Last weeks’ deadly shooting at the Naval Air Station (NAS) in Pensacola, Florida, is a sad reminder that mass shootings can happen anywhere. And, we do mean anywhere—at school, church, work, the movie theatre, Wal-Mart® or Waffle House®. For this reason, it is imperative for organizations, public or private, large or small, to better prepare themselves for what most believe to be the worst of worst-case scenarios, an active shooter. Here are three simple tips that emergency planners can use right away. 

  1. Have the conversation. Talking about the real possibility of an active shooter situation may not be easy, but it is an important conversation to have. Candid discussions can help put certain fears to rest, and potentially lend to the development or improvement of your organization’s emergency plan(s). These talks may also encourage people to actually speak up if they think something does not look or sound right, potentially thwarting a real-life event. 
  2. Apply the things 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 situation, it is vital that employees know where to hide, such as a meeting room or stairwell, along with specific actions they can take to secure their safety (and the safety of others). Document these details fully within the emergency plan(s), and remind everyone 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. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) even recommends “mentally rehearsing what to do,” as it can help people react faster and more defensively when every second counts.
  3. Exercise for improvement. Adding an active shooter scenario to your next regularly scheduled emergency preparedness drill or functional exercise will reinforce 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 organization’s emergency plan(s) so that improvements can be made. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (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 a year. 

Active shooter events, unfortunately, are becoming a common (but nonetheless horrific) occurrence in our nation and others. In fact, the FBI designated 27 shootings in 2018 as active shooter incidents. These resulted in the following statistics: 

  • 27 incidents in 16 states
  • 213 casualties, excluding the shooters
  • 85 people killed, including two law enforcement officers and one unarmed security officer
  • 128 wounded, including six law enforcement officers
  • 27 shooters, with 23 being male, 
  • 9 incidents ended in an exchange of gunfire between the shooters and law enforcement
  • 10 of the 27 incidents met the criteria cited in the federal definition of “mass killings,” that is “three or more killings in a single incident”

The numbers are indeed alarming. And, clearly no one is immune from an active shooter event. Mass shootings can and unfortunately, do, happen anywhere. Make 2020 the year that your organization tackles the issue head on and raises the bar on emergency preparedness.