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The Role Unarmed Security Officers Can Play in Response to Active Shooter Attacks

January 23rd, 2017 Comments off

I write pretty frequently about workplace violence preparedness and response, and specific response guidelines for active shooter situations. Most of the training that addresses this topic centers on immediate notification procedures, occupant reaction guidelines, evacuation recommendations, and assisting armed police who come to deal with the assailant. There is often an assumption that unarmed security officers are incapable of doing anything to help in the response plan because they cannot neutralize the attacker without being armed. While it is true we should not expect them to put themselves in harm’s way to seek out and attempt to stop the assailant; there are in fact many functions that the unarmed security officer can perform just before, or after, they evacuate themselves.

In a proactive/preventive vein, they can remain diligent in their daily post observations and be alert for security breaches and any red flag behavior that might indicate an internal problem with a particular individual. Just reporting an observation of out of character behavior, or overly aggressive exchanges with others could be enough to start the preliminary investigative effort, which might uncover a more serious problem brewing. Often they get to know the employees well enough to notice behavioral indicators, and usually have a keener eye for such behaviors than do co-workers who might not notice, or might not want to report it if they do.

In the active shooter response plan, there is a lot more that they can and should be expected, and depended upon, to do.  They are typically going to be one of the first ones to receive the panicked call from an employee/witness that an armed assault has occurred. They then are going to have to begin the entire notification chain that launches the specific response/evacuation plan. They will have to be trained to handle this responsibility correctly, and quickly because seconds matter once this lethal event begins. They are going to have to know the entire response plan and everyone’s role in it. They are likely going to become a conduit of communication between facility management and the responding police throughout the duration of the incident. This will eventually be from the designated Emergency Communications Center (established in any response plan). Once primary notification responsibilities have been satisfied, and the evacuation has begun, the unarmed officers should evacuate along with everyone else, but they will have other duties related to the evacuation and assisting with the police response. These duties could include any of the following:

  • Report to designated locations to assist the first police officers on the scene with gaining access into the building if it is typically secured with badge access
  • Assisting for a limited time with those evacuating
  • Reporting to the designated Emergency Communications Center to help with:
    • Monitoring of incoming phone calls related to the incident
    • CCTV monitoring to see if they can spot the location or progress of the shooter
    • Being a communication liaison with the responding police
  • Assisting with treatment of the wounded who have been able to make it out of the facility but still need first aid treatment until professional/public EMS arrives
  • Helping with the accountability of employees who have evacuated the building
  • Staffing evacuation assembly points (if they have been designated in the response plan)
  • Keeping others from entering or re-entering the facility

These are just some of the duties that these officers can be assisting with so that the armed police can focus on the difficult task of searching for, and neutralizing the assailant(s).

For more information, see How Unarmed Security Officers Can Respond to Active Killer Situations
What you can do for your organization’s security personnel is train them in understanding, accepting and performing these roles, within your active shooter response plan. Make sure they realize that they play a significant role in it! For further information on Active Shooter Response Planning, check out our website for assistance at www.afimacglobal.com.

 

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Active Shooter Prevention – Warning Signs

December 14th, 2016 Comments off

A couple of months ago I posted a blog that highlighted a success story of courage and assertiveness by a school counselor. I am again going to make violence prevention the topic of this month’s blog with two links I found and have listed below. The first case is about the perceptiveness and immediate action, of a troubled kid’s parents. The second emphasizes what we think we see vs. what we should see when looking for recognizable warning signs of violence.

1Utah Parents Disarm Son in Middle School Classroom
The boy fired his weapon at the ceiling inside of a classroom packed with students.

2Sandy Hook Ad Shows Role of Community in Preventing Gun Violence
The powerful new ad shows common signs displayed by a potential school shooter.

The above links provide stories of courage and assertiveness, as well as the value of seeing things clearly that may be lingering in the ‘background’ but are warning signs of a dangerous condition brewing. Parents should be honest with themselves about things they see and don’t want to believe. The second story also underscores the importance of remaining observant for warning signs that we often write off as quirks.

As with other forms of workplace or criminal violence, there is no one magic solution to preventing active shooter incidents. What causes a person to become an active shooter and indiscriminately take the lives of random innocent targets? Often they cry out for help before they are driven to a violent act. Other times they send warning signs without even knowing they are doing so. Either way, we need to be alert and notice these conditions and say something! Be assertive about informing managers/professionals of disturbing observations so that intervention can be considered before it is too late.

I believe the promise for reducing these occurrences involves significant progress in several areas, so I will repeat what I wrote in October.

  • The gun control debate has to find an actionable middle ground. Gun enthusiast organizations would have everyone free to possess high capacity automatic assault weapons standing on the second amendment right to bear arms. Meanwhile, liberal, anti-gun proponents would take guns of any type away from everyone. Does the average civilian need a fully or semi-automatic high capacity weapon(s) for self-defense? No, but citizens should be able to purchase and license a handgun or shotgun for personal or home defense with adequate and required annual training and shooting practice. With the case above we see that it is also important to secure those weapons safely.
  • The mental health care profession owes it to their communities to work with law enforcement when a patient’s behavior displays an apparent propensity towards violence. Patient confidentiality aside, they should be legally allowed to get the police involved in whatever capacity will have some dissuasive effect on the person. At least the police could begin a case file and start having a conversation with the individual.
  • The video game industry needs to take a careful look at themselves and perhaps be regulated more strictly regarding the production and release of video games in which killing and extreme violence are rewarde I know it is a game, but it contributes to the devaluing of life, the de-sensitization of violence and death, and the blurring of the lines between lawful social conduct and fantasy.
  • Never disregard home and family It is the old fashioned way of learning right from wrong. Do we remember what they even are? Technology is wonderful and powerful until young people totally lose the social skills to talk to each other to work out problems. Misguided children become adults with adult problems. Lacking coping skills anchored in values. Sometimes they look for aggressive ways to vent.

Finally, organizations and companies need to be more assertive with policies that make it a responsibility to report suspicious observations. Just having a policy that states that workplace violence will not be tolerated is not enough. Give the policy some teeth!

Check out AFIMAC’s active shooter video at www.imac-training.com. It offers some real world active shooter survival tips for individuals and solid workplace violence planning advice for organizations.

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Active Shooter – Recognizing the Signs

October 18th, 2016 Comments off

With the volume of workplace shootings that continue in our businesses and schools, it is nice to hear a true success story.

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Armed Student Talked Out of School Shooting by Counselor
The student reportedly had a list of teachers and a police officer at the school he was going to shoot.

There has been a much-needed public outcry about what can be done to stop such senseless violence. The above link provides a story of courage and demonstrates the result of non-violent confrontation management training that clearly prepared this school counselor to react and diffuse/de-escalate the situation. It also underscores the importance of inter-office discrete communication during emergency conditions so that law enforcement responders can be alerted. Employers with staff such as counselors, social workers, customer service reps, and other similar positions could be exposed to similar conditions and should take a lesson from this incident. They need to evaluate what training they offer these people and if it prepares them for such a situation.

As with other forms of workplace or criminal violence, there is no one magic solution to preventing an active shooter incident. That is why I have called this society’s challenge in the past. What causes a person to become an active shooter and indiscriminately take the lives of random innocent targets? Is the solution more gun control? Is it better cooperation between the mental health community and law enforcement to spot potential threats?  Is it more censoring and regulation of the video game industry? Does home/family values need realignment?

I believe the premise for reducing these occurrences involves significant progress in all of these areas.

  • The gun control debate has to find an actionable middle ground. Gun enthusiast organizations would have everyone possess high capacity automatic assault weapons standing on the second amendment right to bear arms. Meanwhile, liberal, anti-gun proponents would take guns of any type away from everyone. Does the average civilian need a fully or semi-automatic high capacity weapon(s) for self-defense? No, but citizens should be able to purchase and license a handgun or shotgun for personal or home defense with adequate and required annual training and shooting practice. Politically, we have to find a happy medium on this issue.
  • Does the mental health care profession owe it to their communities to work with law enforcement when a patient’s behavior displays an apparent propensity towards violence? Yes, and they should be legally allowed to get the police involved in whatever capacity will have some dissuasive effect on the person. At least the police could begin a case file and start having a conversation with the individual.
  • Does the video game industry need to take a careful look at themselves and perhaps have stricter regulations regarding the production and release of video games in which killing and extreme violence is rewarded? Yes. I know it is a game, but it contributes to the devaluing of life, the de-sensitization of violence and death, and the blurring of the lines between lawful social conduct and fantasy.
  • Home and family values. The old fashioned way of learning right from wrong. Do we remember what they even are? Technology is wonderful and powerful. Until children totally lose the social skills to talk to each other in order to work out problems. Misguided children become adults with adult problems. Lacking coping skills anchored in values, they look for someone to ‘text an answer to them’, or they escape to act out fantasy solutions, like in the games they

We do these horrible things to each other. We can do better than this. Even if we have just one small conversation, one small compromise, one small act of tolerance, kindness, or understanding at a time.

Check out AFIMAC’s active shooter video at www.imac-training.com. It offers some real world active shooter survival tips for individuals and solid workplace violence incident planning advice for organizations.

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Nice, France Attack: A new security challenge

July 25th, 2016 Comments off

In last month’s blog, I wrote about active shooter strategies being the next possible trend in favored terrorist tactics against soft target locations. The horrific attack along the beachfront in Nice, France at the Bastille Day celebratory fireworks that killed 84 and wounded dozens more has been more thoroughly investigated. The initial reports of this being a ‘lone wolf’ scenario were not accurate. It was well planned and premeditated as cell phone records, computer data, and other intelligence sources are indicating. Five suspects have been arrested since, suspected of being accomplices in the planning stages. The scariest dynamic of this incident, however, is the sheer simplicity of the weapon of choice. Yes, Mohamed Bouhlel did have a firearm, but that was not the primary killing instrument used. A heavily loaded truck can be quite a destructive force. That now sets a very disturbing precedent.

Besides guns and IEDs, we now have to worry about heavily loaded trucks. Make no mistake; the effectiveness of this attack will inspire others with evil intentions without the means to acquire guns or explosives. This attack now brings into question how to secure large gatherings of people for holiday and sporting events, outdoor public celebrations, or even large lines of people waiting to enter crowded venues. The list is endless and presents a security challenge that is not easily met. The permanent types of vehicular barriers (bollards, heavy planters, and rising wedge type barriers) typically seen around buildings to stop onrushing vehicles are great but what can be done about temporary gatherings or conditions that would present the same vulnerability? The temporary tools that come to mind are:

  • The moveable jersey barriers that are used in highway construction projects
  • Arranging large parked vehicles for protection
  • Roadblocks surrounding an event
  • Devices to destroy tires of any on-rushing vehicles

None of these are guarantees but if used creatively and perhaps in layers or perimeters might afford some protection, if not a deterrent. Then there will always be the question about cost and ‘do we really need this’ type thinking. This will haunt security professionals for quite some time. For example, what will they do at the Olympics in Rio for any last minute changes regarding this type of possible threat? I wish I had all of the answers. Tactics will always change, and we have to be innovative enough to react accordingly and even try to foresee what we really don’t want to.

For more information- check out our website at www.afimacglobal.com.

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Active Shooter as a Terrorist Tactic

June 21st, 2016 Comments off

In March of this year, I wrote a blog on the possibility that our next 9/11-scale attack could be in the form of coordinated soft target attacks at the same time across the country. After the tragedy in Orlando, I am even more convinced that these types of soft target attacks will continue. Furthermore, the media blitz that surrounds these acts feeds the inevitable. Granted we cannot stop the media from covering these events; however, I do think that they should be aware of when reporting becomes sensationalizing and realize where the line is. (another matter for another time)

As I stated in March, symbolic government, business, and public infrastructure targets have taken steps to increase security. They have thought about terrorist/lethal attacker threat preparation and begun threat monitoring via social media and open source investigation. This is great and needs to continue. Unfortunately, in the eyes of attackers who wish only to lash out at the diversity and freedoms of western society, easier targets are now becoming equal in value. Whether attackers are religiously motivated, anti-capitalist motivated, or life style motivated, there does not seem to be a lack of groups, or very sick individuals, that will latch onto a cause and perhaps even align themselves with other radical groups that want to attack our way of living and believing.

What are soft targets? Shopping areas, theaters and clubs, restaurants, hotels, churches, schools and tourism locations – the list goes on! Many of these types of places have been targeted and attacked somewhere in the world already. No one wants to think about this but we must. Schools have. These types of attacks are difficult to stop and very effective if not planned for. Planning needs to be in three major areas:

  • Resources for preemptive intelligence gathering
  • Improving deterrent physical security
  • Anticipated emergency response and reaction guidance for occupants (Active Shooter Response Plan)

Whether a troubled individual or an organized group, social media and ‘dark’ websites are often used for communication, planning, and sometimes warnings by those who set out to conduct such attacks. I don’t care about privacy if violating it is what it takes to stop this! In my opinion, if the government or law enforcement in the community wants to monitor my emails, calls, social media posts and Internet activity, then do it. I have nothing to hide! We need to accept that this is what will be required to avert such attacks in the planning/warning stages. Supporting proactive law enforcement and intelligence gathering, and providing adequate physical security is the only chance these soft locations have not to become a target. I could site several cases where proactive intelligence has led to arrests before a tragedy could occur.

Physical security efforts can be a deterrent. Many ‘hospitality’ type businesses have always stated that they didn’t want to scare people away from their venues and establishments. Now the public might feel better seeing more security. They see what is happening at these potential target locations and may feel better having to go through metal detectors or seeing a few more uniformed security personnel. These proactive or deterrent measures need to become part of the cost of doing business to provide your customers a safe environment.

Finally, anticipated emergency response and reaction guidance for your occupants (employees or visitors) needs to be spelled out in your Active Shooter Response Plan. If you don’t have one, develop one, or call someone who can help you create one. The plan needs to address but not be limited to:

  • Emergency communications for both internal and local emergency responders
  • Reaction guidelines for occupants
  • Evacuation protocols specific to active shooter/lethal attackers
  • Emergency plans for internal security
  • Physical security /CCTV monitoring
  • Coordination with local emergency responders
  • Media messaging
  • Accommodations for mobility challenged
  • Post incident intelligence and counseling

AFIMAC is a resource for such assistance. Hit our website or call me if you would like some suggestions at 1 800.313.9170.

 

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Arming Your Employees Against Active Shooters – Making a Bad Situation Worse!

February 24th, 2016 Comments off

There is always debate after a tragic school or workplace active shooter incident over employees wanting to take their protection into their own hands. Yes, certain states have laws which allow employees to have their firearms with them if they have completed the necessary background checks and training, and have acquired the required permits. On the other hand, companies and other organizations should have workplace violence policies which prohibit their employees from bringing guns on property, even locked in their car in the parking lot. So where should prudent workplace violence policies draw the line?

Practically speaking, an employee would very rarely be in a realistic position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation. There are some harsh realities about firing a personal weapon accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation. The average citizen cannot effectively engage a hostile shooter under the typical active shooter ‘combat’ conditions without hurting any innocent bystanders or co-workers, or getting themselves killed. They don’t have the necessary training or the mindset. There are also further dangers created by the armed employee attempting to take protective action.

Let’s think about some of these realities and further dangers. You can shape your own opinion.

  • Do all private citizens/employees engage in sufficient combat shooting training to prepare themselves for the adrenalin rush, fear, tunnel vision, panic and confusion which will characterize an active shooter rampage? This type of defensive shooting is even a challenge for law enforcement patrol officers who do such training.
  • What liabilities exist for the company and the defending employee, if they engage a personal weapon defensively but miss and hit an innocent person nearby?
  • If the weapon is going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it would have to be in a position to be reached quickly, not in a locked car in the parking lot. Thus, the weapon would have to be in the building to be employed practically. This however, represents a more significant risk on a daily basis for the business under normal conditions. What if another type of workplace violence incident, or crime, is perpetrated simply because others know about that personal weapon in the workplace? (And others will know about its presence)
  • You certainly would not want an employee who was safely evacuated during an active shooter incident to get their gun from their locked vehicle and re-enter the facility to hunt the shooter down.
  • How are the responding police officers, who already have limited information about the suspect(s), know that your armed employee is not the active shooter?
  • Personally, if I was the employee who could not get out and had to hide out, I would like to have my 9mm with me, if I did have to fight for my life, rather than makeshift weapons. However, I also feel confident in my training and level of shooting experience with my law enforcement and protective operations background. Still, the weapon wouldn’t do me much good if it wasn’t in my desk or close-by.

Companies and organizations need to develop proactive weapon restrictions as part of their workplace violence prevention policy.  Granted, that the policy has to take into account the local and state laws relative to each of their facilities. I also think that the employer has the duty, for the safety of their workplace, to keep the weapons out of the building and, if possible, off of property. Having them locked in the car in the parking lot is still debatable.

An active shooter response plan should be part of this workplace violence policy. The active shooter response plan should dictate that the first reaction priority is to get out of the building during such an incident. The second response option, if you are trapped, is to hide quietly in a safe, locked and barricaded place. Only as a last resort should you engage the shooter in a fight for your life. Granted, at that point having a weapon would be useful.  However, not everyone would have that discipline to stick to the policy and get out first and not try to play hero, potentially making matters worse for the responding police.

It is essential that you consider these practical concerns when formulating your active shooter response plan as part of your larger workplace violence prevention plan.

Check out our workplace violence and active shooter response training courses.

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Active Shooter Response – Responsibility to Have a Plan

January 21st, 2016 Comments off

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Will your building occupants know what to do if an active shooter is loose in your facility hallways or on your campus? Will they all know that the event is happening, thus giving them some chance to react? Do they know what the appropriate reaction should be? Most people’s instincts are to run from danger but they must be given guidelines for doing so in an active shooter situation that won’t put them in even greater danger. What if they are trapped in an area by the shooter? What will they do then? What can they expect from responding police?

Merely depending on common sense assumptions when considering these questions is not a good response plan. Absent of a well thought out and thoroughly communicated plan, your organization is subject to occupants doing things that might make bad conditions worse. You have an ethical and legal responsibility to maintain some level of preparedness. Furthermore, you cannot depend on a very low probability of an occurrence as a defense. The human cost, if it ever does take place, demands a response plan!  No facility where such a tragedy has happened ever considered itself a likely place for it to occur!

These tragic events are now happening with even more frequency. Also, the recent incidents in San Bernardino, CA and Paris, France brings into play the possibility that this could become a terrorist’s preferred method of attack, regardless of their motivation or group sponsorship. It has become increasingly evident that organizations/businesses/schools/universities need an active shooter response plan. Specifically one that is tailored for the security circumstances at their facilities. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Granted, the response plan from one organization or institution to another may have some common reaction guidelines but the specific response protocols for each will be quite different.

In a prior piece I wrote that there are typically three response choices for facility occupants to rely upon:

  • get out – exit the danger area immediately if possible
  • hide out – lock and barricade silently in place if escape is not possible due to the location of the shooter
  • take out – mass attack the shooter if you’re cornered and your hide out option becomes a sudden fight for your life

To be practical and effective a tailored active shooter response plan has to take into account several factors including, but not limited to:

  • The type of facility in question – school, office building, retail store, factory, sports complex, secured facility, etc.
  • The presence of public occupants as well as employees
  • The environment in which the facility is located – city, suburban, rural, remote, etc.
    • This may dictate the time it will take for law enforcement response
  • The type of communication/notification system available – how will everyone in your facility know that such an event is taking place?
    • Don’t just pull the fire alarm as this may generate some less than advisable responses
  • The occupants’ capabilities to evacuate and knowledge of where to go – considering age/physical abilities/facility operations/etc.
  • Emergency responder tactics and expectations

The variations of how “get out / hide out / take out” is applied and which of the response options are selected under what conditions will be influenced by these and other factors.  Accounting for these factors in a specific response plan, and giving example circumstances during training will help to prepare each occupant to know what they should be doing.

Finally, the response plan must be tested and rehearsed. Include the local emergency responders in the refinement of your plan. Lessons learned from other incidents that have occurred, and from your own rehearsals, can be used to further modify and tailor your active shooter response plan; the one that might become part of your legal defense and your clear conscience. Arm people with the knowledge that will give them a chance to survive. It’s the right thing to do.

For more detailed training regarding active shooter response guidelines see our free course at www.imac-training.com

 

 

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