Preparing Workplaces for Mass Shooter Attacks

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In Mass Shootings: Six Steps to Survival, the author uses the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) definition of mass shooting, which is “four or more killed in a single event.”  Using that definition, a USA Today analysis of 146 mass shootings indicated that more than 900 people have died in mass shootings during the past seven years. Workplaces should prepare for active shooter incidents by providing training to their entire staff and having a crisis response plan that is studied and practiced by all employees.  It is recommended that active shooter drills and their corresponding lockdown and/or evacuation plans are practiced at least twice per year.  Below is some additional information on preparing workplaces for active shooters attacks and how businesses can establish plans and provide training for these unlikely but often deadly attacks.

Mass Shooter Defined

A mass shooter may be defined as one or more persons who participate in a random or systematic shooting spree demonstrating their intent to continuously harm or kill others.

There is no apparent pattern or method to their selection of victims. The activity is not contained, and there is immediate risk of death and injury to victims.

These situations are dynamic and evolve rapidly, demanding immediate deployment of law enforcement to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to innocent victims.

In most cases, active shooters use firearms, and may continue to shoot even in the presence of police. They are often willing to fire upon unarmed citizens.

Serious Threat

Mass shooters are considered a serious threat to workplaces  throughout the United States.  Nationally accepted law enforcement response plans have been developed to address active shooter incidents.

All workplace staff, not just security officers, need to be informed of law enforcement’s response plans, need to know their own corporate policies and procedures, and need to be able to take protective measures in a mass shooter event.  Training of staff is imperative and a core element of preparedness.   The research-based ESCAPE Model presented in Mass Shootings: Six Steps to Survival has been developed to train employees on how to survive an active shooter attack.

Active Shooter 

It is impossible to predict from where an mass shooter threat may appear. Assailants are not always  employees or people with any connection to the workplace.

In many instances, there are no obvious specific targets, and the victims were unaware they were being targeted until the attack occurred.

Active Shooter Mentality

With an active shooter:

•             The desire is to kill and seriously injure without concern for his safety or threat of capture

•             He normally has intended victims and will search them out. However, as we pointed out previously, there may be no obvious or apparent method to the selection of victims.

•             He accepts targets of opportunity while searching for, or after finding, intended victims

•             He will continue to move throughout the building/area until stopped by law enforcement, suicide, or other intervention

Mass Shooters: Common Characteristics 

There are common characteristics of mass shooters:

•             The suspect has likely planned the operation

•             The situation is ongoing and aggressive

•             Mass casualties are likely

•             The suspect is heavily armed

•             They control the situation

•             Their actions result in mass confusion

•             The rescue/evacuation of innocents is necessary

Workplace Priorities During "Mass Shooter" Situations 

In a mass shooter situation, the priorities of corporate personnel are to:

•             Protect the lives of workers and visitors

•             Implement Crisis Plan “Armed Intruder” procedure

•             Notify police

•             Provide follow-up counseling to staff

•             Restore the work environment

All workplaces should prepare for mass shooter scenarios just as they plan for weather and other hazardous incidents.  Businesses should develop crisis response and contingency plans for active shooter incidents as well as provide staff with both training and practice.  Mass shooter attacks are often deadly and businesses are obligated to provide a safe working environment.  Practicing security procedures such as lockdowns and evacuations and providing training in the ESCAPE Model could mitigate the incident and reduce corporate liability if an attack occurs.