Just last week, we were all remembering the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. Then, three days later, it happened again. An active shooter situation, that is. Only this time in a manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois. There, a disgruntled employee of the company opened fire, killing five people and injuring several others, including five police officers.
If you think the words “active shooter” are in the news more and more often these days, you’re absolutely right. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there have been 250 active shooter incidents in the U.S. from 2000 to 2017 alone. Sadly, these shootings resulted in 2,217 casualties, including 799 deaths and 1,418 injuries.
As evidenced by the following FBI graphic, active shooter events can, and do, happen anywhere. Schools, businesses, malls, government offices, places of worship. No one and no place is immune, which drives the need for preparedness.
Take the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017, for example. There, the gunman, from high above in his hotel room, rained rapid fire down into a crowd of concert-goers. In the end, 58 innocent lives were taken, and nearly 500 others were wounded.
In April 2018, four people will killed and two others injured while dining in a Nashville, Tennessee Waffle House®. Fortunately, the shooter was rushed by an unarmed customer who managed to bring the violence to an end.
In May 2018, a gunman opened fire at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. Ten people— eight students and two teachers—died and 13 people were injured.
Just five months ago (October 2018), a man entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing 11 congregation members and wounding a handful of others, including four police officers.
The following month (November 2018), a man shot and killed 12 people in a Thousand Oaks, California night club.
The list of active shooter events over recent years goes on and on. Who can forget Columbine High School (1999), Fort Hood (2009), Sandy Hook Elementary (2012), the Colorado theatre shooting (2012), or the Orlando Nightclub Massacre (2016)? The answer is no one, especially the individuals who must ready their organizations for the possibility of an active shooter situation.
Active Shooter Preparedness Tips for Emergency Planners
Talk about it. While a sensitive topic that may make some feel uncomfortable, emergency planners know that active shooter preparedness starts with communication. Set ample time aside to speak with (and listen to) people both in- and outside the organization. Include various stakeholders like department heads, business owners or government leaders, human resources (HR), property managers, and even local law enforcement in the conversation. Doing so can put certain fears to rest, and will lend to the development or improvement of your organization’s emergency plan(s). It may also encourage people to actually speak up if they think something does not look or sound right, potentially thwarting an actual active shooter event.
Build off what you already know. Chances are your organization already has some type of emergency plan, or plans, in place. These most likely include procedures for evacuation, lockdown, etc. In an active shooter event, it is crucial that employees and others know places to hide or actions they can take to help secure their safety. Document this information fully within the emergency plan(s) and remind people, through training, of these measures as often as possible. Aside from formal emergency preparedness training, discuss the topic during regularly scheduled meetings so it stays top of mind. FEMA even recommends “mentally rehearsing what to do,” as it can help people react faster and more defensively when every second counts.
Exercise. Adding an active shooter scenario to your next regularly scheduled emergency preparedness drill or functional exercise will demonstrate your organization’s concern for the issue, as well as its desire to safeguard employees, visitors and others. Just as important, it will allow you to assess gaps in your emergency plan(s) so you can make the necessary improvements. The FBI even recommends these exercises involve first responders so they can familiarize themselves with the location in advance and on a regular basis, if only once per year.
Clearly, there’s a lot more to learn and do as you prepare your organization for an active shooter event. Just make sure it’s a top priority as the threat (based on the numbers) doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. In fact, and unfortunately, it may continue to be on the rise.