Just the idea of an Active Shooter in your organization, whether you’re a military base, like Fort Hood, and the Washington Navy Yard, or a school like Sandy Hook, a beauty shop, a cracker factory in Philadelphia, a retail mall, a movie theatre, a grocery store parking lot, or a hundred other places, is a terrifying thought.
I lived about 3 miles from one of the shooting sites, a gas station, used by the Beltway Snipers back in October, 2002. They killed ten people, totally at random, and critically injured three others. Both of the snipers were sentenced, and John Muhammad was killed by lethal injection in 2009.
If you lived in the DC area, do you remember how scary it was just to pump gas into your car, people were huddled against the side of their cars in the gas stations, and hidden by their shopping carts at the local Home Depots.
The fear of the Active Shooter comes from the seeming randomness of the action, which means there’s no way to prevent it, unless you give up, stay home, and hide under the bed all day.
But there are things you can do. Instead of thinking of an Active Shooter incident as a totally unique situation, it’s really a form a Workplace Violence, Gas Station Violence, Parking Lot Violence and other related forms of random violence. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has identified quite a few steps you can take to keep yourself safer if you are in the vicinity of an active shooter (http://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness).
Most of the shooters are mentally ill. Normal individuals do not enjoy planning and killing strangers, and it is usually a last ditch effort, with the suicide of the shooter as the grand finale. Their actions can sometimes be identified early, and the police can be alerted, or the Human Resources group at work, or even the local Sheriff can intervene before it gets to the actual shooting.
Signs that someone is having trouble negotiating their life, especially if that someone is a gun fanatic, with their living room full of AK-47 assault weapons and hollow point bullets, is not hard to spot, because these individuals often leave lots of warning signs, like:
- Irrational Posts on Facebook or inappropriate tweets.
- Threats made against friends and family.
- A dropoff in personal hygiene, as the person gets more obsessed.
- Problems negotiating their personal life.
- Demonstrating signs of isolation and groundless paranoia
Organizations can protect themselves from an potential active shooter through a combination of specific controls that include elements like access control, continuous monitoring of cameras, employee awareness and training programs, clear cut evaluation routes, regular active shooter drills, and hardening of facilities, to name a few.
One of the best preventive measures is to conduct an Active Shooter Risk Assessment, which is similar to other security analyses, except that it is focused on a particular set of threats related to an Active Shooter Incident. As part of my annual Threat Trend Reports, I’ll be releasing a new set of threat data about the Active Shooter, to help organizations calculate their risk of
having such an incident. For example, did you know that the number of active shooter incidents has jumped from 1 in 2002 to 21 incidents in 2010?
Locations have changed, too, and we found that
- About 25% of active shooter incidents occur in schools,
- About 25% in retail locations, and
- About 37% in workplaces.
In future blogs, we’ll be looking at each element of the active shooter incident, and providing more information to keep your organization safe.