security plans are vetted and supported by local emergency services to align with tactical response strategies.
  4. Legal Review of Emergency Plans: Conduct regular reviews with legal counsel to ensure compliance with safety regulations and reduce liability risks.
  5. Public Communication Strategy: Develop clear communication protocols to manage information dissemination during crises effectively, reducing the risk of misinformation and panic.


Centralized rally locations in active shooter scenarios significantly increase risks to personnel and hinder emergency response efforts. The case study highlights that adopting a security-centric approach to emergency planning—prioritizing periphery rally points, regular drills, and legal compliance—can mitigate these risks effectively. Security professionals must advocate for and implement strategies that align with best practices in crisis response to ensure safety and minimize liability.

Stay Lethal My Friends,

Joe Malone

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