Thinking Through Reasonable Approaches to Active Assailant/Shooter Protection Planning

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I have seen several companies (which claim to specialize in active assailant/shooter issues) list what they often refer to as pillars of an effective active assailant/shooter protection plan.  I don’t need to mention the names of the companies. This is not about them, but rather the so-called pillars and presumptions surrounding these pillars.

The pillars often include: 1). Emergency Action Plan, 2). Active Shooter Training, 3). Access Control, 4). Video Surveillance, 5). Emergency Notification System, 6). Metal Detection Systems, and 7). Shot detection systems.  These are the common ones.

Most of these pillars are all solid and rather standard.  For each of the pillars, there are innumerable companies selling training and/or products meant to strengthen that pillar.  Some companies specialize in one pillar.  Some try to capture more than one.

What follows are some brief comments on each of these pillars.  We offer them for  consideration when going about planning reasonable responses for active assailant/shooter protection plans.

1. Every organization should already have an Emergency Action Plan.  Occurrences of active assailant/shooter incidents should not be what mobilize you to create and implement an Emergency Action Plan.  If you lack an Emergency Action Plan, you’re very likely going to experience bad outcomes from other incidents such as power outages, flooding, malware attacks, etc. , all of which you’re probably going to experience before you do an active assailant/shooter incident.  Act now and don’t be incident-driven.

2. Get active assailant/shooter training for your self, family, religious institution, and organization.  It’s life-training, and just as necessary as is, for instance, how to change a tire or do CPR.  Keep it simple.  Be very cautious of adopting an active assailant/shooter training program that is overly complicated.  Hint: One can spot what may very likely be an overly complicated active assailant/shooter protection plan, as the creators of the plan often create a long acronym for the program.  We are not saying a long acronym-ed plan won’t work.  We are saying to be very cautious of it, as things must be kept very (very) simple (including the acronyms) in active assailant/shooter protection plans.

Be also cautious of plans for which the creators, with a thesaurus in hand, simply change around the perennially fundamental principles of Run, Hide, and Fight to things like Flee, Shelter, and Resist.  They are almost always the same thing, but shined up to become a new product and revenue stream for a company.  Hanging tassels on a Ford does not transform it into a Cadillac.  The Ford will get you where you wish to go and at a more affordable price.  Ultimately, it’s more about the driver than the vehicle anyway.

Organizations should be requiring and/or incentivising staff to attend active assailant/shooter training.  It should be an officially recognized training opportunity for which, for example, nurses and other healthcare professionals should be receiving valuable continuing education credits.

3. Every organization should already have an Access Control Plan.  Occurrences of active assailant/shooter incidents should not be what mobilize you to create and implement an Access Control Plan.  If you lack an Access Control Plan, you’re very likely going to experience bad outcomes from other incidents such as power outages, flooding, malware attacks, etc. , all of which you’re probably going to experience before you do an active assailant/shooter incident.  Act now and don’t be incident-driven.

4. Every organization should already have a Video Surveillance Plan.  Occurrences of active assailant/shooter incidents should not be what mobilize you to create and implement a Video Surveillance Plan.  If you lack a Video Surveillance Plan, you’re very likely going to experience bad outcomes from other incidents such as power outages, flooding, malware attacks, etc. , all of which you’re probably going to experience before you do an active assailant/shooter incident.  Act now and don’t be incident-driven.

5. Every organization should already have an Emergency Notification System.  Occurrences of active assailant/shooter incidents should not be what mobilize you to create and implement an Emergency Notification System.  If you lack an Emergency Notification System, you’re very likely going to experience bad outcomes from other incidents such as power outages, flooding, malware attacks, etc. , all of which you’re probably going to experience before you do an active assailant/shooter incident.  Act now and don’t be incident-driven.

6. Metal detection systems are receiving a lot of attention now, due to the attention given to active assailant/shooter events.  Could they assist in helping to increase the survivability of persons?  Perhaps. They could also be cost-prohibitive to organizations with limited dollars. What organization has unlimited dollars?

Note that we are discussing here, specifically, active assailants/active shooters.  One needs a full understanding of the pathology, pattern, and modus operandi of an active assailant/shooter to arrive at a more accurate answer of whether metal detection systems bring about the gains in safety, specifically in reference to active assailants/shooters, that we (rather immediately) presume.

7. Shot detection systems are receiving more attention now, due to the attention given to active assailant/shooter events.  Could they assist in helping to increase the survivability of persons?  Perhaps.  They could also be cost-prohibitive to organizations with limited dollars. What organization has unlimited dollars?

A cautionary note here is to beware of the presumption that technology (e.g., metal detection, shot detection systems, door locking mechanisms, etc.) will bring your organization the safety it seeks.  Technology is only one piece of what should be an overall, integrated, approach to increasing the survivability of all persons in an active assailant/shooter protection plan.

Make as full a use of technology as is possible (given the ever-present reality of fiscal responsibility and limits).  Know, however, that technology, alone, is insufficient to bring about the gains in safety that product advertisements often highlight.  Have all the panic alarms you want, and without proactively aware and vigilant staff, they’re just a button that people will fail to activate when needed (or fail to activate early enough) and/or will activate accidentally.  Always be very aware of the tendency of new technology to lull staff to fall out of healthy situational awareness.

Implement an active assailant/shooter protection plan today.  Be reasonable.  Bring healthy skepticism to your meetings with vendors.  Put your organizational dollars where they can give you the greatest sustainable gains.

Know that there is no panacea for this crisis.

Farewell!

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