Active Shooter Incident: “Black Swan” events

Active shooter events, characterized by individuals engaging in mass shootings in public places, have tragically become a global concern. Such events have been associated with terrorism, conflicts, and mental health issues. These incidents, often marked by the randomness and unpredictability of their occurrence, present a significant challenge for societies and emergency responders worldwide. Within the broader context of disaster management, active shooter events are considered “Black Swan” events – rare, unexpected, and have severe consequences.

Throughout history, the world has witnessed numerous active shooting incidents, leading to devastating loss of life and immense psychological trauma. Some infamous examples include the Columbine High School Massacre in Colorado, the Virginia Tech Shooting, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in the United States. These incidents have sparked debates on gun control, mental health support, and security measures in public spaces. Coming near to home, one noteworthy active shooting incident in India occurred on a passenger train traveling from Jaipur to Mumbai, in 2023. A Railway Protection Force constable opened fire on his colleague and three other passengers. The incident resulted in fatalities and injuries. Similarly, in November 2008, Mumbai, India, witnessed one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in its history.

As of now, active shooting events have not gained priority in the list of potential hazards in Nepal. Therefore, it has not been seen to be addressed separately in disaster management plans and capacity-building training. One of the possible reasons might be the strict gun law in Nepal which is governed by the Arms and Ammunition Act of Nepal, 1962 (revised 2018). This prohibits the unlicensed acquisition of firearms and carrying them in public places. Nepal is also known for its cultural diversity and harmony and has largely enjoyed a peaceful existence. However, the possibility of an active shooter incident cannot be ignored in today’s interconnected world, geopolitical situations, and emerging trends. On June 1, 2001, a tragic incident known as the “Royal Massacre” occurred in Nepal, where ten members of the Nepalese royal family, were assassinated at the Royal Palace. The Royal Massacre was a Black Swan event that caught the nation and its healthcare system off guard.

Black Swan events in disaster medicine, such as the Royal Massacre in Nepal and the Taj Hotel shootout in Mumbai, underscore the critical importance of disaster preparedness and response planning. While such events are rare, they can have far-reaching consequences, impacting healthcare systems and communities. By learning from these incidents and implementing the lessons learned, Nepal can strengthen its disaster medicine capabilities and better protect its populations in the face of unforeseen disasters. Preparedness, coordination, and a focus on both physical and psychological aspects of disaster response are key to mitigating the impact of such tragic events.

Given the unpredictable nature of active shooter incidents, preparedness is paramount. Healthcare systems, law enforcement agencies, and emergency responders must have comprehensive active shooter response plans in place. Regular drills, training sessions, and coordination exercises are essential to equip professionals to handle such unexpected disasters. Personal protective equipment and specialized training in tactical emergency casualty care are also critical for effective response.

Ashis Shrestha


Please click the following links for information, resources and to join the Disaster community