Mass shooting incidents have been on the rise in recent years and it has become an absolute requirement for every business, place of worship, school, and public facility to take concrete steps to protect its visitors, students, and staff from the threat of an active shooter attack. But the best plan does not work if there isn’t buy-in. This is why it’s so important to create a multidisciplinary team in order to get input and help from every department or category of people affected.
Coordinate with Law Enforcement
Who is on your team depends on your site, but all businesses or organizations should develop a strong relationship with local law enforcement who will be key players in any security team. A thorough risk assessment is your first step in recognizing your vulnerabilities and developing your security plan, and you should review this with and receive input from your local law enforcement officers and first responders. As you go through a walk-through of your facility and campus with them, they may see risks or vulnerabilities you missed. With law enforcement’s help, develop plans to target-harden your location with physical barriers and security systems that will deter bad actors.
Work With a Multidisciplinary Team
Your initial risk assessment should be developed with the input of leaders and stakeholders in your facility or organization. Additional suggestions from law enforcement should inform your development of policies and procedures moving forward. As stated, it’s critically important to get the input and buy-in from representatives of all affected parties in order to ensure the highest level of compliance to your security protocols.
If you are in a place of business, you should include facilities operators and HR personnel in addition to managers. Those who take care of the campus are often first to spot dangers such as:
- breakdowns in physical barriers (the removal of something to create a path of escape)
- violation of protocols (someone not wearing a badge when entering or exiting)
- suspicious behavior (someone sitting and watching the facility on several occasions)
HR should develop both hiring protocols and procedures for dealing with employees:
- Hiring should include background checks
- Those conducting interviews should be trained on “red flags” that may present during the interview process
- Policies for dealing with disgruntled employees should be designed to reduce tension, or, if necessary, ban the person from campus
At schools, staff, teachers, and school medical personnel need to be included in the development of intervention policies to identify worrisome behavior in students. They should then be integrally involved in the development of reporting methods that protect those who report incidents, including students reporting on fellow students, while respecting the person being reported on so as to provide help and not escalate the problem.
Houses of worship pose a difficult circumstance, as most people involved are volunteers or worshipers. Some churches recommend developing a “volunteer security team” that includes congregation members who are former military or police and can be counted on to protect the congregation. But this decision should be made with the input of the congregants in mind and should only be part of a larger security plan.
Don’t Look Like an Easy Target
The best protection is prevention. Working with your team, plan to strengthen your visible deterrents and security systems so when the shooter comes to “case the area” he will decide your location is not a good target.
Visible deterrents include but are not limited to:
- clearly defined security personnel
- visible security cameras; a gun detection system, such as ZeroEyes, with signs posted throughout the area that a gun detection system is in use
- badges for employees, students, and others who belong at your location
- a system of checking badges and signing in all others who do not have them
- elimination of easy hiding places for a would-be assailant to wait until the opportune moment to strike
Emphasize Importance of Compliance
Work together with your security team to ensure that they and the people they represent understand the critical importance of sticking to the security policies. A shooter only needs to find one crack in the plan to sneak through. Train all employees, students, or congregants in the policies, and enlist the members of your team to continually monitor compliance among those they represent.
If visible deterrents are well established, you are already a less-likely target. If your facilities operators, staff, and security team remain vigilant, you can be confident you have done everything to significantly minimize your chances of experiencing a shooting attack.