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How to Prepare for Active Shooter Situations

“You can’t go a week or two without some sort of incident.” Bethany Holliday, human resources director at Cornerstone Insurance Group noted that public spaces, including the workplace, are increasingly hostile environments. The FBI concurs: in 2018 alone, there were 27 active shooter incidents in 16 states, leading to more 200 casualties resulted, including 85 deaths.

Workplace violence is on the rise, and active-shooter situations are commonplace. Although schools regularly plan and execute active-shooter or active-assailant preparedness strategies, most companies do not. Businesses and organizations should have a strong plan in place for managing those types of crises because violence scenarios are not a question of if, but when, and the safety of residents and employees is at stake.

Preparing for Active Shooter Situations

An active shooter or active assailant is a person who takes weapons, in most cases a gun or guns, into an area with the intent to injure, maim or kill. In the past, 69% of attacks lasted only about five minutes, but resulted in a significant number of casualties and fatalities, one person shot every 15 seconds. Many attacks are carefully planned by the assailant, who typically chooses a target-rich environment. Scenarios involving violence require a rapid response and organizations shouldn’t wait until something happens to realize they lack an effective critical event management plan.

Crisis Preparedness for Active Assailants

Steve Crimando, Managing Director at Extreme Behavioral Risk Management, explains a range of activities should be included in a preparedness plan. All plans and drills should align with how situations can unfold. In a webinar on active-shooter preparedness, Crimando identified four critical elements of such a plan:

  •           Plans should encompass the entire incident lifecycle.
  •           All types of potential violence should be included, such as the use of knives, explosives or vehicles.
  •           All potential sources of violence should be considered, inside and outside the company.
  •           The role of bystanders during an event should be carefully considered.

Mitigation (risk assessment and policies), preparedness (training and drills), response (threat assessment and management) and recovery (trauma management and business continuity) are important in planning an incident response. They address every part of the incident lifecycle.

Immediate Response

There are three main actions people can take in an active-assailant situation. Running away is the best option if the assailant is not near and there is a clear escape route. Hiding in a safe place is typical if there are no clear escape routes and the assailant is not in the immediate vicinity. Attacking the assailant is an option if there are no escape routes or no hiding places and the perpetrator is near.

In any given scenario, those choices may remain fluid. It’s three options rather than a set of steps to follow in the hot zone during an active-shooter situation.

Training and Running Drills

The best way to ensure that crisis plans are effective is to practice them. Plans should incorporate an up-to-date understanding of the lifecycle of an active-shooter incident and employees trained on the possible responses. Practice the various responses regularly to identify escape routes, potential hiding places, or objects that may help.  We talk more about how to plan for an active shooter in our blog titled, Design and Execute a Successful Active Assailant Drill.

Technology for Critical Event Management can support a well-thought-out preparedness plan. When active-assailant events occur, it’s critical that an organization protect its employees with effective communication. Every business should have a solution in place that provides real-time alerts for employees. This should include automated incident response and moderates operational disruptions.

Be Prepared

Your organization must be ready to address any type of violent situation. That includes creating a plan and practicing as outlined in this blog titled, 5 Steps to Run an Active Assailant Exercise.

It also includes identifying all the logistical issues that go along with an active-assailant event. Everbridge offers its Active Shooter Preparedness Report for free to help organizations better prepare themselves to address the realities of workplace violence. 

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