Stopping an Active Shooter Is More Than Run, Hide, Fight
Unfortunately, our country continues to be plagued by horrific active shooter incidents such as what occurred at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport last week as we remember those who lost their lives or were injured in the attack. Because of the constant reoccurrence of these tragedies, the Department of Homeland Security created the action phrase ̶ ̶ Run, Hide, Fight. These instructions have become almost instinctive and such a key part of our culture that under extreme duress, such as an active shooter incident, ordinary citizens know how to react appropriately. And this knowledge of what to do will hopefully save their lives and possibly the lives of others.
Although I acknowledge the importance of Run, Hide, Fight, I also understand how much more needs to be considered in order to protect ourselves against an active shooter. Run, Hide, Fight instructs us primarily on what to do during an incident, but what also needs to be taught is how to prevent the incident from occurring in the first place. The year 2017 offers us an opportunity to pause, reassess, and look at two critical elements associated with active shooters—cause and mitigation.
Starting at the Beginning Is a Good Place to Start
After an active shooter incident occurs, the post-incident investigation traces the history of the shooter to determine possible association to the victims and the scene of the crime and often reveals a number of clues that show the active shooter was on a pathway to violence. Some of these warning signs include inappropriate posts or disturbing videos on social media, violent outbursts, threatening comments, and dramatic changes in appearance.
Because each of these incidents needs to stand on its own, we don’t have a universally accepted profile to identify a potential active shooter—so having the preventative strategies in place before an incident offers one key measure to mitigating it. If you know what indicators to look for and have access to professional assistance, such as mental health services, you may be able to determine if intervention is necessary. Any of these signs could be an indication of a much more serious problem that may require identification, assessment, and management of a potential violent situation by a team of professionals with a diverse skill set.
Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail
So far, I’ve talked about what to do during an active shooter scenario (run, hide, fight) and the actions to take to prevent irregular behavior (identify, assess, manage) from deteriorating into an act of violence. A holistic strategy will feature all of these recommendations along with a number of other preventative disciplines in order to deter, delay, or deny the possible occurrence of an active shooter incident.
You can help to efficiently and effectively ensure safety and security with the proper planning, awareness, education and training necessary to respond to an active shooter. And the best way to implement these measures is to capture the essential processes in an Active Shooter Plan. The plan needs to be adaptable to circumstances, innovative, and, when necessary, improvisational and ideally prepares everyone for all hazards—natural, accidental, and intentional.
One Is the Loneliest Number
A site-specific Active Shooter Plan, such as for a commercial property or higher education campus, is not created by one person, or even a small group of people. In other words, your plan isn’t written in a vacuum. A multi-disciplinary approach is required and demands collaboration between internal and external stakeholders that are invested in the process. Individuals with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and experience can come together and work side-by-side to design a plan to mitigate this threat. In-house staff can include security, legal, HR, facilities, maintenance, and emergency management while outside constituents are typically contract security, law enforcement, fire department, medical, and local emergency managers.
Building the Perfect (Security) Beast
We turn to a consultant to help us with a challenge we can’t solve ourselves, to supply the knowledge and experience of industry best practices and regulatory compliance, provide a particular type of subject matter expertise, or to guide us through a specific project. While a security consultant is certainly an advisor, assessor, examiner, and evaluator, we can also ask him or her to modify, correct, enhance, and create safety- and security-related documents—specifically, procedural standards such as guidelines, policies, plans, rules, and directives.
Imitation Is the Highest Form of Flattery
If you could create a security department that was an industry leader with best-in-class operations, would you? Of course you would, but how do you know your program is better than the rest? What puts you ahead of your competitors and, equally important, keeps you there? Your success starts with the documents that reflect the mission of the security program while at the same time protect the brand of the organization. Ideally you want to benchmark against companies similar in shape, size, and footprint. If you work for a multinational corporation operating in multiple continents with a global corporate security department, then you want to compare yourself to similar organizations and their full breadth of the security department policies.
All For One and One For All
Employees are more likely to see security as a company priority if management visibly supports security efforts and initiatives. Consequently, a security program is most effective when people see it as an important part of a company’s goals and vision. Among the best ways to demonstrate that support is to include security as one of management’s core values and to promulgate official company policies regarding security. And as the most effective means to this end, multi-disciplinary involvement in the creation and vetting of these documents invites partnerships with legal, HR, IT, and employee assistance to collaboratively design inclusive and relevant procedures. A security department simply cannot do all this by itself.
Let’s Talk About the Nuts and Bolts
Now that we’ve addressed the importance of building a security program through the “power of paper,” let’s focus on the specific documents needed. Applicable security directives and guidelines can include documents such as:
- A clean desk policy
- Access control procedures
- Restricted area access
- Visitor management
- Background screening requirements
While physical security measures are critical, the access protocols and practices and the ability to screen and filter all personnel, services, deliveries, and equipment seeking access to the facilities and its environs are equally, if not more, important. The implementation and effectiveness of security systems, such as closed-circuit surveillance equipment, exterior and perimeter security systems and monitoring, and electronic access control systems, can be determined by the written guidelines and published rules giving instructions on the proper use of these technologies.
Training Is a Perishable Skill
The success or failure of a security program could depend on the training curriculum, security awareness information, and education materials designed not only for the security team, but also for the entire organization. Non-security personnel must receive ongoing and current training on safety-related information regarding emergency preparedness, fire prevention, and workplace violence mitigation, among many areas. Your best practice based security program should combine research, collaboration, institutional knowledge, and professional experience to produce training that engages people by providing practical and hands-on tools they can implement immediately.
Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
We adapt our policies and procedures to our needs and current situation. And the need for most new policies and procedures is driven by knowing current best practices and awareness of emerging threat scenarios. With clients in both the public and private sector, The Lake Forest Group offers you insight acquired through decades of engagements helping organizations assess their current security program—beginning with their written policies and procedures. From there, we can ensure that your corporate environment, financial services, international affairs, business operations, brand integrity, protective intelligence, operational protocols, budget execution, and human resources are built on a strong, best-in-class security foundation.
Turning Soft Targets Hard: Countering Terrorism
A Chicago native with more than 35 years in the fields of law enforcement and security, I have traveled the world as a federal agent and professional security expert. For the Secret Service, I conducted security advances for the President of the United States in South America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. My security consultancy work has taken me to Qatar, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, China, and South Africa. I have seen and learned a lot over the years, but one of the most dramatic paradigm shifts I have observed during this time span is how the intended targets of terrorists have changed. The recent tragedies in Paris and Orlando show us that any venue with a gathering of people is susceptible to an act of terrorism.
The Threat is Real
We can no longer ignore the fact that homegrown terrorists live in our country as was unfortunately proven by the recent Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. Acknowledging that this threat is real and at our doorstep is the most important step to transforming your venue from vulnerable to defensible against an attack. Whether the building is large or small, the number one security and safety concern is controlling access to the property. Access control is not only about people entering the site, but it also focuses on how vehicles, mail, packages, deliveries, and equipment gain access. Different types of people—residents, employees, contractors, clients, customers, visitors, and service personnel—can be separated by their respective reasons for requiring access to the site. You will not be able to safeguard the property if access cannot be controlled and managed.
Emergency Preparedness is One of the Most Effective Counterterrorism Measures
A truly holistic approach to protecting people and property offers specifically tailored measures to control entry. In today’s world, explosives, for instance, can enter a building on a person, in a vehicle, or through the mail so you need to be aware of how this threat can gain access in these different ways. Security- and safety-related policies and procedures, such as visitor management and mail screening, can also assist in mitigating this risk. One of the most effective counterterrorism measures, emergency preparedness—with a well-designed and continuously trained emergency evacuation plan—ensures that all occupants know what to do and where to go in an emergency. Additionally, a commitment to continued education is essential to preparedness. Dissemination of information is also critical during a crisis, such as sharing the location of the intruder, or if the situation has been resolved, communicating that the area is safe.
There is No Silver Bullet
Since terrorists have attacked schools, churches, restaurants, and nightclubs, they appear to place no value on human life. If they have assaulted these sites, they can also strike a commercial or residential building. While there is no silver bullet or panacea to eliminate the threat of an act of terrorism, we can educate ourselves on the basic security fundamentals that need to be followed, such as identifying and understanding the physical, technical, procedural, and personnel aspects of your venue Based on my experiences of protecting such high profile events as the Democratic National Convention and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, I know how important a well-designed and comprehensive security posture can be to protect against the danger of terrorism, an active shooter, or intruder. Simply put, your security and safety plans can save lives and safeguard property. Just be sure to partner with someone with the experience to show you how and don’t let cost and inconvenience keep you from building a best-in-class operation based on industry best practices.
Welcome To Safe University (SAFE U)!
YOUR PARTNER IN CAMPUS SECURITY
When the safety of your people is one of your top priorities and your college’s reputation is one of your most valuable assets, you’ll do whatever it takes to provide a safe environment for your students, staff, and visitors. High profile incidents such as mass shootings and sexual attacks at several universities have put the topic of campus crime in the public eye today more than ever before.
Conscientious and well-informed university personnel know that adequate staffing, multi-disciplinary involvement, sufficient resources, appropriate policies, and external support make these incidents less likely to occur—and make leaders more prepared if they do. Safe University (Safe U) partners with you to supplement and enhance your existing security programs by tailoring best practices to your unique situation and campus culture
HOW SAFE U BENEFITS YOUR SCHOOL AND YOUR PEOPLE
Safe U partners with you to create a safe campus environment by ensuring current policies, procedures, personnel, physical measures, technology, and training are at an industry best practice level. Through coordination and integration for preventative security, emergency preparedness, and incident response, Safe U identifies the steps necessary to ensure that students, faculty, visitors, family members, guests, and friends are not exposed to harm.
Our Safe U program specifically tailors best practices in these areas to your unique environment:
• Processes: policies, procedures, plans, and programs
• Personnel: management, police, public safety, and security
• Technology: cameras, access control, alarms, notifications, and call/assistance station boxes
• Emergency preparedness: weather, fire, power, and intruder
• Education awareness and training: classes, exercises, and web-based
• Event planning and management: school-sponsored functions
• Background screening and drug testing: scope, pre- and post-employment
• Physical security: fences, gates, barriers, lighting, and locks
• Regulatory compliance: Title IX, Violence Against Women Act, and Clery Act
PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE, CAMPUS AND BRAND BY BENCHMARKING WITH THE BEST
Studies show that although 86% of higher educational schools have an emergency operations plan, more than 1 in 4 have not had a hazard and vulnerability assessment to develop appropriate all-hazard emergency planning. We’ll share with you knowledge gained from safeguarding global corporations, high profile individuals, major events, and campuses around the country to protect what’s most important.
ADD ANOTHER LAYER OF SAFETY THROUGH SAFE U’S OBJECTIVE REVIEW
By providing objectivity through an independent analysis of your current resources, Safe U ensures a holistic security strategy by sharing the extensive expertise of our team. G. Michael Verden, CEO and Owner of The Lake Forest Group, is a global security expert with a distinguished 21-year career with the United States Secret Service. As a Special Agent, he served on the Presidential Protective Division, Dignitary Protective Division, and Counter Assault Team and assisted in the security and protection of facilities and people for major events, including the Olympics, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500, and the Women’s Soccer World Cup, among others. As Director of Security for the NBA, he supervised security for the NBA All-Star Game, NBA Finals, and World Basketball Championships. Mike will personally guide the Safe U program to assess and evaluate your current security needs and provide options to optimize your strategic security plan and emergency management plan.
Topics: Active Shooter
, Counter Surveillance
, Crowd Control
, Domestic Violence
, Emergency Preparedness
, Event Security
, Risk Management
, School Security
, Security Assessment
, Subject Matter Expert
, Threat Assessment
, Workplace Violence
| Tags: Domestic Violence
Why Training Is a Perishable Skill
I just returned from Singapore after conducting a three-day training workshop on counterterrorism entitled “Countering Terrorism, Violence & Emerging Threats.” My audience was a mixture of professionals from the public and private sectors representing such diverse backgrounds as executives, security leadership, law enforcement senior staff, HR managers, and emergency medical personnel. The main objectives and benefits of the workshop were to learn the step-by-step strategies to prepare, protect, and respond to a terrorist incident. I emphasized that acts of terrorism, ranging from explosive devices to active shooters, occur around the world—and could happen anywhere at any time.
If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It
Because emergency incidents happen quickly, police may not be able to respond in time to prevent serious harm to those present at the scene. Training enables us to become familiar with individual and collective responsibilities in preventing and responding to an emergency. No single person is able to memorize every step necessary to take during a crisis; however, education, awareness, and recurring training will prepare you—mentally and physically—to respond quickly and decisively. Since most of us act—and react—differently in emergencies than under normal circumstances, training conditions people through simulated high-stress events to learn the appropriate response based on the nature of the incident.
The Fab Four
By highlighting the four phases of emergency management as fundamental principles in my instruction and curriculum, I teach my students to embrace a shared understanding about exactly how to address these phases and their critical emergency-related priorities:
- Prevention/Mitigation: preventing emergencies and mitigating the risks of their occurrence
- Preparedness: preparing to handle an incident
- Response: responding to an incident
- Recovery: recovering from an incident
You cannot address these priorities—in fact, you cannot take a single step forward—without having a clear, comprehensive and detailed response tailored specifically to the circumstances of the emergency. By helping individuals understand their precise roles should an event occur, training can prevent injuries, save lives, minimize property damage, decrease liability, and help restore the business and working environment with minimal delay.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
Exercises, awareness, and drills play a strategic role in your training. To minimize risks and maximize response and recovery capabilities, you need to practice. Also, you should expect your training needs to change as the level of acumen, resources, and emerging threat conditions evolve over time. Periodically, your training material needs to be reviewed and evaluated —internally, but also with the assistance of public sector partners and external experts. It’s important to continuously refine and improve your training program by assessing your security and safety measures in the context of other needs and objectives, such as affordability and practicality. By using lessons learned from real incidents, you can assure that your program content is current and reflects the most up-to-date training strategies.
Collaborate, Coordinate, and Integrate
Because involving external resources early and at every step in the training design process enhances the core curriculum, you should be diligent, proactive, and continuously committed to partnering with other entities, including law enforcement, fire safety officials, emergency medical services, and subject matter security experts. Training should address the diverse needs of people, taking into account the specialized needs of those with physical, sensory, motor, developmental and mental challenges, or limited English proficiency. By trying to find innovative ways to translate information into interactive training platforms such as workshops that engage your audience, you will teach the importance of coordinated action in crisis situations when individuals don’t have time to properly think through the implications of every step.
How Planning and Preparedness Saved 80,000 Lives
We all watched in horror last week as Paris suffered a tremendous tragedy when terrorists targeted innocent citizens in multiple locations across the city. People lost their lives as they were caught up in the evil cast by these ruthless extremists. Could this be a warning of how our society is changing? These events were suicide missions somberly exhibited by the self-induced deaths of a number of terrorists. The radicals struck nighttime places of entertainment—restaurants, bars, a concert hall, and a sports stadium. This is the enemy and it is extremely important to understand that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for their cause.
Of all the targeted locations, the stadium was the brass ring. The planned strike entailed three suicide bombers detonating explosives vests inside the venue where 80,000 people were cheering on a soccer game between France and Germany. Authorities have speculated this site was chosen because these two countries represent Western Christianity and the venue offered the potential for a high body count. The actions that security personnel took to prevent this attack contribute to a textbook example of how security planning and emergency preparedness can save lives.
If You Can’t Control Access, You Can’t Control Anything
You can have every bell, whistle, and the latest, greatest, cutting edge, state-of-the-art, innovative, protective security countermeasure or risk mitigation tool in the world, and none of them will be effective in protecting your venue if you cannot control access. The definitive access control strategy is a disciplined, thorough, and comprehensive approach to filtering all personnel, assets, services, and equipment seeking entry into the site. This paradigm applies to everyone and everything—from employees, part-time workers, and general public to vehicles, mail, and deliveries to drones, helicopters, and unauthorized aircraft. It all begins and ends with controlling access.
The Importance of Gatekeepers
A suicide bomber tried to enter the stadium 15 minutes after the match started. The security officer at the gate followed established protocol to conduct pat downs before allowing access. This security measure prompted the terrorist to back away from the gate and detonate a bomb wrapped with hundreds of nails. The terrorist was killed along with one passerby. About 10 minutes later, another suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest outside another gate, killing only himself. Approximately 20 minutes later, a third terrorist detonated an explosive device outside the stadium, blowing himself up but no one else. Security did its job and prevented what could have been a mind-numbing tragedy.
Lockdown and Shelter-In-Place
Following the three explosions, the authorities responsible for securing the stadium and protecting its occupants needed to make some critical decisions under tremendous pressure. They decided to keep everyone inside the facility and not allow anyone to leave, determining that the stadium was the safest place to be considering the events in downtown Paris at the time. The people were eventually allowed to leave hours later, but the German soccer team decided to spend most of the night on the field. Mattresses were made available and the team slept inside the stadium until transportation could be arranged for travel to the airport. The site of what could have been one of the most horrific terrorist events in history ended up as a safe haven for a city under siege.
After Action and Lessons Learned
Professionals in law enforcement, fire, emergency medical, emergency management, and security all advocate learning lessons from real world events. The best example is an After Action Report that assesses security and emergency management plans and documents what went right and what could have been done better. What was done right at the stadium:
1) Searching and screening (pat downs at the gate)
2) Access control (preventing the terrorists from entering)
3) Shelter-in-place (80,000 people kept inside the stadium out of harm’s way)
Lives were saved by the brave individuals responsible for safeguarding the stadium who demonstrated great leadership and decision making in the face of unfathomable adversity.
What Is the Best Way to Stop an Active Shooter?
Unfortunately, our country continues to be plagued by tragedies caused by individuals with unregulated access to firearms. What compounds this serious issue is the deadly consequences created by a society that allows people without the legal authority or proper mental capacity to possess weapons. There is no silver bullet or panacea to stem the tide of these horrific events that are occurring all too often, but we can take steps to create a safer environment.
An all-inclusive approach that cuts to the heart of this problem and attacks the genesis of these events is required, rather than responding to the aftermath of the event itself. Instead of focusing most of our attention, energy, and efforts on what can be done to stop an active shooter during one of these attacks, let’s step back and try to determine what caused the incident in the first place.
It All Begins at the Beginning
Your goal should be to identify individuals before they have the means, mindset, and motive to carry out their violence. These events are not spontaneous—people don’t just “snap” and set out on a killing spree. Instead they are premeditated, planned, and if you look closely enough, announced. Having your organization supported by policy is the foundation to an Active Shooter Plan. You need to have the capability to identify, assess, and control anyone exhibiting traits that can be categorized as pre-attack indicators, which without intervention could manifest into violence.
Horizontally, Vertically, and Across an Organization
“Power in numbers” is another remedial action that results in a multi-disciplinary approach with select people up, down, and parallel in your organization, designated to prevent active shooter incidents. Individuals with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and experience will come together and work collaboratively to design a plan to mitigate this threat. After forming a committee of representatives from entities such as management, law enforcement security, medical, mental health, fire, legal, HR, and training, this group will be charged with the mission to collectively develop a strategy and processes for preventing, controlling, and resolving an active shooter scenario.
Addressing Workplace Violence Protects Against an Active Shooter
Because an active shooter event is the most serious form of workplace violence, you must focus on mitigation and creating the processes that prevent any behavior deemed irregular or inappropriate from occurring. To be adequately prepared, you need to direct your attention to security, personnel, policies, procedures, systems, and physical measures. Examples are private guards (security), clinical health professionals (personnel), code of conduct (policies), employee assistance program (procedures), blast text messaging (systems), and lock-operated access points (physical measures). All of these disciplines contribute to the framework of the plan.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign
Because each situation is unique, knowing the signs to look for using professional judgment or outside assistance may be necessary to determine if intervention is necessary. Some of these signs are: disruptive behavior; physical injuries; absenteeism or tardiness; poor job performance; stalking a co-worker; inappropriate comments; threatening emails; and harassing phone calls. All of these signs could be an indication of a much more serious problem that may require identifying, assessing, and managing a potential violent situation.
Out With the Old and In With the New
The antiquated way to deal with a problem was to remove it. History has taught us that eliminating the source does not resolve the issue. It used to be that workplace managers fired, police officers arrested, and school principals expelled. None of these actions puts an end to the threat; they just delay it. Eventually, people get out of jail or return to the workplace or school to bring closure for themselves. Your best remedy is to have mechanisms that not only prevent, but also treat.
All of these recommended measures that I’ve presented have to be created, implemented, and when necessary, applied. Until then, a truly holistic program is not in place to protect your most valuable assets—your people—against the threat of an active shooter.