Make a Plan. Practice the Plan.

Many small and mid-sized companies have never heard of an EOP. This stands for an Emergency Operations Procedure, a plan that can be distributed, practiced, and evaluated to prevent and mitigate damage during a critical emergency. Even if you have heard of an EOP, do you have an active shooter or violent intruder specific response in your hazard annex? If you’re not a hospital or a school, it is likely that you don’t. Yet private business and corporations are where the majority of violence happens (27.5%, Federal Bureau of Investigation 2013). If you do have a specific annex for the violent intruder, does it contain accurate information? I hope so. Many schools and businesses are still teaching old first-response “lockdown” methods of survival.

Unfortunately, Lockdown has proven to actually increase fatality rates during a violent intruder situation. There are lots of names for it. Easy Targets. Fish in a Barrel. The Department of Homeland Security realized the outdated nature of public information regarding this event back in 2012. Hence the release of their “Run, Hide, Fight” public awareness program. Wow: that sure sounds a bit different than “lockdown”. Even better is the TTA's "Move, Evade, Defend" program. More accurate, more effective, and more empowering. It really works.

This vast, widespread lack of awareness regarding the active shooter situation is catching the eye of the public media. It’s on our minds and driving many companies to invest in strategies to prevent such violence from ever happening: EOP and EAP creation, bringing documents up to NIMS compliant standards, forming relationships with local first responders, conducting professional risk assessments of their facilities. But even then, I find resources are allocated in the wrong locations. The point of conducting a risk assessment of your facilities in the first place is to identify the greatest areas of risk, and then address those risks! Just last month, I conducted a risk assessment with a company that practiced a multi-agency drill on a tsunami the following year. Yet the risk of a tsunami happening at their facility during the next fifty years was less than 1%. What an unbelievable waste of resources, time, and money.

My point is that you need professional advice when creating, delivering, and training your emergency plan. This is not something you can guess on, or do half-way. I have personally been involved in three active shooter events: one as a responding officer, one as a victim, and one as a horrified family member. I have trained hundreds of police officers, first responders, and corporate managers. Let me tell you: we all need to know how to survive in these types of events, because they can happen to any of us. That training needs to be available and it needs to be affordable. The most important aspect determining the outcome of a violent event, be it a robbery or an active shooter, is mentality.

During a stressful emergency situation like an active shooter, the heartbeat of a victim will undergo a physiological nightmare, racing upwards of 160 beats per minute. You’ve seen it in the movies. Your vision becomes tunneled; you experience auditory exclusion. You can’t think (literally, you instantly lose 60% of your critical thinking ability). Your bowls may void. You’ll freeze or run panicked. This is a major factor in Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (speaking of PTSD, do you have a annex that plans for recovery of these incidences?).

There is really only two ways to avoid this kind of mentality. 1) Experience. You don’t want this. 2) Training. You do want this.

Hands-on training regarding high-stress circumstances bypasses the body-mind feedback loop that causes such a catastrophic shutdown of the mental systems. This allows you, and your employees, to recover quicker after an incident. It also allows you to make life-saving decisions during an incident. Now, let me ask you a fundamental question. You understand the risk. You recognize the need for a plan. You see the necessity of training.

Is a 45-minute video going to do anything to help? Will I be able to respond effectively to an Active Shooter after listening to an hour-long seminar?

The answer is no. If you doubt me, watch any of the active shooter training video’s out there that your employees are watching. Then imagine someone walking in your office, right now, and wracking a 12-gauge shotgun. You know what your employees would do? Panic. Freeze. I have seen “online trained” managers, time and time again, during our MOCK training scenes do just that: revert back to habit. They try to talk the aggressor down. They freeze. They say, “Hello, how can I help you…” to the individual wearing a ski mask and carrying a shotgun. That is just not going to work.

Online, video based training is NOT an effective method for reducing risk in a violent event. So what do we do? Call the local police department to come in and conduct an awareness and response training program? That is one option. But it will take them two years to get around to giving you a 45-minute speech. They just don’t have the time and a speech won’t cut it. They are too busy to give out real training. Real calls take priority. Do you hire an in-house Emergency Management Specialist? That is a quality option: but you have to get the right person and the right person is very expensive to put on the payroll. This is a real risk that we need to address, and the TTA can help. The best solution is hands-on, on-site training from a professional team. Spend your resources preparing for the highest risks and then deliver training in the most effective method. It really is your only chance if the worst happens. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and train your managers. That is the only correct answer.

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