Posts Tagged ‘Active Shooter Response’

Active Shooter Prevention – Social Solutions

February 22nd, 2018 Comments off

With the increasing volume of workplace shootings, and the latest tragedy at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland FL, the search for solutions to this ongoing problem is driving many debates as to what the causes might be. The below link provides yet another perspective for schools. It addresses the confusing, but necessary, consideration of discrete communication during emerging, red-flag conditions. That communication is between school administrations, law enforcement, and mental health professionals – even other schools. “You’ve Suspended a Potential Aggressor…Now What?

Threat assessment teams, information sharing, community partnerships and automated tools help colleges manage at-risk individuals both on and off campus. As with other forms of workplace or criminal violence, there is no one magic solution to preventing an active shooter incident. What causes a person to become an active shooter and indiscriminately take the lives of random innocent targets? That is why I have, in the past, called this society’s challenge. Is the solution better gun control, improved mental health, law enforcement cooperation, enhanced school security, more parental and student involvement, or better follow-up with school administration? The list goes on, and everyone has an agenda to push.

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

Gun Control

The gun control debate has to find an actionable middle ground. Gun enthusiast organizations would allow everyone to possess high capacity assault weapons (such as the AR 15 used in Parkland). Does the average civilian need a full or semi-automatic high capacity weapon(s) for self-defense? Meanwhile, liberal, anti-gun proponents would take all guns away from everyone. However, should citizens 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 must find a happy medium on this issue.

Mental Health

Do mental healthcare professionals owe it to their communities to work with law enforcement when a patient’s behavior displays an apparent propensity towards violence? Perhaps police involvement 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. Law enforcement must not let reports fall on deaf ears. The investigation continues as to whether the FBI failed in its duty to effectively follow up on tips related to Cruz.

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 lose their social skills to talk to each other, parents, or to school administrators, in order to get in front of their problems. Students interviewed after the Parkland shooting said they knew whom it was going to be. Why didn’t that fact get someone’s attention before the incident?


Misguided, ‘problem’ children become adults with adult problems. Lacking coping skills with values, they look for someone to ‘text an answer to them’, or they escape to act out fantasy solutions, like in the games they play. Should the video game industry take a careful look at the games they create and perhaps have stricter regulations regarding the production and release of games in which killing and extreme violence is rewarded? It can contribute to the devaluing of life, the de-sensitization of violence and death, and the blurring of the lines between lawful social conduct and fantasy.


Do we have to rethink school security? We may need a new standard and perhaps require law enforcement presence in all schools. No school is immune from violence, or in a safe neighborhood.

As more and more of the types of events occur, it is up to us to create a more prepared society. One that reduces these incidents through proactiveness whenever possible and using whatever means we have in our communities.

Check out AFIMAC’s active shooter video at It offers some real-world active shooter survival tips for individuals and workplace violence prevention advice for organizations.

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Active Shooter Response Options

September 6th, 2017 Comments off

Want to learn more? Watch our Aggressors and Active Shooters in the Workplace webinar below and register for our Active Shooter Online Training course here: 

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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


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Armed Security Officers – Defense Against Active Shooters?

August 19th, 2016 Comments off

There is always debate after a tragic school or workplace active shooter incident about whether the organization should consider hiring armed security officers as the first line of defense against active shooter incidents. Companies and other organizations should have workplace violence policies, which prohibit their employees from bringing guns on the property, or even locked in their car in the parking lot. So where should a prudent workplace violence policy draw the line regarding arming security officers?

I can present real world arguments both for and against. Practically speaking, an armed security officer would probably be able to get to the shooter’s location faster than the responding public law enforcement. They might find the active shooter and be faster at getting an accurate defensive shot off as opposed to the active shooter seeing the officer first and shooting them with no hesitation.  There are some harsh realities about firing a weapon accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation. The average armed security officer does not have sufficient, or frequent enough, training to effectively engage a hostile shooter under the typical active shooter ‘combat’ conditions. Given current training standards, they might hurt an innocent bystander or co-worker, or getting themselves killed. Mindset is also critical in this combat situation, and the armed security officer may not be able to muster the will to kill if necessary. There are several dangers created by the armed security officer being asked to take this protective action.

Let’s look at some of these realities and further dangers. You can shape your opinion.

  • Do all states require armed security officers to complete sufficient combat shooting training to prepare them 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 officers who do such training
    • Law enforcement officers have the benefit of a 16-week law enforcement academy (average time) versus the armed security officer having maybe a week of training (again, average time)
  • What liabilities exist for the company, the security officer, and the contract security company, if they engage a duty weapon defensively but miss and hit an innocent person nearby?
  • If the weapon is to be used in an active shooter incident, it will have to be carried on duty at all times.
    • This, however, represents a more significant risk for accidents involving the weapon on a daily basis during normal duty time
    • Just ask any contract security company if they have had such accidents and how often
    • What if another type of workplace violence incident, or crime, leads to the officer being overpowered and losing the weapon?
  • I will tell you that the responding police officers, who already have limited information about the suspect(s), and are nervous themselves coming into this emergency, will not like the fact that armed security personnel are searching the facility as well
  • Personally, if I were a duty security officer, I would like to have my 9mm with me. However, I also feel confident in my training and level of shooting experience with my prior law enforcement and protective operations background.

Companies and organizations need to develop proactive weapon restrictions as part of their workplace violence prevention policy.  I 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 the property. This includes security officers until state standards of required training are grossly improved and standardized in every state.

For the benefit of your employees and other occupants, an active shooter response plan should be part of your workplace violence prevention program. 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, having a sufficiently trained, armed security officer who is well disciplined and prepared might save lives; but what would that cost? That is an entirely different discussion. The necessary changes in training would significantly drive up the cost of either maintaining a proprietary armed guard force or contracting one. It is not an easy or cheap proposition.

Check out our workplace violence and active shooter response training courses online at:


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Active Shooter Response – Responsibility to Have a Plan

January 21st, 2016 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? 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



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Active Shooter Response Planning

January 2nd, 2013 Comments off

With the recent active shooter tragedies in Aurora, Portland and now Newtown, it becomes increasingly evident that organizations/businesses/schools need an active shooter response plan. Furthermore, this is not a one size fits all challenge. Granted, the plan from one organization or institution to another may have some common reaction guidelines but the specific response protocols for each may be quite different.

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

get out – exit immediately if possible

hide out – lock and barricade in place if escape is not possible

take out – mass attack the shooter if you’re cornered and fight for your life

However, to be practical and effective tailored shooter response protocols have to take into account several factors such as:

  • The type of facility in question – school, mall, business, sports complex, etc.
  • The environment in which the facility is located – city, suburban, rural, remote, etc.
  • The type of communication system available
  • The occupants’ capabilities – age/physical abilities
  • Emergency responder availability/response time
  • Public occupants vs. employees only

These are just to name a few.

The variations of how “get out / hide out / take out” is applied and which of these response options are selected under what conditions will be influenced by these and other factors. Having a generic plan which defines these three basic options is only the beginning. Accounting for these factors and giving example circumstances to prepare each occupant to know specifically what they should be doing is the key to developing an effective active shooter response plan. Then the 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. Facility management has a legal and moral responsibility to have an active shooter response plan that is practical and will give people a chance to survive. It’s the right thing to do.

For more detailed training regarding active shooter response guidelines see our course to be released in January 2013 at

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Active Shooter Response for Building Occupants

September 18th, 2012 Comments off

Practically speaking only three reactions need to come to mind in the event you find yourself in a building with an active shooter attacking inside – Get Out – Hide Out – Take Out. This kind of scenario is the most dangerous workplace violence situation and will require some forethought and discipline to survive.

Get Out – In order to select the right initial response you will have to assess, as best as you can safely, where the shooting is taking place and which way the active shooter may be proceeding. That will be your first clue to determine whether you can select the first, and most desirable option, which is to get out immediately. If you are at work, it will help if you have a predetermined exit plan with a back up if that pathway would lead toward danger. Saving time and reacting immediately can be the difference between getting out safely and getting trapped in. When you evacuate take nothing with you –your personal stuff can stay. Though you want to move quickly, check around corners and into stairwells before you enter in case the shooter is moving quietly after the original shots were fired. Get people to come with you. If they resist don’t let them slow you down and stay as quiet as possible in the evacuation. Once outside, seek cover at a safe distance and prevent others from entering unknowingly.

Hide Out – If the active shooter is spotted or heard outside your immediate space and you cannot get out, then hide out. If behind closed doors, barricade your space and lock the door and remain quiet. If you are in a cubical or open area hide silently under a desk. Doing it silently will be hard but you must stay quiet! Turn off all radios, office machines, and lights if possible. Turn off cell phones. Don’t just put on vibrate mode- turn OFF! Let someone else call the police for help from a safe place. Hide behind anything thick and heavy and available for cover. Mentally prepare for the last option if the active shooter enters your space.

Take Out – If you are in a space with others, assemble as quiet as possible and plan to attack in mass should the active shooter enter. Do not hesitate to hurt the shooter very badly because you are fighting for your life. Don’t just hurt them –incapacitate them! Then restrain them with whatever is available after getting the weapon from them. Do not take the weapon with you if you then exit. Listen for any other shooters before leaving that space because there might be more than one. If police have begun searching the building be very careful how you exit or move towards an exit. Responding police don’t know you! Do what they say if they see you.

Now if you were by yourself under a desk, the best you can do is try to get something to use as a weapon and prepare to fight for your life if the active shooter finds you. If they go past you, be very careful before you try to exit because you don’t really know where the shooter is. This will be a personal decision but remember to move quietly if you do so.

For a more detailed set of guidelines check out the Active Shooter Response course on which will be released for purchase later this year as part of our ongoing Workplace Violence Prevention series.

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