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?
Depending on common sense assumptions to provide the answers to 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. Not because of the foreseeable probability of this happening, but because of the extreme human cost if it ever does. No facility where such a tragedy has happened ever considered itself a likely place for it- until it did happen there!
With the recent active shooter tragedies in Aurora, Portland, Newtown, and now the Navy Yard in Washington DC, it becomes increasingly evident that organizations/businesses/schools/universities need an active shooter response plan that is tailored for the security circumstances at their facilities. Furthermore, there is not a 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.
- 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!
- The occupants’ capabilities to evacuate and knowledge of where to go – consider age / physical abilities
- 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.