Q&A: Preparing a Small Business For A Possible Attack

November 6th, 2018 Comments off

By The Associated Press | Nov. 5, 2018

NEW YORK — News of another mass shooting, including the recent attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, makes many people wonder what they would do if confronted with an active shooter or other assailant. And small business owners may wonder how they can prepare their companies to deal with a possible attack.

Here are some questions and answers:

Q. What resources are available to help small business owners prepare their staffers to deal with potential violence?

A. There are websites and videos online that describe what employees should do if there is an active shooter. Government agencies have web pages with instructions and videos, among them the Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov ), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov ) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (www.osha.gov ). Another site is www.ready.gov , also operated by Homeland Security.

But sending employees an email with a list of online resources may not help prepare people, says Sean Ahrens, a security consultant with AEI Affiliated Engineers. In-person training sessions that include role-playing and tours of a company’s facilities to point out exit routes and potential hiding places are more likely to have a lasting impact, he says.

 “When you put someone into that role-playing, the adrenaline gets going,” Ahrens says.

Owners may want to consider bringing in security consultants to train staffers. And many local law enforcement agencies are willing to analyze small businesses and help owners and employees understand where and how they can escape or hide. For example: If they hide inside a room with furniture, they should block the door with pieces of furniture piled on top of one another, creating as big a barricade as possible.

Q. What’s involved in preparing to deal with an active shooter?

A. There is no way to prepare for the exact circumstances of an attack because each situation is unique and unpredictable. But a company can create a plan that helps people know generally what to do, says Rob Shuster, a vice president at the security consultancy AFIMAC Global.

 For example, everyone should know how to report that there’s an assailant on the premises, and they need to know how the company will communicate with everyone on the premises. They should know that they need to run from the building if possible, where all the exits are and where they should assemble. They need to know all the possible hiding places, and how to secure the doors of rooms and closets. They need to know quirks in the building that can save their lives — like a crawl space that a shooter or other assailant doesn’t know about.

A plan can also help people know what common mistakes to avoid, Shuster says. For example, escaping employees may want to run up to a law enforcement officer, a dangerous idea because officers may not know whether the people approaching them are innocent or assailants, he says. And, their hands should be empty, so no one mistakenly believes they’re carrying a weapon.

Q. Are there potential incidents besides a random active shooter that companies should prepare for?

A. Security experts also train owners and workers about what to do in the case of disgruntled staffer or a domestic dispute — two situations that are more likely to happen at a workplace. They also instruct companies about how to deal with a robbery or other criminal act.

In the cases of a vengeful staffer or a domestic dispute, employees would take some of the same steps, starting with running and hiding, as with a random shooter. In the case of a robbery, the safest approach is to give criminals what they’re looking for, says Brent O’Bryan, a vice president at Allied Universal, a company that provides security and other services. While there have been videos on TV and online of some store employees tackling robbers, that is not recommended, and could be deadly, he says.

It’s not possible to know in advance that a current or former staffer will come into a workplace and begin attacking employees and managers. But owners can lessen the possibility of an attack by addressing problems as they come up, O’Bryan says. An owner should consider asking human resources professionals for advice in dealing with angry or troubled staffers.

“A business owner needs to make sure he or she as leaders are willing to step in and stop issues — whether it’s an employee acting up for a problem between employees — and snuff it out so it cannot evolve into something worse,” O’Bryan says.

Violence related to a domestic dispute is equally hard to predict. But owners also need to encourage staffers to speak up if they are having domestic issues or have obtained an order of protection against a spouse, partner or boyfriend or girlfriend, O’Bryan says.

Co-workers also need to feel free to approach the boss if there seems to be a problem, such as a troubled or angry staffer, or an employee suffering through a difficult and possibly threatening domestic situation.


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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com/search/joyce%20rosenberg

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/11/05/business/ap-us-smallbiz-get-started.html
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Workplace Violence Prevention Policy – What Behavior Should be Included?

May 1st, 2018 Comments off


Workplace courtesy and safety should be a simple matter of applying those basic rules of behavior we all should have learned by the time we were five years old. It has however become a complicated issue, with social and legal consequences for both the offenders and their employers that fail to identify aggressive behaviors as violations. Is bullying a behavior that should be defined within the workplace violence prevention 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 harassment and create a hostile working environment in which people are prone to 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 defines workplace violence with 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 or outside the workplace on business

* Customer/client/patient confrontations while on duty

* Personal partner abuse/domestic violence spilling into the workplace

* Aggressive co-worker (or former 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 behavior. Absent written directives forbidding such behavior, can mislead employees into thinking nothing is wrong, and therefore incidents can go unreported. This will not only assure its continuation, but will probably lead to more drastic, or more aggressive, conduct if not addressed. If it seems like there might be some spillover into other policies governing employee conduct, like 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. It is ok if abusive or aggressive conduct is recognized by more than one policy.

To be effective, the Workplace Violence Policy has to be understood by the entire workforce, and the only method for achieving that is through training. This training has to be done at the employee level for all. Employees 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 followed by established protocols for termination. Check out our whole Workplace Violence Prevention series of training courses at www.imac-training.com.

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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 www.imac-training.com. It offers some real-world active shooter survival tips for individuals and workplace violence prevention advice for organizations.

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Top 5 Issues to Consider when Planning Responses to Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations

January 29th, 2018 Comments off

Having a written response plan specific to the type of emergency and the location(s) involved

Example: for active shooter response plans, though they might contain the same components from one site to another, the specific directives will vary according to factors such as:

  • Size of facility
  • Number of occupants – population of employees and public
  • Rural, suburban or city environment
  • Response time for public emergency services
  • Type of access control at your facility
  • Other factors

Note: the response plan for this emergency will be very different from a fire emergency

Employee training – the staff will need to know (based on the type of emergency) what they should do and how they need to assist their visitors/customers during the emergency:

  • How to evacuate
  • Where to evacuate
  • Accountability
  • Assistance for disabled, etc.

Identify and test the audible notification system for the facility – how will everyone know what the emergency is, where it is happening, and what his or her immediate actions should be. Also, how will you confirm that the public emergency services have been notified?

Develop event specific evacuation instructions – These should include:

  • Evacuation routes
  • All exits are mapped
  • Instructions for how to interact with responding police and public emergency services
  • What should or should not be taken when evacuating
  • Leaving doors open or closed
  • Assuring access controlled doors are all open for emergency

Have established relationships with the police and other emergency services and coordinate your response plans with them in advance – Emergency service responders need to know what your plan is and you need to know what they will expect from your staff and occupants. This can help shape a better response/evacuation plan for the specific circumstances that might vary from one emergency type to another.


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Active Lethal Assailant – Sniper

October 25th, 2017 Comments off

It is likely that active shooter / active lethal assailant strategies are becoming the next possible trend in favored terrorist tactics against soft target locations. The horrific attack in Las Vegas this month that killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 more must provide a catalyst for change in the way we prepare for outdoor mass gatherings.  Recent vehicular attacks have made us aware of the additional planning that must also be considered regarding vehicles as weapons. However, this Las Vegas type of attack adds a new dimension to the problem. It took some planning by the attacker to get that many automatic weapons and ammunition into the final location. Public reports have him entering the property several days before the attack, allowing plenty of time for multiple trips in and out of the hotel with luggage. In a place like Las Vegas, this would not have raised any eyebrows.

This attack method 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. Realistically, nobody ever thinks it will happen, until it does. Now that it has, the precedent has been set.

Safeguards to consider for outdoor events:

  • Select venues in cities that have gunfire detection systems (like ShotSpotter) for shot origination pinpointing
  • Pre-event ‘high ground’ sweeps
  • Counter-sniper team deployment
  • Undercover officers in the crowd (in case the shooter is amongst everyone)
  • Stationing security in surrounding buildings overlooking venues (watching hallways and windows)
  • Emergency messaging systems and phone apps that give direction during an emergency to occupants and patrons attending an event
  • Clear emergency evacuation signage to reduce stampeding in panic (people tend to run to where they entered creating a funnel danger)
  • Effective barriers and buffer zones to guard against vehicle ramming attacks

None of the above suggestions are guarantees, but if used creatively and perhaps in layers or combinations, it may afford some protection, if not a deterrent. There will always be the question about cost and the ‘do we really need this’ attitude. This will haunt security professionals for quite some time. Not just for outside events, but also for large sports venues as the crowds gather for entry.  What will become the standard duty of care? Tactics will always change, and we will have to be innovative enough to react accordingly and even try to foresee what we really do not want to.

For more information about our consulting services – check out our website at www.afimacglobal.com.

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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: www.afimacglobal.com/activeshooter 

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High Risk Employee Behavior Indicators

August 25th, 2017 Comments off

Extremists Rallies –Permission and Preparation

August 21st, 2017 Comments off


With the increasing frequency of ‘extremist’ group demonstrations or rallies comes the security concerns brought on by the emotionally driven misconduct often occurring at these events. The First Amendment dictates the need for permission and tolerance of these gatherings, even though there is often an undertone of hatred that drives them. I feel that this is an emotion that should not be rewarded with a public voice, but that is just my opinion. Unfortunately, during some of these events, participants feel the end justifies the means. That is when things get out of hand and underscores the importance of event precautions and preparation.

This tendency towards violent outbreaks has become increasingly evident in politically, or racially, motivated gatherings where groups with opposite viewpoints clash. This misconduct often results in arrests of course, but it still represents a danger to peaceful demonstrators or civilians just trying to go about their business in the area. Take the most recent events in Charlottesville, VA at the University of Virginia. A racially motivated and permitted rally that attracted opposing factions (haters). Violence broke out, and someone drove a car into the crowd killing one woman and injuring many others. We have clearly been put on notice that these events will draw the wrong element. Aggressors will show up along with those who want to voice their opinions peacefully; those for whom the First Amendment was intended.

My suggestions for campuses, communities and nearby companies that are concerned about announced events such as these is to meet with the local police and find out what preventive measures are being considered. Also, given the nature of the event, would authorities consider not granting the demonstration permits because of the public safety concern it represents. In the wake of the Charlottesville incident, Texas A&M announced it had canceled the “White Lives Matter” rally that had been scheduled for 9/11/17 on their campus. Good for them. One can never absolutely say that something violent might have happened, but common sense should prevail.

There are some things to consider when preparing for an event that could become emotionally charged. The following are just a few suggestions and are not an exhaustive list:

  • Establish a rapport with the local police and get briefed on security precautions.
  • Seek the assistance of an investigative service that will assist with open-source monitoring of the Internet sites and social media channels typically used in the planning of such events. It is amazing what people will spout off about on the internet, often with threatening overtones.
  • Based on what you find out from the local police, determine whether your company should contract out for extra security, intelligence gathering and social media monitoring, photographic evidence collection, executive or personal protection and other response options.
  • If the event is planned on your property, consider the physical location and whether it might be susceptible to a vehicular attack similar to what happened in Charlottesville. What barriers should be considered as a defense or at least a deterrent? (Refer to my blog in April)

Observation– It is sad we need to have a “white lives matter” movement and a “black lives matter” movement. Why not “lives matter”- period!

For more about AFIMAC services that can help during event planning, check out our website at www.afimacglobal.com.


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Arming Employees and Security Guards Against Active Shooters

June 21st, 2017 Comments off

Clients repeatedly ask me whether arming the security guards or selected employees is a responsible defense against active shooters? Although there may be some isolated circumstances where this could provide an advantage, I still do not believe it is beneficial in most cases. Yes, certain states have laws that allow employees to have their firearms with them if they have completed the necessary background checks and training, and have obtained the required permits. However, there are companies and other organizations that have workplace violence policies that prohibit their employees from bringing guns on the property. So where should prudent workplace violence policy draw the line? If it is going to take police some time to respond to the location, might an armed security guard be able to get to the shooter more quickly?

Practically speaking, an employee would very rarely be in a position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation. There are some harsh realities about firing a handgun accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation. The average citizen cannot effectively engage a hostile shooter under these conditions without hurting an innocent bystander or co-worker or getting themselves killed. They do not have the necessary training or the mindset. There are also further dangers created by the armed employee attempting to take protective action. The police responding do not know that they are not the active shooter suspect.

A similar case can be argued against an armed security guard. They do not have the sufficient level of training to prepare them for these same challenges of combat shooting. It is not their fault, or their contract company’s fault, but rather a lack of appropriate regulatory training requirement in most states. Also, their clients would probably not pay the rates that would support the necessary level of training.

Let’s think about some of these realities and further dangers. You can shape your 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.
  • Armed security guards do not have the training or practice required to maintain the necessary skill sets that the police
  • What liabilities exist for the company, and the armed guard or employee, if the employee or guard engages a weapon defensively but misses their target and hits an innocent person nearby?
  • For employees, if the weapon were going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it would have to be positioned for quick access, 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 because others know about that weapon?
  • 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. They will probably be mistaken for the suspect shooter when the police get

Personally, if I were 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 would not do me much good if it was not 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 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 the property. Having them locked in a car in the parking lot is still debatable.

An active shooter response plan should be part of your workplace violence policy. An active shooter response plan should dictate that the first reaction priority is to get out of the building during 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, would everyone have that discipline to stick to the policy and get out first and not try to play hero, perhaps making matters worse for responding police?

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

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


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Active Assailant Strategies Using Vehicles

April 24th, 2017 Comments off


Active shooter and lethal assailant strategies are becoming the next possible trend in favored terrorist tactics against soft target locations. The horrific attack last year along the beachfront in Nice, France at the Bastille Day celebratory fireworks that killed 84 and wounded dozens more has provided a demonstration of an easy means of lethal attack to others. Smaller scale but similar attacks have now happened on a college campus at Ohio State and most recently in London. I think this is just the beginning of a new trend for mass killing with a tool that is readily available to anyone – a vehicle. The initial reports on the incident in Nice stating that is was a ‘lone wolf’ scenario were not accurate. It was well planned and premeditated as cell phone records, computer data, and other intelligence sources indicated. Multiple suspects were arrested, suspected of being accomplices in the planning stages. The scariest dynamic of this incident and the others that have followed, however, is the sheer simplicity of the weapon of choice. Yes, the Nice attacker 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. A very disturbing precedent has been set, and it is being copied on perhaps a smaller scale with normal sized vehicles.

Besides guns and IEDs, we now have to worry about vehicular attacks at places where people gather. Make no mistake; the effectiveness and ease of these attacks will inspire others with evil intentions without the means to acquire guns or explosives. This attack method 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/delta type barriers) typically seen around buildings to stop onrushing vehicles are great, and that may have to become more of the norm in security-conscious construction. However, 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 and Embassy complexes around the world (multiple layers of them would have to be used to stop a large truck)
  • Arranging large parked trucks for protection
  • Devices to destroy tires of any on-rushing vehicles – outside of the barriers
  • Roadblocks surrounding an event and concentric perimeter zones checking credentials and each visitors’ purpose
  • Closing off roads surrounding an event. (if the scale of the event warrants)

None of these are guarantees, but if used creatively and perhaps in layers or combinations they might afford some protection, if not a deterrent. Then there will always be the question about cost and ‘do we really need this’ type of thinking. This will haunt security professionals for quite some time. For example, what will become the standard for large sports venues regarding this type of threat as the crowds gather for entry? I think about it when I am standing in those lines with my family. I wish I had more answers. Tactics will always change, and we will have to be innovative enough to react accordingly and even try to foresee what we really don’t want to.

For more information about our consulting services – check out our website at www.afimacglobal.com.

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