By Jason Polanco

In 2014, the FBI initiated an investigation into active shooter attacks and concluded, 60% of incidents had ended before police arrived. Active shooter incidents last less than 5 minutes, while the National Sheriff’s Association reports the average police response time is 18 minutes. Your organization’s active shooter incident planning, training, and education will determine the survivability of your staff, employees, and customers.

In 2000, the United States experienced just one active shooter incident, but has since averaged over 12 shootings per year. Attacks occurred in about every industry and location category including military bases, universities, shopping malls, houses-of-worship, hospitals, theaters, and night clubs.

With over 200 total incidents from 2000 to 2014, awareness has increased, and security, training, and education are now a priority. Your responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of the employees within your organization by ensuring they receive formal training on the proper emergency response during an attack.

Below are a few actions to assist businesses and organizations manage, control and mitigate the immediate effects during an active shooter attack.

1. Prevention and Mitigation

The biggest active shooter threat to businesses are disgruntled employees and customers. During the hiring process, conduct criminal background verifications and investigations. Foster open communication and a healthy working environment to assist in defusing situations before it escalates. When terminating an employee, avoid degrading behavior and don’t blindside them. If possible, aid in their job search by providing resources.

To protect against disgruntled customers, review and improve access control procedures and physical security. Lastly, consider the layout and design of the building or facility and if feasible, isolate lobbies from office spaces. Hardening your area of influence is vital to the prevention and mitigation of attacks.

2. Preparedness

An active shooter study conducted by the FBI concluded 70% of attacks between 2000 and 2013 occurred in business/commerce and educational environments. Before any training occurs, you must first create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) detailing step-by-step procedures for staff and employees to follow. The EAP should include a recurring training and education curriculum concentrated on recognition, diffusing situations, familiarization of alarms, and communication procedures. Include all employees in the program along with a committee dedicated to evaluating and managing threats and other response planning procedures.

3. Response

Understanding what leads to active shooter attacks is helpful, but knowing how to react properly could be the difference between life and death. The first step, if it’s safe, is to assess your situation. Decide whether it’s safer to leave the area or take cover. For example, The Department of Homeland Security advertises the “Run, Hide, Fight” concept. No matter what you choose, the next step is to contact 911 and sound the alarm per your organization’s EAP.

The number of shooters, their location and weapons used it will determine the type of response employees should take. Lastly, don’t attempt to assist law enforcement when they take action. When a police officer’s adrenaline is pumping, and heart is pounding it’s hard to determine whether you’re an innocent bystander or the perpetrator. Get on the ground, don’t move, and listen to their instructions.

4. Recovery

The recovery steps may seem like the easiest, but it is just as crucial as the previous three phases. Immediately after the active shooter attack, activation of the crisis management plan and accountability of staff, employees and guests are critical. Imagine how concerned family members will be awaiting news that their loved ones are safe and unharmed. An often-overlooked recovery step is providing assistance to employees, victims, and families. Stress counseling after a traumatic experience can assist in the healing process of individuals, families, and the organization.

Next, review and refine security and response procedures to mitigate the second incident. Businesses and organizations don’t take a threat seriously until after an incident; then the decision is made to protect themselves. Learn from others mistakes, prepare and learn to mitigate active shooter incidents. It’s your responsibility.