Crisis Management Exercises – Do They Work?

January 24th, 2014 Comments off

Whether it is being proactive about preparing for an active shooter incident, an industrial accident, or a pending trip for executives to a major international sports event like the World Cup in Brazil this year, there is no better way of getting your emergency policy plans off of the shelf and tested than a mock or tabletop exercise. These should be lead by a third party contingency planning specialist with experience in crisis management and specific knowledge of the countries and cultures involved in the crisis. They don’t necessarily have to have been through each of your anticipated scenarios but they do need to have sufficient field experience to know what curves to throw into the exercise that are based on real world events.

Ideally the mock crisis is one that is reasonable to anticipate for your environment, industry, and circumstances. Senior management should participate so that it conveys the true significance of the event. All internal organizational entities must participate for the event to be useful. This can include but should not be limited to:

  • Security
  • Human Resources
  • Senior Management
  • Operational Unit Management
  • Legal/Compliance
  • Risk Management/Insurance Managers
  • Accounting
  • Public Relations
  • Union Representation (if appropriate)
  • Local Law Enforcement/Emergency Responders (if appropriate for the scenario)
  • Third party vendor partners/external experts

The objective is to see what everyone can and will do and what the realistic parameters for action are going to be. Making assumptions that certain actions would occur (as is often the case with mental walkthrough exercises) will not offer the same critical evidence of practicality. Outside emergency responder participation is always a plus but not essential, however they should at least be consulted with specific response capability questions. This might even spark their interest to participate and practice themselves. The more action oriented the exercise, the more effective and accurate the feedback is going to be. If conducting a “table top” only is all that your management will buy into then the exercise should be carried out with seriousness, full participation, and as much real circumstance simulation as possible.

Yes, these drills can come with some cost and be slightly disruptive. However, what is learned regarding the practicality and functionality of your policies and contingency/emergency plans can save the organization from exponential losses by comparison. There will be nothing more important if a real crisis hits and being prepared has proven to save lives in cases of a violent crisis.  With proper planning, complete communication of the exercise, and full support from all levels of the organization, you can be more confident in your contingency/emergency plans knowing that they have been professionally tested. Furthermore, you will be able to gain evidence legally, if you ever have to, that you did everything you could reasonably do to be prepared.

Check out some of our crisis management related courses at  or contact us to help coordinate such an exercise.

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World Cup Security Concerns and Personal Preparation

December 31st, 2013 Comments off

If you are planning to go to the games of the World Cup competition next summer in Brazil, there are a few things you need to be prepared for. This goes beyond the normal understanding of general security awareness measures. You have to start with an understanding of how and why people will be targeted. Many Latin American countries while beautiful can be dangerous places. Brazil is no exception even though they have been preparing for these games. Violent street crime is an increasing problem as are the activities of Transnational Crime Organizations (TCO’s). The proper approach to your security during these games will have to do primarily with your personal circumstances and the length of your stay.

Short-term visitors to Brazil need to focus on how not to become an attractive target of opportunity. Remember that perception is reality to the street criminal looking for an easy mark. Foreigners seeming to be confused or tentative, and appearing to have some wealth, are their targets. Wealth being a relative term – just wearing nice clothes or a fancy watch could be all that is necessary to establish your value to them. (Your presence at any of these events alone might mark you as someone of means.) Then they will observe your level of awareness. Those two factors are going to decide their actions towards you. Whether you are at the airport or hotel, on the street, or at one of the events, if you move about with a very low key, alert and prepared demeanor, wearing simple attire and limited or no jewelry then you will probably not be selected for assault. However, just trusting to blend in and being alert is not the best plan for this high profile event.

The World Cup events will bring thousands of people into the country and there will be an increase in criminal activity that goes along with the excitement and revenue brought by the games. Do some homework and make some plans for where you are going, who will meet you, and how you will recognize them. This will help you avoid that ‘lost or confused’ appearance. Arranging for a security driver is a great way of assuring this. Not a limousine but a simple sedan or van driven by someone who knows the area and can keep you out of dangerous locations. Also, remember that these services will be booked up early, so reserve the service you will need by January or February of 2014. Otherwise you may get stuck with someone who is not qualified at the last minute. When walking, remain alert for approaches towards you and respond assertively. This will communicate that you are not going to be an easy target. Potential assailants will choose someone who appears to have valuables or lots of cash and who also looks easier to catch off guard.

More extended stays bring another element into play. This affords the chance to study you over a longer period of time to assess your possible value as a kidnap or extortion target. Conducting yourself in a low key manner is still important but now you have to be observant for repeats of people or vehicles that seem to keep popping up around you during your day. This is probably criminal surveillance. They often study several possible kidnap or extortion targets and pick the one that offers the most value at the least risk. It will take some discipline and training for you to counter this by avoiding patterns of time or travel routes. This will make you harder to study. This alone could remove you from their list of possible targets. A security driver is again a great option or you could learn surveillance recognition techniques yourself. It is not that hard. Busy, distracted business executives are however encouraged to take advantage of a security driver because practicing designed randomness and surveillance detection takes mental concentration. This level of attention to detail and observation is difficult to practice when your daily focus might be on your business, your family members, and your enjoyment of the games.

This brief discussion is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to avoiding becoming a part of the increasingly disturbing crime statistics of Latin American countries. For more detailed information check out some of the online training courses available at or visit our website to review our service capabilities in LATAM at

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AFIMAC Answers Growing Demand From Clients and Opens an Office in Mexico

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

MIAMI, FL, Sept. 24, 2013 /CNW/ – AFIMAC, a North and South American leader in business travel security and intelligence services is pleased to announce their new office opening in Mexico. AFIMAC prides itself on partnering with their clients to protect people and property both during times of crisis and regular business operations.

Mexico is the third largest growing market for AFIMAC and the new office location will better serve companies with multi-regional operations and enhance their security postures in the growing economy. “Manufacturing plants will continue to expand and create jobs and employment, fostering vibrant local economies which will enhance overall security. But with this comes other forms of increased security threats which may mask themselves under varying asymmetric veils”, states Art Garffer, director of operations.

“Some of the many services AFIMAC will offer are security drivers, client protection, and consulting” asserts Garffer. “In addition, we provide critical analysis on how to prevent and mitigate risk, develop a corporate crisis management model, broaden the leveraging of intelligence and information scrutiny to preempt events, improve on corporate scenario planning and through improved and new technology, increase logistical cargo recovery and diminish loss”, affirms Garffer.



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Active Shooter Response – Organizational Responsibility

October 18th, 2013 Comments off

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

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Workplace Violence Prevention for Customer Service

August 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Do your customer service employees occasionally have to deal with angry customers in person? If the answer is yes, then the customer service employee could become a victim of aggression or violence. Workplace violence is often given a limited scope definition in most company policies. However, any physical altercation, intimidation, or even a threat of an altercation should be considered workplace violence. The employer has a responsibility to prepare these employees. They should have the benefit of workplace violence prevention training and good security measures.

The concept of “reasonable foreseeability” will be considered when determining liability for the consequences of an act of aggression or violent incident. What conditions leading to an act of aggression or violence could have been deemed reasonable to expect by a reasonable person? Now think again about the customer service personnel that occasionally deal with angry people. Might it be reasonable to foresee the possibility, that they could encounter an abusive, irate customer who could turn violent? A judge might one day ask whether the victimized employee had been given training on methods for defusing angry, potentially violent customers. Were they aware of emergency procedures for discretely summoning help in the face of such an altercation? Workplace violence policies should not only pertain to employee relations amongst each other, but they should also include relations between employees and visitors and/or customers.

Your business should consider training in nonviolent confrontation management for these customer service personnel. This training can give them the following tools:

  • Verbal and nonverbal de-escalation tools that might prevent a tense situation from getting out of hand
  • Positioning tactics that will help keep the employee safe, confident, and more able to regain control of the situation
  • Discrete duress signals to other employees for immediate assistance
  • Methods for redirecting the customer to feel they are being heard and action is being taken

Physical security measures should be implemented such as:

  • Measures for emergency notification and discretely summoning help
  • Designing customer service areas that afford a certain level of physical security
  • Removing items that could be used as weapons from customer service areas
  • Having areas designated which will remove the aggressor from any ‘audience’

Don’t wait for an incident to happen before you do the right thing for your team. It’s not just about liability. It is about caring enough for your employees who might be subject to this and doing what you can to protect them.

Please check out the workplace violence series courses at, specifically, “Non-Violent Confrontation Management” and “Crisis Negotiation – Dealing with Difficult People in Difficult Situations.”

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Reducing Your Workplace Violence Liability

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Having a robust and effective Workplace Violence Prevention Program is now a necessity in terms of reducing your organization’s liability for such events. Denial that anything horrific will ever happen in your workplace is no longer acceptable. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance and civil liability will often revolve around the legal opinion of whether an act of violence could have been foreseen, and mitigation or prevention steps taken. If the act occurred in your workplace, or in an environment related to your business dealings, your organization would have to answer the often-unclear question of what was “reasonably foreseeable”. There are many different types of incidents that are considered workplace violence and subject to such scrutiny such as:

  • Criminal activity of a violent nature that takes place in your workplace
  • Violence by a customer/client/patient with some relationship to the workplace (even if it occurs in the ‘field’ while on organizational business)
  • Co-worker aggression or bullying
  • Former employee returning to commit ‘revenge violence’
  • Personal relationship violence (domestic violence) unfolding in the workplace

Granted, the final act of violence might happen suddenly but the precursory warning signs that often develop over time, before the culminating incident, need to be addressed. Proper follow up on those warning signs might even prevent the violence from occurring. So, what will be necessary in order to develop a defensible position that your organization had done everything reasonable to anticipate and prevent a violent incident?  Depending on which type of incident occurs, you will need much of the following to build your defense:

  • Crime statistics (trends and recent occurrences) in the geographic location of the workplace
  • Physical security audit at the property
  • Research on crimes and violence typically related to your industry – perhaps from professional associations or peer groups – emphasis on causes that might also apply to your organization within that same industry
  • Records regarding specific acts of inappropriate aggression or violence at your workplace or at other company facilities in the past
  • Records of employee complaints and incidents of “bullying” in the workplace
  • Evidence of a written workplace violence prevention policy
  • Evidence of employee and supervisory training relative to aggressive behavior recognition and reporting responsibilities dictated by the workplace violence prevention policy
  • Development of a case management team for assessment purposes when investigation of an individual or incident is called for
  • Records regarding reports of domestic violence affecting someone in your workforce – especially if it has become noticed at work (you cannot consider this just a personal matter)
  • Evidence of safe termination protocols for individuals where violence or aggression has been an issue or for someone who might be considered high risk for vengeful reaction

This is certainly not a complete list but it is enough to give your organization a good baseline for being prepared. The biggest challenge that any employer has to face is the denial that one of these incidents could happen to them. Having a solid Workplace Violence Prevention Plan is good practice not only legally, but it is the right thing to do for the safety of your employees and visitors.

Check out AFIMAC’s recent course release on “Active Shooter Response” in the online training series on workplace violence at

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Workplace Violence Policy – What Behavior Should it Include?

June 26th, 2013 Comments off

Workplace courtesy and safety should be a simple issue of applying those universal rules of behavior we all have learned by the time we were 5 years old. It has however become a complicated issue, with social and legal consequences for both the perpetrators and the companies/organizations that fail to control them. Is bullying a behavior that should be defined within the policy and included as unacceptable behavior? Is a domestic abuse problem any of the company’s business? Where does ‘aggressive management’ cross the line into the early stages of potential workplace violence or an environment of harassment in which people might over-react?

Yes, these conditions do have to be very clearly spelled out in a workplace violence prevention program and in any written policy statements. If your policy is limited to actual physical violence or threats of violence it will fall short of recent standards. Such standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA – see directive CPL 02-01-052 dated 9/8/11) and ASIS/SHRM’s Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention – American National Standard document define workplace violence with fairly broad language. In order for your policy to provide some hope of prevention, as well as a reasonable defense in court, the following types of activity and conduct must be addressed:

  • Criminal activity within the workplace
  • Customer/client/patient confrontations
  • Personal partner abuse/domestic violence spilling into the workplace
  • Aggressive co-worker issues such as abusive emails, verbal threats, hostile intimidation, and any other unacceptable behavior that invokes fear in the workplace
  • Bullying and cyber-bullying

Much of this conduct is subject to assessment of ‘degree’, especially bullying, but your policy should give clear examples of unacceptable conduct. Absent written directives forbidding such behavior, it often isn’t recognized and therefore goes unreported. This will not only assure its continuation, but will probably be interpreted as acceptance and lead to more drastic, or aggressive, conduct. If it seems like there might be some spill-over into other policies governing employee conduct, like into your Harassment Prevention Policy, so be it. You still want to address the unacceptable behavior, see that it is reported, and take action to stop it. If abusive or aggressive conduct is addressed by more than one policy, that’s fine.

To be effective, the Workplace Violence Policy has to be understood by the workforce and the only method for achieving that is through training. This training has to be done at the employee level for all. Employees actually have to be considered your first line of reporting responsibility. They should learn the behavioral red flags and the reporting requirements expected. Training also has to be done for the supervisors who are going to be your second line of responsibility to investigate the issues. Then the designated Threat Assessment Team should be given even more specific training as to how the policy is to be applied and enforced. High risk terminations, for example, should always include an assessment by the Threat Assessment Team and the following of established protocols for the termination.

Check out our whole Workplace Violence Prevention series of training courses at

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Keeping High Risk Terminations from Becoming Active Shooter Disasters

May 28th, 2013 Comments off

Keeping High Risk Terminations from Becoming Active Shooter Disasters


Too many managers think that terminating an employee who has unacceptable aggression issues or has committed some act or threat of workplace violence will be the end of the problem. If handled poorly, it may just be the beginning of a more serious one. If termination is unavoidable, the goal is to make the unpleasant experience more tolerable for the individual through fairness, clarity, understanding, and discretion. The goal is to conduct the action in a manner that takes away their desire to either respond violently during the termination, or return later as an active shooter. Seeking the help of threat assessment and security professionals to assist with the termination planning can reduce the likelihood that this violent follow up could occur.  They can help you with the appropriate precautions before the termination, during the termination, and afterwards.


The process begins with recognizing the types of individuals that could be considered high risk terminations. The circumstances of the termination affect how this is evaluated. If the termination is being necessitated by unacceptably aggressive behavior in the first place, then that is an obvious high risk individual. Early recognition of aggressive or violence prone tendencies is essential and may even give the company a chance to work with the individual to improve the behavior before the termination becomes the only option. This early recognition is the responsibility of the entire workforce. Employees must first take note of the conduct and then follow through to report it. This might not happen if the employees are not all trained in what type of behavior is inappropriate and that they have a responsibility to report it.


All employees, supervisors, and threat assessment team members must be trained to recognize their roles in the organization’s workplace violence avoidance program. Employees and supervisors must be trained to recognize and report problem behavior. The assessment team must then begin the process of analyzing all of the accumulated data to reveal the severity of the problem. Denying the significance of certain conduct in order to “avoid confrontation” or failing to “connect the dots” are phrases often heard after a violent incident to describe what went wrong.


But what if the termination is for another business reason and the indicators that this person might respond in an emotionally driven, violent manner are harder to spot. What if it is a downsizing move or elimination of a position not due to poor conduct or performance? Can this be high risk? Now we have to look deeper into the circumstances and emotional state of the individual in question. They may not be demonstrating obvious precursor signs of violent behavior, but they might have some other contributing factors at play. You need to be aware of these or they might surprise you with a sudden ‘unforeseen’ type of action at the termination interview, or following it. These people might fit one of the categories below:


  • The disgruntled employee – not violent yet but always has a chip on their shoulder about the company
  • The overly attached employee – their whole life is their work and they do not have much of a support structure
  • The ‘end of their rope’ employee – they have had so much other life stress that losing a job may be the last straw


Of course not all of these people will respond violently to being terminated, but they might, and for that possibility you must take some precautions to accomplish the goal mentioned earlier. Take away their desire to act violently or return for revenge.


For more on high risk terminations and other workplace violence prevention training check out

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Workplace Violence – Is Denial Still a Problem?

April 23rd, 2013 Comments off

With the horrific events of violence that have unfolded over the last six months or so like Sandy Hook Elementary School, the movie theater in Aurora, CO, and most recently in Boston at the marathon, do you really still think violence couldn’t happen in your workplace?  Violence is a critical issue for employers to deal with and one of the biggest mistakes that many organizations make is to remain in denial. Yes – it is an unpleasant topic to talk about, let alone make policy on, but you are taking a huge financial risk by not recognizing that it could happen in your workplace and developing prevention strategies to reduce those chances. Your only defense against being found negligent and liable in court if something does happen is to have done the necessary risk assessment to overcome a reasonable foreseeability argument. You will also need to document that you have a workplace violence prevention program in place. Furthermore, when you profess to employees that they are your most valued asset, as so many companies like to do, what message you are sending to them when you do not address violence prevention?

Maybe your organization doesn’t need to have a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Let’s see – if you have never had crime in your neighborhood, a domestic violence situation with one of your employees, fired anyone, a crime happen in your business, one of your employees stalked, an irate customer threaten one of your employees, a bully in your ranks or never had an employee use aggressive, intimidating language or action against another then maybe your organization is immune. I don’t think that place exists! Yes, all of those things listed can lead to workplace violence and will be looked at in court as contributing to reasonable foreseeability.

How often, after a tragic violent incident do people who are interviewed say something like “I knew he would do something like this” or “he always made me afraid.” Often those who are in the best position to recognize problem behavior from an individual are the employees who engage with them every day. They know something is wrong but may keep quiet about their concerns. They expect that someone should be doing something about the issue but don’t know what to report, or are afraid to. This is not the employee’s fault. If they haven’t been made aware that they have a responsibility to report certain things addressed by the workplace violence prevention program, then they cannot help reduce the problem.

Let’s just take the example of not reporting inappropriate aggression. This can stem from a number of reasons including but not limited to:

  • Fear of repercussions from the individual in question
  • Not knowing when a behavior is deemed unacceptable and must be reported
  • Not knowing to whom or how to report the behavior
  • No assurance that there will be follow up by a supervisor or management

All of these reasons can be addressed with an effective workplace violence prevention policy that is enforced and is an employment compliance requirement. Workplace violence prevention policies must address inappropriate intimidation through language, gestures, direct and indirect threats, or any other aggressive conduct that instills fear into employees. This fear can be coming from an internal or external source. Not only should all employees be trained in what to look for but they should be required to report the problem to supervisory personnel. Supervisory personnel also have to be trained in how to investigate such reports and follow up with those designated within the organization to handle such matters.

Corporate denial is even more evident if ongoing conduct is reported, or a mildly violent incident occurs, and no action to investigate or correct the behavior is taken. This will assure that the aggressive conduct will continue. Others may even mimic the aggression since it seems to be tolerated by the company. Soon the behavior can take on a more violent form when people begin to fight back. Eventually the workplace becomes a hostile environment. No matter who the aggressor is, the behavior must be addressed and stopped. Don’t just transfer the person out to another department hoping they will change their behavior.  Don’t promote them out, and don’t make excuses. Correct the behavior or remove the individual using safe termination protocols.

Consider the possibility of an active shooter. If someone does go on a shooting rampage in your facility, have you trained your personnel what to do? It is fairly simple training but does require a response plan that will work for your facility. This is just one component of your workplace violence prevention and response program.  Just planning to call 911 is not enough.

For more information regarding workplace violence prevention, safe terminations, bullying prevention, active shooter response planning and training, supervisory training and other related topics check out the Workplace Violence Series on our website at



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Employees With Guns in Active Shooter Incidents

March 22nd, 2013 1 comment

There has been quite a debate going since the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Employees want to take their protection into their own hands. 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 the required permits. On the other hand, companies and other organizations would prefer to 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 policy draw the line?

When is the employee in a realistic position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation? What are the realities about firing a personal weapon accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation and can the average citizen engage an adversary under those conditions without hurting any innocent bystanders or co-workers? Not easy questions to answer.

Let’s think about some realities and you can shape your own answers.

  • Companies and organizations need to develop proactive weapon restrictions as part of their workplace violence prevention policy. That policy has to take into account the local and state laws relative to each of their facilities when developing it. An active shooter response plan should be part of this workplace violence policy and the first thing it should dictate as an effective reaction is to get out of the building during such an incident. The second response option 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. Yes – at that point having your weapon would be useful, but would everyone have that discipline to stick to the policy and try to get out first and not play hero.
  • Do all private citizens/employees engage in combat shooting training to prepare themselves for the adrenalin, fear, tunnel vision, panic and confusion which will probably be present in an active shooter rampage? This type of shooting is even a challenge for law enforcement professionals 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?
  • What if another type of workplace violence incident is perpetrated because of the known presence of that weapon in the workplace? Others will know about its presence?  If the weapon is going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it will have to be in a position to be reached quickly and not in a locked car in the parking lot. Thus the weapon actually being in the building is the only way it can be employed practically. This however, represents a more significant risk than if the weapon remains locked in a car in the parking lot.
  • 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, rather than makeshift weapons, if I did have to fight for my life. However, I also feel confident in my training and level of shooting experience with my law enforcement and protective operations background. The weapon also wouldn’t do me much good if it wasn’t in my desk or close-by.

I know I have not presented many answers here but I think it is helpful to consider these practical concerns when formulating your active shooter response plan as part of your larger workplace violence prevention policy.

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