By Ret. Capt. Wayne R. Bodie, MBA, SPHR, EMT-P
We are not in Kansas anymore. If you believe any statistics showing that criminal violence and hate crimes have declined significantly, I have land here in Florida I’d love to sell you. I’m not speculating as to why’s and wherefore’s, nor is my intent to start a rousing political and theological debate that might end with no real solution. Instead, this conversation examines how current world affairs spikes the risk to your employees, and how best to prepare and minimize loss.
Thirteen years ago, when I joined the Fire Service, EMT’s and Paramedics running into “active” shooter incidents weren’t a troubling trend. Due to the unanticipated rarity, our standard operating procedures at the time mandated we hold off on rescue operations until the violent crime scenes were first secured by law enforcement. Over the years, given the broadening peak in active shooter, mass shooting, and terrorist attacks, forced us to shift our policy. The Fire Service cross-trained with the local police departments and developed programs such as (Swift Assistance Victim Extrication) S.A.V.E. for short which allowed for EMS professionals to enter a scene while an active shooter/terrorist attack was still active.
Tonight watching the Las Vegas mass shooting disaster news alerts unfold, I saw Fire Service personnel dressed in tactical gear including bulletproof vests and ballistic helmets. This is becoming a new standard nationwide. Some of your Fire Personnel are now armed, cross-trained as Law Enforcement Officers, as well are some of the nation’s teachers and other municipal workers in high-risk professions. The trend is growing outside of government professions, even large religious institutions have either employed or recruited armed undercover security volunteers to protect their flock as well as their ministers.
As a member of a large non-denominational church and as a certified paramedic having relevant emergency medical services skills, I volunteered for their safety team. Moreover, an integral part of their internal response was having staff cross-trained to carry a concealed 9mm handgun. Our mandate was providing security prior to police arrival. I assure you, you would be surprised about the numbers of armed undercover security present in mega-church congregations.
Now, let’s transition to private industry. What preventative measures do you have in place? What standard operating procedures do you have? Private industry needs to stay current on trends, and bare minimum Human Resources should have a policy and a written action plan.
It doesn’t matter how you how you feel about gun ownership or how you feel about protecting second amendment rights. This conversation is not a weapons debate. What matters is having a plan should terrorists or active shooters threaten your workplace. It’s critical to prepare and train to respond appropriately. Your life and so many others may depend on it. Therefore, if you are a human resource professional charged with drafting policy, and struggling with that surreal moment of shock your company may one day, hopefully not, encounter an active shooter disaster, here are 5 tips to survive mass shootings.
1. Pre-emptive Measures:
In every situation, it is better to be proactive versus reactive. Think about your current security measures at your place of business. Visible security and/or security cameras systems function as deterrents from assailants.
2. Evacuation Plans/Protecting In Place
Do you have a rapid means of egress out of your place of business? Most organizations practice at least a quarterly fire drill and have a means of egress clearly identified. If you do not, put this policy in place now and let it serve as the primary means of evacuation in case of an active shooter scenario. You will also need alternative means of egresses as well in the event the primary means of egress is compromised. Have a plan and practice the plan. Protecting in place may also be a viable scenario if you have a room or rooms that are easily fortified. Consider a professional consultant if you are unsure or are not familiar with these terms.
3. Arming Personnel/Fighting Back
This is going to be a hot topic for many, let this only serve as a consideration. Anyone that is armed should have an adequate background check, licensure, and training. Utilization of armed personnel may conflict with existing policies, terms of a building lease, or government ordinances. Keep in mind that the arrival of police, fire, and ems will be at a minimum 5 – 10 minutes for the response. When the ability to flee and protection in place is unavailable, fighting for your life may be you and your employees only option.
4. Emergency Medical Supplies
Keep a cache of emergency medical equipment on site and consider having some personnel trained in basic first aid. There are many kits on the market available with reasonable pricing that is stocked with the primary items required for bleeding control. Six to 10 Minutes without blood to the brain due to a traumatic injury will most likely lead to death. Make no mistake about it, your employees will be the First Responders in an active shooter scenario.
5. Critical Incident Stress Debriefings
Have a relationship with a professional therapist, employee assistance provider, or properly train some employee that may perform critical incident stress debriefings post incident. The aftermath of a situation such as an active shooter scenario or terrorist attack will cause emotional scarring if left untreated. Your standard operating procedures should provide care and support to employees within 24 to 72 hours of an incident.
Remember that saying “why can’t we all get along?” I don’t have an answer to that very simplistic question, I’ll most likely walk the remainder of my days without that answer. What I do know is as the world changes, we need to prepare to change with it. Those that are slow to change whether in business or in life are doomed to failure. We have been given eyes to see and ears to hear, let us heed the current trends and signs so we may be prepared. There is a host of workplace safety/active shooter professionals available for consult, consider contacting one to help you draft a policy to protect you and your employees now and in the future.
My heart and prayers go out to the victims, families, and first responders involved in the Mass Shooting that occurred October 1st, 2017 in Las Vegas. Rest in Peace.