The Active Assailant Phenomenon Deserves a Full, Sane Approach

Active Assailant Pic from Virginia Beach Incident

Please read this quality article on America’s most recent active shooter event in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Let’s take a fresh look at the kind of attention the active assailant phenomenon deserves.  The measures of addressing this phenomenon ought to address the fullest scope of the issue.  It’s a complicated issue, deserving sophisticated multi-various approaches.  We should, then, go at the issue with many things in mind.  This is contrary to the approach taken by some that focusing on one point, and perhaps even knowingly excluding another point, will somehow magically address the issue.   The points that deserve attention with regard to addressing the active assailant phenomenon include the below-listed large categories (one can drill down into each), but are not necessarily limited to them:

  • We must, as a nation, organization, family, or any other social unit, have a philosophy of how we are going to prepare for and mitigate against an active assailant.  Philosophy drives action.  Without a clear philosophy, actions will be confused, disparately disconnected, and will fail to provide a comprehensive, effective approach.
  • A policy which gives the power to implement your philosophy and proposed actions.
  • An options-based training platform for how to respond to the moment of impact on the ground, that is, the shooting itself.  Whether this is a Run-Hide-Fight model, or some other incarnation or variation of such model, people should possess basic life-knowledge of how to navigate through what is (contrary to much public perception) a very rare event. This education should be quality, ongoing, not the check-the-box kind (which satisfies some organizations from an HR and liability perspective but ridiculously underserves employees), and fiscally responsible.  Remember, however, despite this one point being the most common go-to approach (do a google search and see for yourself what populates) for active assailant events, it is also one which only addresses the point of impact, that is, the shooting itself.  This point is about response, and not mitigation.  The shooting is happening already, and thus one here implements a response.  
  • Your organization should have a threat assessment/management program in place.  It should be interdisciplinary, including Risk Management, HR, internal Security, external Law Enforcement, Emergency Management, Medical personnel, Administration, and others.
  • Access control measures for facilities should be effective, reasonable, and up-to-date (i.e., make use of technology).
  • Reasonable use of effective camera monitoring, remembering that cameras are often of greatest value after an event has already occurred.  This is not to imply that they are not important; they are.  However, just be clear when using an organization’s limited budget dollars on just exactly how something may be making the environment safer compared to, say, making post-incident investigation more effective.  
  • Reasonable use of various technologies, remembering not to be overly fascinated with every shiny object one encounters at the recent conference.  The active assailant phenomenon drives a market for new gadgetry. 
  • Effective use of active assailant drills/exercises.  Remember that effective drills/exercises should not leave one feeling proud of your performance when a drill/exercise is complete.  If so, you’re likely just performing, acting out your own Shakespearean active assailant play, and not conducting a valuable drill/exercise.  The point of a drill/exercise is to break the system, the process, the protocol, that is, it should you where your organization’s weaknesses are at in policy and practice.  THAT is the value of a drill/exercise.  We want to improve and not come away content. 
  • Effective preparation should also include how to recover physically, emotionally, financially, legally, and otherwise from an active assailant event.
  • The United States is currently living in a state of willful ignorance in reference to how we (collectively) have fallen prey to certain lobbying organizations which maintain an intransigent approach, not to gun control, but to reasonable, sane, gun management.  Just as we sanely manage hazardous waste, how someone receives (and/or loses) a driver’s license, how someone can purchase (or not) certain potentially dangerous chemicals, how houses and business structures must adhere to many life-safety code laws, so likewise should we be sanely and reasonably managing our society’s use of firearms.  Let me be clear here: it is unconscionable for anyone, and especially someone who likes to pretend that s/he is a Protection Professional, to acquiesce to powerful lobbying forces (e.g., NRA) and/or politicians which/who clearly stand in the way of sane, reasonable reassessments and reformations where necessary in regard to our nation’s gun management.  Remember: this is not about taking away firearms from normal citizens.  It is about sane, reasonable gun management.  This bullet-point is merely one of many.  But it’s one that still fails to receive reasonable attention.

In conclusion, let us highlight that all of the above-mentioned points (with the exception of, perhaps, the final one) address helping those living now to live more safely in society.  We propose for your consideration, however, that those who are not yet born, our future relatives, our children’s children, and their children, and their children, also deserve attention now.

We believe we owe it to future people in our society, those not even yet born, to give them something other than a sick society.  We owe it to them to (re)create, now, a society that is far less conducive to violence and particularly the active assailant phenomenon.

Until we begin going far upstream to recreate a society less conducive to violence, and particularly this specific phenomenon, then, while still training how to respond to active assailants, we should not, in the least, be surprised when the next active assailant event occurs.  This is because, while we are training to respond to these events, we are NOT working to prevent boys/men from being reared and influenced in our society to not even want to kill people like this in the first place.  

The men who are creating these horrific crimes are not coming from outside our society.  They are being born, raised, and reared in this social context.  We must change this social context if we ever expect these issues to abate.  We must work now on this to see results 10-ish generations down the road.  To continue to neglect this long-term work is to knowingly sponsor its future occurrences.


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