Filed Under:Claims, Education & Training

Staying safe: Mitigating active shooter risks

Drapes billow out of broken windows at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, on the Las Vegas Strip following a deadly shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas. A gunman was found dead inside a hotel room. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Drapes billow out of broken windows at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, on the Las Vegas Strip following a deadly shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas. A gunman was found dead inside a hotel room. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Concerts, sporting events, famous landmarks and festivals are just some of the places where people usually feel safe in gathering. That feeling was abruptly shattered in Las Vegas on Sunday night, when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock unleashed a hail of gunfire from the 32nd-floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, taking aim at the 22,000 concert goers attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

The Mandalay Bay hotel is a glittering building that offers stunning views of Las Vegas from its upper floors and it overlooked the area where the three-day concert was held. When the gunfire finally stopped, almost 60 people were dead and more than 500 had been wounded

The number of incidents involving active shooters has steadily increased over the last 15 years. In 2000, there was one active shooter incident, and in 2015 there were 20. According to the FBI, the largest number of active shooter incidents occur in a business setting, followed by schools, open spaces and non-military government property.

The FBI defines an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people In a populated area such as parks, schools, houses of worship, medical facilities, transportation centers, workplaces and other public gathering sites.

Related: 5 ways to make festival-style concerts safe and enjoyable

Active shooter options

Individuals caught in an active shooter event have three primary options. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Escape

Keith Plaisance of Global SHE Solutions, LLC, says there are three options when faced with an active shooter situation: run, hide or fight, and survival depends on having a plan for each of these options.

“If you can get out – do it,” advises Plaisance. “Always try to escape and evacuate, and don't let others slow you down with their indecision.”

He said those fleeing should leave everything behind — purses, personal belongings and the like. The priority is to get out of harm’s way. He also empahsized the importance of preventing others from walking into the danger zone and calling 911 once evacuated to a safe area.

Looking for places to hide or ways to get out of a venue should become second nature in public spaces. The uncertainty of where to go or how to escape can mean the difference between life or death.

Related: The real threat of workplace violence

woman hiding under a table

People who can't escape should find a secure place to hide that provides some measure of protection. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Hide 

For guests, shoppers or workers who can’t get out to safety, the next best option may be to hide somewhere in the building. At the concert, people hid behind cars and tables, and several folks even hid in a beer truck to escape the shooter’s bullets.

Inside a shopping center or office building, it is important to silence cell phones to minimize the chances of being discovered. If possible, lock the doors to locations like an office or classroom. Hiding behind large objects can also help to provide some measure of protection from any gunfire. Try to remain quiet and calm.

shopping center

Public enclosed spaces provide a number of risks in an active shooter scenario. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Confronting the shooter

Fighting is a last resort, says Plaisance. For the shooting in Las Vegas, this was not an option for anyone other than responding law enforcement officers. Press reports indicate that Paddock took his own life before the police breached his hotel room.

It is important to consider and plan ahead for a variety of dangers. Plaisance advises the public to always be aware of their surroundings and devise some sort of an exit plan in public spaces.

In an airport, for example, the most vulnerable places involve the shops, restaurants and other areas located before the TSA security checkpoint. The safest place will usually be the gate areas because travelers and their luggage have been searched and all individuals on that side have passed through the security checkpoints.

Related: Fyre Festival’s impact: Insuring concerts after 2017’s biggest entertainment fail

assessing risk outside of the box

Companies assessing their risks need to consider all possible scenarios and identify plans to address them. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Training & exercises

Preparing for an active shooter scenario involves the development of a workplace violence policy and plan, emergency response plans, training and exercises, as well as providing physical security onsite such as a cameras, badged entry or even security guards.

As part of the workplace violence policy, the employer sets the standard for acceptable workplace behavior, affirms the company's commitment to take action and provide a safe workplace for employees, and addresses not just physical violence, but also factors like threats, bullying, harassment and the possession of weapons.

Risk management strategies

An emergency response plan should be created for all hazards — fire, flooding, emergency evacuation, and active shooters to name a few. Again, a team involving staff from HR, training, security, the facility owner or operator, property managers and others should be designed. The plan should address:

Methods for reporting different types of emergencies Evacuation policy & procedure Escape procedures and route assignments Contact information for mandatory point of contact Information on local hospitals Emergency notification system — e.g., announcements, cellular system, emails.

Related: Holding bullies accountable

Office security system

Companies should carefully evaluate all aspects of their building security. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Security assessments

Companies should also conduct a detailed physical security assessment. The goal of physical security is to deny unauthorized access and protect property, personnel and operations.

Employees can be a company’s best source of training because they can help identify vulnerabilities and solutions. Questions to consider as part of the assessment include:

  • How easy is it for people to access key personnel in your business?
  • Who gets access in the company or to what buildings?
  • What landscaping around the business prevents a clear line of sight of who's around or entering the building?
  • How do you control access after-hours?
  • Are cameras available around the property?

A vital aspect of a holistic security strategy focuses on deterrence, prevention, mitigation and recovery. Physical security measures can include access and control systems, CCTC/surveillance, an emergency notification system, first aid, and physical impediment tools which are designed to impede/prevent an active shooter from gaining access into office spaces.  

The key is to develop a plan that will prevent a shooter from gaining access and provide employees with the training to respond if a shooting event arises. “There needs to be a balance between physical security plans and the danger,” concluded Plaisance.

Additional resources on active shooter preparations are available from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Related: Is trouble brewing in the workplace?

Patricia L. Harman is editor-in-chief of Claims magazine. Contact her at pharman@alm.com.

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