January 8, 2019

Combatting an active shooter when disabled – Part 1

NOTE: these posts will focus primarily on those that are blind, because that is my experience, However, the material applies to everyone who is disabled or handicapped. I will use the initials of B/VI to indicate blind or visually impaired. This information is absolutely vital for any employer/manager who wishes to keep their employees safe from harm…even if they are a client employee, such as a contracted security company.


This series of posts was inspired by a close friend of mine who posed this question to me, “How does someone who is blind, or otherwise disabled, face an active shooter situation?” At the time this question came to her mind, she was working for a large internationally known hotel group in the housekeeping department of a property in Scottsdale, AZ.

These posts will endeavor to instruct anyone who is disabled and faced with such a scenario. This first part will deal with, specifically, my friend and the obstacles she faced during her time at the hotel and what she was told to protect herself…none of which were good. These are her words as she told them to me:

The Primary Issue:

“Our office had two exit doors, and I certainly couldn’t fit Joyce, my guide dog, and myself under my desk. nor fit under the long table in the center of the office. There was no large file cabinet that I could squeeze us behind, much less any other kind of heavy object. There was an emergency number to call but my question was, how can I do that from my Phone and try and hide at the same time? For a disabled person it would be difficult and nearly impossible.

The Loading dock and the security office were located close by, just down the hall but they would not be able to get to us fast enough. As you said, it takes Law enforcement 5 to 10 minutes to respond and the incident could be over in 2 minutes or less. I often was working in the office by myself doing phone calls. While not there anymore, what if I, or any other disabled worker, is in that kind of setting, working alone and there is an active shooter.

After the October 1st, 2017 Las Vegas shootings at the concert, the company held meetings, one of which was about active shooters.  They gave suggestions on what we can do if we were confronted by the shooter.

When the meeting was over, I asked one of my managers, do you have any suggestions for me as a blind person and how I can defend myself or how I can handle a situation like this?? Her reply was, “I don’t know. I’d talk with someone in the blind Organizations that you are involved with and maybe, they have tips on how blind people can respond in these types of situations.”

Can you believe this?  I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I’m sure they were given specific information from Corporate on what to tell employees, but they didn’t think of their disabled employees.

We only had a couple of disabled employees, one person who worked there was in a wheelchair and another was deaf and I was blind with an orthopedic injury to my dominant arm.

I have a soft-spoken voice but when I need to, I can project it and scream loud!  In fact, I would make a great extra in a horror movie. Joycie is not trained to attack, though she would use her instincts. She’s protective but I’m afraid she would lick the person to death! I also, as most people, would want to put myself in between her & the shooter to protect her from getting hurt.

I don’t know if someone could be seen under a desk or under a table in an office. I know Joycie and I could fit under my desk or under the long table where Joycie would lie as I worked. I just felt like I would be visible enough that I felt vulnerable. I could call from my iPhone I suppose, but   the point of hiding is to stay safe and if I’m making a call then I will be giving myself away and a target.

One would think that the Corporate office of a large Hotel chain would put more thought into how to protect not just guests, but their employees too, all, even those with disabilities.  It was evident that they did not take someone like me into consideration when given tips and techniques to the staff.  I would have preferred that my Boss tell me that she would speak to Corporate and get back to me, rather than pass the buck to the blindness organizations and put my safety and security as their responsibility.

I no longer work there, but   maybe someday they will be confronted with a situation, where one of their disabled guests or employees were injured or killed because they didn’t have the tools to handle an active shooter situation.  I believe one shooting incident is one too many and I hope   we can find a way to prevent these incidents from happening anywhere.”

The 2nd part of this series will be next week. Watch for it and please pass along to any of your colleagues who may be disabled or be responsible for disabled employees.

Robert D. Sollars helps organizations to safeguard the lives of their employees and students and lessen their risk of violence, as well as with other security–related issues, using time–tested and proven ideas.

Website: www.robertdsollars.com

Twitter: twitter@robertsollars2

Facebook: Facebook.com/robertdsollars

Email: robertsollars2@gmail.com

Phone: 480-251-5197

He is the author of three books on preventing violence in both schools and businesses, all available on Amazon.

His book–related website, with full information on his most recent book, Murder in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Prevention, is: http://www.dldbooks.com/robertdsollars/

I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear


Permission to reprint and share? Of course, with these guidelines: The original content must be printed in full, with original wording and full attribution.

Copyright 2018 Robert D. Sollars

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