By Jennifer Burgess
Active shooter/armed intruder events are unpredictable, dynamic, and develop rapidly. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter, How to Respond (2008): “Active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene.” Additionally, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation initiated study Active Shooter Incidents, 2000-2013 (Blair & Schweit, 2014): “Approximately 60 per cent of [active shooter] incidents ended before police arrived.”
Because of their proximity to danger, staff, tenants, and occupants are often the first line of defense in active shooter/armed intruder events and play a necessary and immediate role in mitigating damage and loss of life. Vigilance and preparation are key to surviving these emergencies, and a thorough plan of action must be established through the development of an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and regular training for staff, tenants, and occupants.
Ensuring the building has an EAP in place and kept current is a very important first step in limiting liability and risk. So often the only time serious thought is given to these events is when the news media reports on another tragedy. That is simply not enough.
Developing a plan
Most buildings adhere to strict jurisdictional fire code regulations making plans for fire evacuations and drills common place – thus mitigating the damage and loss of life in fire events. The same could be true if there was an established plan for an active shooter/armed intruder event. There is no code-driven regulation for plan development for active shooter/armed intruder, and developing a plan can be an intimidating prospect.
Here are some key inclusions that should be kept in mind:
- Does the plan assist management and human resources in recognizing potential workplace violence?
- Does the plan inform on what actions need to be taken in the event of an active shooter/armed intruder event?
- Does the plan describe what actions should be taken once law enforcement arrives?
- Does the plan outline clear training procedures for staff, tenants, and occupants alike?
Training is an integral and arguably the most important part of promoting personal security and safety during an active shooter/armed intruder event. Being vigilant in educating staff and tenants on best practices and building response can go a long way towards mitigating disaster. Once a building has a plan in place, it can only be successful when the plan is known and taught to staff, tenants, and occupants. Training creates an experience that can be drawn from during a real event. Training must occur consistently and with clarity.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the FBI, and WPS recommend and educate on a technique called Run, Hide, Fight.
It is a valuable mantra that is easy to remember, but occupants must be properly educated on how Run, Hide, Fight can work in the context of their everyday surroundings.
Regardless of whether a property develops their own Emergency Action Plan and Training protocol internally or uses a third party like WPS to develop the plan, the best way to ensure due diligence, limited liability and enhanced personal safety is to have these programs in place before an active shooter/armed intruder event occurs. The goal is to be ever vigilant and prepare staff, tenants, and occupants for any emergency situation.
Jennifer Burgess is a long time property management professional and currently serves as the Eastern Region, U.S. Account Manager for WPS Disaster Management Solutions. She resides in Washington, D.C.