Mass shootings in schools, private businesses, and public settings have long made headlines in national media. Many of these shootings are characterized as active shooter events. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): “An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”
Beyond active shooter events, fatal shootings of all types including robberies and targeted attacks by co-workers, relatives, and other personal acquaintances are a significant risk for employers
Preparing for a Potential Active Shooter Event
Active shooters frequently choose to attack locations with which they have no connection. As a result, no business can consider itself immune to the threat, and organizations must be prepared for a potential attack at any time.
Organizations’ emergency plans should include procedures for reporting and reacting to an active shooter event. Plans should provide clear guidance on what employees should and should not do in an emergency situation. They should be developed with input from risk management and safety officers, and human resources departments. Businesses should also consult with local law enforcement and emergency responders.
Plans should also be specific to an individual location, taking into account unique factors, including the floor plan, the footprint of any larger property, adjoining locations, and surrounding area.
It’s important that these plans be well-tested ahead of an event, and that employees understand their specific roles and responsibilities — there will likely be little or no warning before an active shooter event begins; the sound of a gunshot may be the first indication. Employees must be ready to act quickly, without reviewing or referring to written materials or instructions.
Emergency plans should address several topics, including:
Communication: Businesses should have a clear strategy for how employees will communicate with each other, customers, security, law enforcement, corporate headquarters, and other stakeholders. Phones should be able to dial 911 or have clear emergency dialing instructions so that employees can quickly report events to law enforcement.
Evacuation or lockdown: Organizations should determine in advance the strategies for evacuation or lockdown. They should identify at least two evacuation routes, an evacuation meeting location, and a method for accounting for employees after an evacuation. Employees should be trained to encourage customers and others present to follow them to evacuation areas. For sheltering in place, plans should identify safe areas on site like a storage room with a locked door.
Working with law enforcement: It’s important for employees to understand what to expect from emergency first responders. The priority for police is to eliminate the threat presented by the shooter, so they should not be expected to provide medical aid or answer any questions until the threat has been addressed. Employees, customers, students, and others can help law enforcement by remaining quiet and calm and following all instructions from first responders. As the area will be a crime scene, people on site should be prepared to remain for some time following the shooting.
As a shooting event or other act of violence is somewhat rare, many organizations may not be prepared to handle the aftermath. And the psychological effects to management, employees, students, and others can be devastating. In such a situation, outside advisors including crisis management experts can provide advice to help a business return to normal operations.
Following a shooting, businesses should focus on assisting employees, customers, students, and the families of any victims. A business’ response plan should consider whether and how to provide counseling to injured and affected employees, customers, students, and their families.
Mass shootings are tragedies that unfortunately happen in the U.S. much more than anyone would like. Contact the security professionals at Isotec to discuss preventing mass shooting situations.