Preparedness of senior centers for active shooter incidents




active shooter, active shooter incident, active shooter preparedness, senior centers, senior centers directors, older adults, vulnerable populations


Objective: The main objective was to evaluate the preparedness of senior centers (SCs) for active shooter (AS) events and test the hypothesis that most SCs were not organized to properly handle AS incidents.

Design: A cross-sectional study based on questionnaire with quantitative measures.

Setting: A questionnaire-based multistate survey of SC Directors (SCDs) of public and private SCs.

Participants: SCs were included upon receipt of answers from SCDs to questionnaire-based survey, resulting in 139 SCs from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, New York, and West Virginia.

Main outcome measure: SCs, SCDs, and SCs’ staff preparedness and vulnerability to an AS event.

Results: Over half (56 percent) of SCDs replied that their center was not prepared for an AS event. A significant (p < 0.01) association was found between the SCD’s perception of being prepared and the availability of a formal AS preventive policy. The lack of panic buttons and surveillance cameras was significantly (p < 0.01) associated with the feeling of inability by SCDs to respond effectively to an AS event. Those SCDs who were confident about their AS preparedness felt significantly (p < 0.01) better prepared to respond to an AS incident. Personal interviews with content experts agreed that all SCDs should take steps to develop an official AS preparedness policy, but its implementation should be the direct responsibility of local policymakers and legislators.

Conclusions: Most SDCs and SCs are unprepared for AS incidents. SCDs should review or develop specific recommendations and implement plans for a better preparedness of SCs and SCDs for AS events. Considering the inherent high vulnerability of older adults, there is an urgent need to have such AS policy in place.

Author Biographies

Steven Lawrence Paciorek, PhD

Public Health, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Lauren Birmingham, PhD, MA

College of Public Health, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Anuja L. Sarode, MPH

Clinical Research Biostatistician, College of Public Health, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Sonia Alemagno, PhD

Dean and Professor, Health Policy and Management, Kent State University College of Public Health, Kent, Ohio


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How to Cite

Paciorek, PhD, S. L., L. Birmingham, PhD, MA, A. L. Sarode, MPH, and S. Alemagno, PhD. “Preparedness of Senior Centers for Active Shooter Incidents”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 16, no. 2, Aug. 2021, pp. 135-46, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2021.0395.