Active shooter incidents occur across the country. These highly publicized incidents have created uncertainty about the safety and security of organizations and generate fear that an attack might occur in any community. Increased national attention to the problem of active shooters has prompted many organizations to question how they can effectively respond to these incidents – through active shooter training and other strategies  – in an effort to minimize damage to property and people. An active shooter incident could occur within your organization. They unfold quickly. Local law enforcement may not be able to respond in time to prevent some of the worst harm an active shooter could inflict.

If you are a decision maker in your organization – and responsible for active shooter training, security strategy, emergency management, disaster planning, disaster response, crisis management, preparedness or creating an evacuation plan – what you do to plan and prepare will help save lives. All of your actions should align closely with your Workplace Violence Prevention Program.  This should include – in addition to elements such as an Employee Assistance Program, pre-employment screening and an awareness campaign – another tactic that I know to be very effective.

Active Shooter Training and Planning Should Include an Early Warning System

With respect to active shooter incidents, think about developing an Active Shooter Early Warning System.  It can help you identify potentially violent behavior.  This specialized software can help your active shooter training leaders and other personnel in a position to recognize early indications of concern identify areas based on

  • Supervisors’ input following an employee evaluation
  • Reports of a particular incident
  • Information you obtain through your anonymous Employee Information Hotline.  (Don’t have one of these yet?  Put one into place right away: your employees are your first line of defense for active shooter incidents.)

Three Key Tips in Establishing an Active Shooter Early Warning System

These points are critical.  First, make sure it is overseen by your HR department.  Second, place a very high emphasis on ensuring that it is confidential.  And third, leverage automation. Here’s how the system works.  If it detects troublesome behavior, your HR department needs to refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Program for support.  If the system uncovers information related to at-risk employees, a senior security executive – e.g., the Vice President Security Operations needs to be advised.

One Last Point: Understand HIPAA and FERPA – and Involve Your Legal Advisors

This is vitally important as well. Take the scenario I just referenced – about information sharing related to an at-risk employee. Under the guidance of your legal department, there are public safety-related exemptions allowed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that allow organizations to share information about persons of concern. I trust this information will help you think through some of the active shooter training strategies and tactics you can take to prevent or mitigate an active shooter incident.  If you have questions or would like guidance on additional resources, post a comment here or shoot me an email.

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