Reporting Suspicious Activity and Active Shooter Guidance

Posted at 11 a.m.

Statement by Council of Government’s National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council Chairman David Snyder on Reporting Suspicious Activity, Preparing for Active Shooter Events Following Orlando Tragedy

Following this weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando, our law enforcement partners have noted there are no credible threats to the region. However, we also want to continue to encourage area residents to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement. We can all help keep our communities safe by paying attention to our surroundings.

In addition, we believe it is important to share information on how people should prepare for active shooter events. While the subject is an unpleasant one, I encourage people to learn from the many public safety resources available about active shooter situations as part of their personal preparedness for emergencies.

Reporting Suspicious Activity – “See Something, Say Something” Tips

Suspicious activity is any observed behavior that could indicate terrorism or terrorism-related crime.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says suspicious activity includes, but is not limited to:

  • Unusual items or situations: A vehicle is parked in an odd location, a package/luggage is unattended, a window/door is open that is usually closed, or other out-of-the-ordinary situations occur.
  • Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc.
  • Observation/surveillance: Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation (particularly in concealed locations); unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (e.g., with binoculars or video camera); taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.

If you see something suspicious, immediately call 9-1-1. If you remember something you saw earlier – whether it happened a few hours or days ago – call your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency phone number. In Fairfax County, that number is 703-691-2131.

When reporting a suspicious activity, try to include:

  • Who or what you saw (e.g., height, weight, complexion, hair color, weapons, license plate, make of vehicle, etc.).
  • When you saw it.
  • Where it occurred.
  • Why it was suspicious.

Information reported to law enforcement is shared with partners throughout the region. For more information on See Something, Say Something and reporting suspicious activity, visit

Active Shooter Resources

Local law enforcement agencies have promoted the DHS pamphlet on active shooter preparedness. DHS recommends that when an active shooter is in the vicinity, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the situation. Homeland Security highlights three options — run, hide and fight.

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Do not attempt to move the wounded.
  • Prevent others from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Call 9-1-1 when you are safe.
  • Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view.
  • Lock door or block entry to your hiding place.
  • Silence your cellphone (including vibrate mode) and remain quiet.
  • Fight as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.
  • Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
  • Act with as much physical aggression as possible.
  • Improvise weapons or throw items at the active shooter.
  • Commit to your actions – your life depends on it.

“Run, Hide, Fight: Surviving an Active Shooter Event” was produced by the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

If you need additional information or guidance, contact our emergency management office at 571-350-1000, TTY 711.

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  1. Fairfax County Government Weekly News Briefing: June 13-17 - June 17, 2016