Considerations for Managing the Active Shooter Threat

Laguna Woods…

Houston…

Uvalde…

Tulsa…

We all recognize the names of these places. We are all aware of the incidents over the past few weeks that added a new significance to these names.

What about the incidents that have not made national news?

During the 31 days of May in 2022 there were a total of 69 incidents of mass violence in the United States - where four or more people were injured or killed.

318 people were injured.

91 people were killed.

Within 31 days.

There is a highly polarized and politicized debate taking place about how to address this epidemic of violence. Meanwhile, the reality is that any solutions that come out of those discussions will not be an instant fix. It will take time to implement any programs and there are no guarantees that they will work.

We cannot afford to wait.

When It Comes to Managing the Active Shooter Threat, What Is Within Your Power?

Feelings of powerlessness and fear are pervasive right now. But they don't have to be. There are things within your power that you can do to take responsibility for yourself and your organization and actively work to manage the potential consequences of this type of violence while our politicians and government figure out their bits.

Once you're responding to a violent incident you're out of good options. At that point, you're left at the mercy of doing the best you can with what is readily at-hand - and what you have readily at-hand depends on the prevention, protection, and preparedness you invested in prior to this life-altering moment.

Educating yourself, your team, and your clients, and investing in the right kind of prevention, protection, and preparedness is not only a way to help minimize the feeling of helplessness in these senseless times but can go a long way in enabling actions that save lives before a violent event even occurs.

Within this article we explore some of these strategies and, furthermore, we invite you to access a free Crisis Ready Masterclass on Managing the Active Shooter Threat, where we dive into these best practices and strategies even further.

Considerations Around Preventing the Active Shooter Threat

When it comes to prevention, there is a mindset shift and an educational and awareness component that need to permeate throughout your organization. For example:

  • When it comes to having concerns about a person's behavior, there needs to be a categorical shift of mindset from a punitive or punishment approach to a supportive approach.
  • Every employee needs to learn how to recognize the warning signs that may indicate that someone is on a pathway to violence, progressing from a violent idea toward a violent act.
  • You need to foster an environment where people feel safe, supported, and empowered to voice their concerns and report when they see behaviors change.
  • There needs to be a repeatable, defensible approach for assessing concerns and potential threats. This approach needs to treat both the person voicing a concern and the person of concern with respect, protect their civil rights and liberties, and provide due process.
  • If an assessment determines there is a credible threat of violence, you need to have the capability and capacity to act and derail, or at least delay, the progression toward a violent act, to the most extent possible.

In school shootings alone, 60% of attackers are said to have shown warning signs prior to them committing their heinous acts. Having the awareness and mechanisms in place to detect and act on the signs, preventing an active shooter or violent situation from occurring in the first place, requires a mindset shift, education, and protocols that are well within your power to instil within your organization.

Considerations Around Active Shooter Protection

When it comes to in-the-moment protection, we need to begin by acknowledging that physical security does not equate to protection on its own. There is no singular tool, technology, or methodology that can protect people and organizations from violence.

This means that you need to take the unique characteristics of your people, places, and things into consideration when developing a protection strategy. Geography, demographics, language, culture, and access and functional needs must all be included in your approach. Within this approach, the following abilities need to also be considered:

  • The ability to notify people easily and clearly if they are at risk.
  • The ability to notify first responders that there is an incident occurring.
  • The ability to warn people to stay away so that they do not inadvertently introduce themselves into an ongoing incident.

As we know, successful crisis management requires both the right actions and effective communication to happen simultaneously, within the right timeline. Protection in the case of an active shooter threat involves both physical security as well as the ability to communicate effectively with the appropriate parties to help those in harm’s way remain physically safe.

Considerations Around Preparing for an Active Shooter Threat

Avoidance is human nature. Thinking about the unpleasant (to put it mildly) is uncomfortable and scary. But you need to push past this because the risk is currently growing and choosing to avoid the "unpleasant thought" is negligent. We can no longer take the "it cannot or will not happen here" approach.

As the old adage goes, "it's better to be safe than sorry". Putting yourself and your organization in the position to be safe rather than sorry requires proactive efforts that include:

  • Developing appropriate plans and procedures for your organization, i.e. a custom Crisis Ready Program. Downloading a boilerplate document and inserting your name and address is not good enough. It will not work.
  • Including all of the aforementioned considerations within your Crisis Readiness.
  • Training your people. This training should include an overall understanding of the threat as well as specific guidance on your plans and each team member’s expected roles and responsibilities during an incident.
  • Providing opportunities to practice and gain confidence after completion of each training. Those opportunities should be designed to enable support and growth, not for shock and awe. One way to go about this type of regular training is to design immersive learning experiences, which you can learn more about here.

Next Steps for Managing the Active Shooter Threat

Having a Crisis Ready Culture requires recognizing and understanding the prevalent risks that pertain to your organization, your industry, and within society. From there, it's about adopting the right mindset, skillsets, and capabilities to put your team and organization in the best position to detect, assess, and effectively respond to a threat in real-time. We are living through an age of overwhelming violence, and active shooter incidents are, to all of our horror, increasing in frequency and severity.

We can no longer sit around and wait for a solution that tries to end violence. As leaders and as human beings, we all have a duty to care for ourselves, our organizations, and our communities. This means stepping up to manage the potential consequences of that violence until we no longer need to.

This article was originally published on CrisisReadyInstitute.com

Dive deeper into these considerations and learn how to adopt specific strategies to help you manage the active shooter threat. Access the free Masterclass hosted by Aaron Marks and Crisis Ready Institute which focuses on Consequence Management in this age of Violence and strategies to Prevent, Protect and Prepare against the active shooter threat.

Follow this link to learn how a workplace violence and harassment risk assessment can help you identify risk factors and controls to consider.

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