An active shooter is defined as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined or populated area.” In most cases, active shooters use firearm(s), and there is often no pattern or method to their selection of victims. All schools, churches, hospitals and businesses, big and small, should have an up-to-date active shooter policy and a reaction plan to go with it. Most don’t think of an active shooter as a form of workplace violence, but it is.
In an earlier article, I speculated that active shooter incidents were becoming an epidemic. Recent occurrences would suggest they are. In June 2016, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in US history, with 50 dead and another 53 injured. Most people remember other recent incidents: Fort Hood, TX– 13 killed and 32 injured; Aurora, CO – 12 killed and 58 injured; San Bernardino, CA – 14 killed and 21 injured; Newtown, CT – 26 killed, including 20 children. Going back a bit further were mass shootings at McDonald’s in San Ysidro, CA, and Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, TX. There are many more.
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Many businesses and other public entities have had crisis management plans and policies in place for years. But, only in the past few years, has it become necessary to add an active shooter policy and reaction plans. The following are parts that every active shooter policy should contain:
- A statement of purpose
- Wording on policy, outlining reaction and notification protocols
- Whom to call
- What descriptions to give, and how
- Evacuation plans
- Directions for potential internal first responders – do’s and don’ts
- Actions to be taken if actually confronted by a shooter
- Interface with law enforcement
- Personal protection guidelines
- Post incident procedures and protocols
- Witness guidelines
- Location of “all clear” notifications
- Return-to-work processes
- Assistance to those affected (for example, provision of counseling services)
- Procedures for dealing with the press
- Dealing with the those injured or killed and their families
- Review of policy and procedures, post incident. What went well and what went poorly?
For any major business or public entity, any active shooter policy and procedure should be shared with local law enforcement and fire officials. Tabletop exercises and actual active shooter drills should be conducted at least twice a year.
Once few and far between, active shooter incidents have become one of the biggest concerns in crisis management planning:
- Between 2000 and 2013, the FBI identified 160 active shooter incidents.
- Already in 2017, the Gun Violence Archive lists 44 “mass shootings.” Fortunately, most were small, but people were killed nonetheless.
- Seventy percent of active shooter incidents occurred in a school or business, and 60 percent ended before police arrived.
- A new federal law now defines a mass killing as the death of 3 or more people.
- Sixty-nine percent of active shooter incidents ended in 5 minutes or fewer.
Does your business have an active shooter policy? Are the specific actions and reactions clearly defined in procedures? Are you fully aware of your company’s policies and procedures? Do you personally know how to react if you are ever confronted with an active shooter situation? The answer to all of these should be a strong yes. If you don’t know, find out. In this Information Age, critical knowledge is just a few clicks away. Get going!