I recently took part in an active shooter exercise and it was a great learning experience.
The people that attended the exercise were made up of security, human resources, legal and HS&E professionals. The scenario involves 15 employees attending an event at a US hotel where a gunman enters, an employee gets killed and two are seriously injured. The remaining employees are accounted for with the exception of two that are missing.
Everyone participating in the exercise had a representative from each discipline. We had to work together as a team to manage the crisis and emergency response. As you can imagine, we encountered many challenges. The team went to work and developed an initial action plan with a critical goal of protecting and caring for our people.
Those in human resources and HS&E engaged a third party travel risk management vendor. They were tasked with getting 12 uninjured staff to a safe place and evacuated once the situation stabilized. The travel risk team also engaged medical professionals who were able to coordinate first aid response for the injured. Employees at the hotel received instructions from medical professionals on how to stabilize the injured until EMS could enter the site.
The security team immediately notified the company’s security operations centre. The regional security manager was directed to travel to the area and set up a temporary command centre in a nearby hotel. Law enforcement was contacted and informed. The travel risk management vendor was also asked to dispatch crisis coordinators to work with the regional security manager.
Legal and compliance personnel briefed senior management and engaged the crisis communication vendor. Communication with the employees’ families was initiated. It was decided that the senior managers would attend the homes of families of the deceased and injured to lend support. Insurance firms were notified and thresholds for coverage reviewed. Risk managers began to access exposure to liability and determine the best course of action to mitigate risk. Communication experts also prepared external communication messaging.
We quickly learned despite all our combined expertise, that we were ill prepared to manage the crisis. The need to have a detailed plan became quite clear. We were making numerous decisions on the fly with no real clear guidelines or objectives.
In the end, the police cleared the site within 8 hours. EMS moved in and assisted the injured. The travel risk firm’s doctor was critical in instructing the uninjured to care for the injured until EMS could move into place. The regional security manager and crisis responders were able to communicate with the uninjured staff and get them to a secure place once the police had cleared the hotel. Transportation and airfare were coordinated to return folks home. It became clear, that practice makes perfect. If you have not practiced responding to an emergency – do so. It will be a tremendous learning experience.