Active Shooter

Viewpoints from this month’s authors and speakers, experts on active shooter incidents, center on two basic takeaways: planning and training. If just the thought of a nearby active shooter can cause widespread panic, companies cannot ignore their obligation to prepare and train their employees on how to react if the rumor is true. 

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7 Best Practices for Active Shooter Preparedness

With active shooter incidents on the rise, it is more important than ever that security professionals are prepared for this threat. However, recent research from Everbridge and Emergency Management and Safety (EMS) Solutions shows that is not the case, with 69 percent of organizations viewing active shooter as a top threat, yet only 23.1 percent responding that they’re fully prepared. How can you ensure your organization is prepared for the evolving active shooter threat?

Join us as Regina Phelps, Founder, EMS, covers how organizations can better prepare for the evolving active shooter threat. Specific topics covered will include:

  • Developing a workplace violence (WPV) policy and plan
  • Select and train a violence assessment team
  • Conduct an active shooter exercise

Comprehensive Active Shooter Incident Management

Every organization and community is vulnerable to violence, regardless of size or type. The active shooter threat is a dynamic, multifaceted problem that requires a multidimensional approach to prevention, response and recovery. Case studies have indicated  that shooters often begin planning and preparing for an attack weeks, months and sometimes years ahead. The consequences for individuals, families, communities and organizations can last for decades.

Join Steven M. Crimando for this expert webinar, "Comprehensive Active Shooter Incident Management" as he discusses the importance of mitigating the active shooter threat by understanding the dynamics of the event, planning for the full-cycle of the event and preparing those at risk with the necessary information and skills.

Participants will be able to:

  • Identify elements in the scope and prevalence of an active shooter threat.
  • Describe how the four phase model of emergency management (mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery) can be applied as a comprehensive approach to managing the active shooter threat.
  • Describe critical differences in the warning signs of workplace violence vs. warning behaviors associated with mass shootings. 


Active Shooter
White Paper, 2016activeshooter.jpg
ASIS School Safety & Security Council

This 59-page paper consists of thirteen articles by twelve authors, all members of this active council.  It concludes with five appendices that reference a tabletop exercise, two Security Management articles, a guide from the U. S. Department of Education, and an ASIS International guideline.

Five of the articles deal with active shooters, phases of an attack, and K-12 schools as soft targets. Another four describe ways to gather proactive intelligence by using situational awareness to observe pre-attack indicators, behavioral threat assessment teams, behavioral cues, and target hardening of classroom doors through physical security enhancements. Three more look into responses, including training for and the actions of emergency responders and the pros and cons of arming teachers.

In his article, "Lessons Learned," former council chair Lawrence Fennelly explores the need for both school officials and first responders to evaluate what happened during a training drill or actual event. The following questions can guide that review:

  • What strategies worked well and what did we do right during the response?
  • What could have been done better?
  • What systems and procedures worked well and what needs to be re-evaluated or changed?
  • What additional equipment or training would have made the response better?

"When Simulation Means Survival"survival_web.jpg
Security Management, April 2016
Author: Greg Schneider, CPP, Battle Tested Solutions

While the author agrees that active shooter simulation exercises can be effective, he cautions against the potentially negative—and libelous—affects of surprise drills. Rather, he advocates a two-pronged approach: announced simulations supplemented by training materials that achieve the goals of eliminating the threat and teaching victims how to survive and react to any actual emergency.  While outside firms can facilitate the training and uncover gaps in planning, security personnel should take the lead in any simulations by considering the following environmental and human factors:

  • Loud noises and visual trauma leading to psychological or physical stresses among participants are inevitable.
  • Quarterly or annual simulations should vary so participants cannot anticipate the gunman's actions.
  • Membership on a crisis response team should rotate so each person receives training for every role.
  • With proper training and repetition, an effective response will become ingrained in the actions of employees.

"A History of Grievances"grieve_web.jpg
Security Management, February2016
Author: Megan Gates, assistant editor

This article reviews the circumstances that lead a disgruntled former employee of Roanoke's station WDBJ to shoot two colleagues on air, an act of violence that shocked the world.  While the station appeared to have followed recognized protocols when handling the employee's erratic behavior over time, could he have been stopped and did the company respond appropriately? Experts weigh in with answers to these questions, reviewing the employee's actions at work and his eventual termination. Among their points are the following:

  • The perpetrator was a "grievance collector" who repeated unacceptable behaviors, kept specific journals, wrote that God was on his side in a manifesto, and filed a lawsuit when fired.  Identifying such employee behavior early is crucial.
  • A safety committee, including HR, legal, and security personnel, can address issues while they are small and without it seeming like a formal investigation.
  • Company programs that include mental first aid can help employees get psychological help and underscores the impression that the company cares about them.
  • If termination is inevitable, HR and security should consider ways to handle the departure discreetly without humiliation or embarrassment, which plays a role in retaliation.
  • Companies need to develop response plans for the remaining employees, to include communicating how they will protect employees as well as teach them what to do in an incident. Remain vigilant, not paranoid.

Active Shooter Procedures for Schools
Seminar Session 3208, September 2015
Speaker: Paul Timm, PSP, RETA Security, Inc.

A key point of this presentation centers on the security community's responsibility for changing the cultural mindset in schools that "there will never be trouble here." The goal of school security professionals should be to "provide a safe and security environment in the company of those who are not sure about the concepts" but who may think they know the answers. Changing that culture, says Timm, requires, "education, modeling, and the inclusion of and collaborating with students who have a better pulse for what's going on."

After reviewing the pros and cons of lockdowns, ALICE, and run/hide/fight, Timm offers response options based on collaboration and consensus among school and security stakeholders, including parents and law enforcement. He advocates frequent instruction and drills designed to move people to where they are safest as fast as possible. "All security is a game of time," he says, "and the best one wins." He urges security professionals to consider the following:

  • Set up online accounts to follow the Red Cross, DHS, the national weather service, and Twitter Alerts for fast notification of incidents and threat changes.
  • Develop great relationships with students, who will share intelligence with people who they know care about them.
  • Avoid trendy "after market" devices such as barricades, door magnets, and sleeves, that can cause more problems and violate fire codes.

Active Shooter: Preparing For and Responding To a Growing ThreatAS_12.jpg
Recorded Webinar, November 4, 2015
Speaker: Kevin Doss, CPP, PSP, Level 4 Security, LLC

The focus of any active shooter initiative must be on saving lives, asserts the speaker in his opening remarks. After reviewing recent trends and statistics, he reiterates that companies need to be serious about protecting employees and first responders from active shooters, a recognizable hazard in court decisions and negligence suits. While it is impossible to predict who will take this desperate action or when such an incident will occur, training is the best course of action so employees know how to respond and help others. A number of relevant planning strategies, risk management cycles, gap analysis results, physical security steps, and policies and procedures are outlined. Specific points include the following:

  •  A threat assessment team should be multidisciplinary, including individuals with the skill sets and expertise to identify, evaluate, and address potential employee-related problems.
  • Security professionals must sell the need for systems and policies using business strategies to obtain buy-in from key stakeholders and company leadership.
  • The costs to a company of an incident include property damage, lost sales, legal fees, medical expenses, counseling, and damaged reputation.

Active Shooter: Preparing For and Responding To a Growing Threat
Appendix D: Active Shooter and Workplace Violence Training Exercise
Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2015
Authors: Kevin Doss, CPP, PSP, Level 4 Security, LLC; and C. David Shephard, Readiness Resource Group

This Appendix provides active shooter violence scenarios in three different workplaces: an office complex, a hospital, and a school.  The detailed scenarios look at the incident from the perspectives of first responders and the private sector owners or operators.  The focus is on the incident self, the actual sequence of events.  The intent is that each scenario be presented to a group that includes company executives and managers, employees, and first responders. Answering a series of questions related to each scenario will help the group identify future actions and duties, which become the basis of a written active shooter workplace violence plan. Among the fifteen questions are the following:

  • What preparations should the facility have made to handle this situation?
  • What actions, decisions, and procedures does the business implement after notification has been made to first responders?
  • When first responders are on site, how does the business coordinate with them?
  • If the active shooter has been neutralized, is the threat over?



Members Only Resources

ASIS/SHRM Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention Standardworkplace.jpg
ASIS International and the Society for Human Resource Management
Approved September 2, 2011 by the American National Standards Institute, Inc.

This 60-page Standard offers a comprehensive look at six aspects of developing workplace violence prevention and intervention efforts: establishing multidisciplinary involvement, planning a program, implementing the program, threat response and incident management, the role of law enforcement, and post-incident management. Another section deals with the sensitive issue of integrating intimate partner violence into workplace violence prevention strategies. The resulting policy should include the following provisions:

  • Require or strongly encourage employees to report to designated personnel any restraining or stay-away orders covering the workplace.
  • Reflect a commitment to support victims of intimate partner violence by providing referrals to community or EAP resources and time off as needed.
  • Address abusive partners by making it a violation to stalk, threaten, or harass anyone on the job.
    The Standard concludes with a comprehensive list of legal references and commentary, reference materials, and statistical sources.       

Ballistic Protection Issues—An Engineer's Perspective
Seminar Session 3112, September 2015
Speakers: Nancy Renfroe, PSP, Daniel Renfroe, PSP, and James Brokaw, PE, Applied Research Associates

In the session opening, Nancy Renfroe offers this statistic: 60 percent of active shooter incidents end before the police arrive at the scene. As a result, companies must review a host of ways to deter the entry of a shooter and delay any progress through a facility. If the company trains employees in the common run/hide/fight protocol, what does that mean? Where should they run to and where should they hide that will stop a bullet? Seeking answers to these questions, the speakers acknowledge that limited resources have focused on the ballistic resilience of conventional building and furniture products.  With a goal of "putting physics behind what we do," they field-tested the bullet resistance of ten construction and office products with surprising results.  Ultimately, they reached conclusions on what is needed to move forward, including the following:

  • Compile a database of construction materials with a statistical representation of their effectiveness against a range of threats to show end users how they can be combined in a smart way.
  • Develop computer models for various construction materials and validate their effectiveness with testing.
  • Determine a consistent way to define a range of possible injuries to determine what else beside a bullet comes out of various materials, such as wood or glass fragments.

These factors, then, result in a quantified risk process with solid engineering design that can be tailored to specific conditions.

Active Shooter: A Handbook on Prevention, 2nd Edition
Part III: Consequence Management

ASIS International, 2016
Author: Joshua Sinai, Ph.D., Kiernan Group Holdings

A lack of preparedness in responding effectively to potential active shooters can have disastrous consequences, asserts the author. The first step in becoming prepared is to create an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) with input from internal stakeholders as well as local law enforcement and emergency responders, including fire departments and hospitals.  He outlines the responsibilities of the facility manger and human resources department personnel as well as the specifics of an emergency alert notification system and ways to handle the media.  The ERP should include provisions for conducting regular training, including online videos and live exercises. Evacuation procedures must include ways to safeguard persons with disabilities.

The section concludes with a detailed checklist that can be used to assess three components of organizational preparedness: procedures, systems, and training.

Sources of Information on Active Shooter Threats and Responses
Information Resources Center (IRC) Security Databases & Library Catalog 

Additional Resources are listed in the Resource Guide: Active Shooter Situations resource guide available to ASIS members as a download from the ASIS website. Sign-in to the ASIS website is required.

Also available to ASIS members is the Security Database & Library Catalog of the IRC, which holds  hundreds of records on the subjects of active shooter or workplace violence, including references to books, Security Management articles, government reports, Annual Seminar recorded sessions, and other documents.  Many items have links to electronic versions accessible via the Internet. Print items are available for use onsite in the O.P. Norton Information Resources Center (IRC) by ASIS International members. 

Sign-in to the ASIS website, then go to the library webpages to navigate to the Security Database & Library Catalog.  Search using the phrases "active shooter" or "workplace violence."  You may also search using other phrases or individual terms such as "stalking," "harassment," or "insider threat."

For more help and search suggestions, see "Search Tips" on our website, or email us with questions.​​