January 2, 2019

The new mantra for an active shooter

This was originally posted last March, but I have revised it in light of the current series I’m writing on disabled employees. Over the next month you’ll read some posts specifically geared towards those of us that are disabled and what we can do, and what an employer must do, in an active shooter situation. This, if you wish, can be viewed as a refresher on this scenario.

The active shooter scenario can be a terrifying idea, although it is less than 3% of all incidents of workplace/school violence (WPV/SV). Most people have been taught and live by the mantra that they were instructed more than a decade ago and they are nearly identical: Run, Hide, Fight or Avoid, Barricade, Confront.

There is another one that is probably more useful…if you can. It turns those 3 words on their proverbial head. It turns them around into a better and much more controversial model: Fight, hide, run or confront, barricade, or avoid.

With all the things floating around about an active shooter plan and what employees, including those who are disabled, should do, what should you do? My answer is to take the attitude of Flight 93 that crashed in ShanksVille, PA. on September 11, 2001. In their case they could do nothing but fight to save lives in Washington D.C.

I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that this is the best course of action. Fight the intruder first before they can cause further mayhem. It has been overwhelmingly, through innumerable scenarios – real life and training, proven that if you attack the perpetrator, remember they may not all have a firearm; you can overwhelm and stop them. And if you don’t stop them, you will slow them down enough to potentially allow your co-workers to escape before harm can come to them, and in the case of a disabled co-worker…

The next obvious question is how do you fight or confront them? For some people this will never be easy. Some people are understandably reluctant to face a weapon. Those people who feel that way still need to keep their faculties and use the final 2 points of these mantras… hide or run. Not only to save their lives but potentially the lives of others.

For those that have the courage and intestinal fortitude (think guts), you need to do what you can to prevent any more death or chaos. You can do this by;

  • Throwing things at the perpetrator. Anything you can use that is close at hand, including coffee cups, staplers, desk phones, or even canned goods. (Wonder what happens when you hit someone in the head with a can of pickled beets?
  • Trying to distract them, anyway you can. If you are a ventriloquist…
  • Acting like a linebacker from your favorite football team

IF you decide to attack it’s always preferable to have more than just yourself, as in Shanksville, to do the work. And in the case of an assault the more people you have to knock down and hold the perpetrator the better your chances of keeping them from killing or injuring someone else, including yourself. As for the hide or run scenario:

Running is always an option for someone who may be fearful of the perpetrator and especially if that person knows the shooter is after them. People such as an ex-wife/girlfriend, co-worker or supervisor, or anyone else that believes the shooter is specifically targeting them. If they don’t remove themselves quickly from the scene then the murderous intent of the perpetrator has no reason to abandon their quest.

A caveat here for evacuating the building: Always find a different way of getting out of the office. Don’t rely on specified and listed evacuation routes. If it is safe, as most alternate routes wouldn’t be in a fire, then take it. My thought on this is that the perpetrator, especially an ex-employee, will know those routes and if the attack doesn’t initially work…

It is usually unfortunate, but those that are disabled probably won’t be able to take an alternate route to escape and are left with either fight or hide. To that end…

As for barricading or hiding yourself, it’s just as simple: Your hidey hole needs to be as small as it can be for you, dark, and easily barricaded with a desk, file cabinet, or something similar if it doesn’t have a lock on it. The only issue with that would be, is that if there is no external lock on the door, or handle, then the perp will know someone is in there, so…

Likewise, if you have a serious respiratory health issue, you may not want to have anyone else with you as you hide. The reasoning here I think is fairly obvious. A giveaway is for you to be gasping for breath while hiding and potentially fatal for anyone with you. I would do this only if you need assistance with your equipment.

Studies have shown that it takes law enforcement approx. 3 – 10 minutes to respond to an active shooter call, the capitol Gazette shooting last April was a quirk of fate. These same studies also show that the incidents are usually over within 2 to 3½ minutes. That means you can’t depend on law enforcement, or armed security, to stop the perpetrator before they get to you or anyone else.

Most people, employers or security personnel especially, unfortunately, assigned to your building will have no idea how to react to such an incident or be poorly trained at best. If they do offer the necessary training, you need to take full advantage of it and learn it, not just attend for brownie points.

WPV/SV is a growing concern for all organizations. Whether that violence is because of a work dispute, bullying, mental issues, rebuffed romantic wishes, domestic violence, terrorism, or something else we as security professionals need to be prepared. That means developing an action plan, which by necessity, includes the fight, run, or hide scenario, and safeguarding all employees not just the able bodied.

With more than 15 million incidents every year it’s clear that we need to do something. And if we can’t turn our organizations into gulags, which aren’t very aesthetically pleasing or wanted, or throw out Constitutional rights we have to train and prepare for such an event, and the fight, hide, run model should be an integral part of that.

Robert D. Sollars assists businesses and their employees to lessen their risk of WPV as well as other security/customer service related issues with time tested and proven ideas. You can follow him on his upcoming new website www.robertdsollars.com or twitter@robertsollars2.

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear

 

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