March 2018

The Active Shooter: What to Do

The recent tragedy in Florida served as another reminder of the potential havoc a single-armed shooter can wreak, to a school, business or any other place where people are gathered. At last fall’s Disaster Conference in Chicago, Ted Brown of KETCHConsulting outlined the five stages of the active shooter, and what steps can be taken to either prevent him from launching an attack, or mitigating the damage once one starts.

“An active shooter’s goal is to kill people. We want to make sure we do what we can to protect customers, employees. There are ways to prevent an active shooter from being successful.”

Preventing a shooter from ever getting started is possible in the first three stages of the event, Brown said.

The first stage is the fantasy stage, where the wood-be killer dreams of the number of kills and the notoriety he will gain. But they rarely keep the fantasy entirely to themselves. “With very few exceptions, people who have become active shooters and killed a lot of people have told somebody something,” he said.

The problem is individuals who hear that either dismiss the threat or are afraid to get involved. Brown advises businesses and organizations create a process where that type of useful information can be conveyed to somebody who can do something about it.

The second stage is the shooter’s plan. Again, that information can either be learned from the potential shooter themselves, or the shooter’s actions, such as suspicious behavior from a laid-off employee. “If we understand what the grievance is, maybe we can’t fix it. Things are frequently resolved by the sheer fact of talking.”

Preparing for the event is the third stage, and the last place to prevent one before it starts. Frequently, shooters will walk through the planned event, and will begin acquiring the weapons and other materials needed.

“Once they entered the fourth or fifth stage, the likelihood of stopping them other than by killing them is low. It’s always a painful discussion. And in the case of an active shooter, it’s either their life or somebody else’s. It’s not a gray area,” Brown acknowledged.

The execution begins when the shooter enters the target property. Security can possibly help here or at the last stage, though Brown cautions to understand what the typical security force will do.

“Most people assume [security’s] job is to protect us, but whether they’re armed or not, those third-party guards are not going to put their lives on the line to protect yours.” Brown’s point was driven home by the on-site officer’s decision not to engage the shooter.

Finally, there’s the implementation. By this point, the goal is avoiding casualties and killing the shooter.

Of course, there are a few steps a company can take long before this happens to reduce the likelihood of an event. First, is to evaluate the building for areas of security weakness and shore up those problem spots. The other is to run drills to get each employee to understand what he or she should be doing throughout the process. And Brown recommends appointing someone to serve as an incident commander, and that person should not be the CEO.

“If you don’t have a good plan, the first responders are taking over,” Brown says. “They can take over anyway, but if you have a good plan they’ll be likely to work with you.

ReadyGov's Recommendations
The Department of Homeland Security has provided a comprehensive checklist of items to follow during various stages of an active shooter through its ReadyGov site. DHS advises:

Be Informed

Sign up for an active shooter training.
• If you see something, say something to an authority right away.
• Sign up to receive local emergency alerts and register your work and personal contact information with any work sponsored alert system.
• Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.

Make a Plan
• Make a plan with your family and ensure everyone knows what they would do if confronted with an active shooter.
• Look for the two nearest exits anywhere you go and have an escape path in mind & identify places you could hide.
• Understand the plans for individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs.

RUN and escape, if possible.

• Getting away from the shooter or shooters is the top priority.
• Leave your belongings behind and get away.
• Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
• Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
• Call 911 when you are safe and describe the shooter, location and weapons.

HIDE, if escape is not possible.
• Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet.
• Silence all electronic devices and make sure they won’t vibrate.
• Lock and block doors, close blinds and turn off lights.
• Don’t hide in groups – spread out along walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter.
• Try to communicate with police silently. Use text message or social media to tag your location or put a sign in a window.
• Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all clear.
• Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

FIGHT as an absolute last resort.
•Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against the shooter.
•Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc.
•Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the shooter.
•Throw items and improvise weapons to distract and disarm the shooter.

•Keep hands visible and empty.
•Know that law enforcement’s first task is to end the incident and they may have to pass injured along the way.
•Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, and/or handguns and may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
• Officers will shout commands and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.
• Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the direction they come from, unless otherwise instructed.
• Take care of yourself first, and then you may be able to help the wounded before first responders arrive.
• If the injured are in immediate danger, help get them to safety.
• While you wait for first responder to arrive, provide first aid. Apply direct pressure to wounded areas and use tourniquets if you have been trained to do so.
• Turn wounded people onto their sides if they are unconscious and keep them warm.
• Consider seeking professional help for you and your family to cope with the long-term effects of the trauma.

More information on dealing with disasters of all types can be found at

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Thursday, March 22, 2018