Part One: What Are The Chances of You Being Involved?
Before we get into this article, we should clarify the use of the terms Active Shooter and Live Shooter (as opposed to dead shooter?). While there may be some technical difference in law enforcement “vocabularium,” we use these terms interchangeably.
With that out of the way, we’re taking . . .
A serious look at a growing potential danger.
The recent event on the high-speed rail train bound for Paris in which passengers overpowered the would-be terrorist was extraordinary and inspiring.
As terrorist or live-shooter attacks go, however, it was also an anomaly. Most such attacks – like the recent church group shooting in Charleston – do not end well at all for the innocent people involved.
In the case in France, the citizen heroes had three things going for them.
- First (and perhaps most important), the gunman experienced a jam in his AK-47 assault weapon, providing a brief window in time for defensive action.
- Second, the three Americans were “teamed” by virtue of their long standing relationships. This meant they trusted each other to act in concert. They already had a strong bond and didn’t need to spend any precious time forming one.
- And third, their youth and the military background of at least two of them gave them a mental and physical reaction model to follow.
Without these three advantages, the narrow confines of the railroad car and the heavily armed (albeit poorly trained) shooter would have stacked the deck against them and the other passengers.
We are still at greater risk of getting caught in domestic or workplace violence.
While we’re focused here on lone wolf terrorist incidents, let’s not forget that we face a far greater likelihood of being involved in random street shootings or workplace violence. We live in a society where mental health is both stigmatized and inadequately diagnosed or even treated. HR professionals, who might be able to prevent a workplace event, are greatly hindered by privacy laws and the risk of lawsuits.
Add to this the sheer volume of all kinds of guns that are readily available on the open market and you have a very dangerous and volatile mixture.
According to the FBI there were 160 active shooter incidents between the years 2000 and 2013, an average of 11.4 incidents per year. These resulted in 1,043 casualties . . . 486 dead and 557 wounded. (We’ll be addressing the workplace violence issue in more detail in a subsequent article.) In most cases, active shooter events, like Lone Wolf Terrorist attacks, take place in public locations.
Wikipedia lists 43 different school shooting incidents alone in 2014.
Even when the shooter is eventually stopped, it’s after people have died. The 2011 shooting in Tucson left six people dead and 13 injured before the shooter was taken down by people in the crowd. The three staff members and teachers at Sandy Hook school were rewarded for their bravery with point blank execution. And in the two movie theater shootings no one was in a position to even threaten the shooters.
In confined or obstructed areas such as train cars, classrooms or movie theaters, there is limited room for citizens to maneuver.
Still, in all the cases where statistics have been kept . . .
13% of active shooter incidents have ended with the shooter being taken down by unarmed citizens acting on their own.
These situations typically unfold so fast that police are unable to respond fast enough to take the lead in confronting the shooter.
Despite the grisly statistics, the chances of any of us being caught unawares in a terrorist or active shooter attack are still pretty remote . . .
at least currently. So, why should we be concerned with protecting ourselves from such a rare occurrence?
It makes just as much sense to prepare for man-made emergencies as it does for natural disasters.
. . . especially since it is relatively easy and inexpensive to do so.
Is it worth going out and getting a gun?
If you live in one of the states where carrying a loaded weapon is legal, you may feel more secure by carrying one.
But, even trained police are notoriously inaccurate when the adrenaline is flowing and they are exchanging live fire with criminals. And are you prepared to deal with the possibility of shooting – even killing – innocent people by mistake? The typical public nature of live shooter incidents means that any bullets that don’t terminate in their intended target will run wild and are likely to do damage to someone or something. If you aren’t practiced at shooting accurately, carrying a gun can make you just as dangerous as your adversary.
What about a course in self-defense?
Good self-defense training will, at the very least, make you prepared to take action. It will probably improve your strength and coordination. Not everyone can become a martial arts expert, however.
Minimal self-training and mental preparation will help anyone make a better snap decision when it comes to “fight or flight.”
And you can prepare for these challenges a lot more easily and inexpensively than most people realize.
We recommend two training resources suitable for everyone.
These two paperback books, both by Phil Pierce, will give you a healthy, realistic perspective on the potential problem and better prepare you to respond to threats of violence: Click on the image or on the link to go directly to Amazon, where you can purchase both of these for less than $13.
There are dozens of additional books and courses you can take. And you can spend literally hundreds of dollars on preparing yourself with weapons to meet a wide variety of situations.
But, in our opinion, 90% of what you need to know is available in these two books. The hysteria and hyper-paranoia running through some of the survival blogs and articles is both counterproductive and even dangerous.
We’ll have more on this subject. We feel it deserves attention. However, we hope you will keep this all in perspective.
Let us know what you think and feel free to pass our comments along to family and friends. And watch for Part Two of our Special Report.
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
Part Two: Risk of Workplace Violence is Far Greater than Lone Wolf Attack
This article, focusing on violence in the workplace, was originally planned as the first in this series. But when the episode on the high-speed French train broke into the news cycle last week I had to change my plans. The Lone Wolf Terrorist being taken down by three American tourists made for spectacular news and it only made sense to cover that first.
In reality, it makes little difference to the victims of a Live Shooter whether the motive was personal, political or occupational. Whatever the motive, the choice of targets and timing is almost always the same — a “soft target” in an environment that will result in a spectacular impact. These are recent, “perfect” examples:
- Military recruiters in offices in Tennessee
- Virginia TV journalists during live interview
- Texas Sheriff’s Deputy filling gas tank
In each of these cases, the violence was workplace related. In fact, we experience an average of two million instances of workplace violence every year in the U.S.
How Well Does Your Business Protect Its People From Workplace Violence?
Obviously, one solution to preventing – or at least reducing – the likelihood of workplace violence is to do a thorough job of investigating potential employees, starting with prior work relationships.
We are all familiar with HR practices of simply acknowledging dates of employment of a former employee. Libel laws and risks of lawsuits keep them from willingly divulging negative information. And the often unskilled HR employee making these inquiries isn’t always capable of reading between the lines (or “listening for nuanced answers”) when verifying previous employment.
How well does your company do on this score?
It is not illegal for an employer to ask questions about an applicant’s or employee’s background, or to require a background check.
Of course, if you intend to do a credit or background check on potential employees, you must make sure that you’re treating everyone equally. To quote the EEOC : “Asking only people of a certain race about their financial histories or criminal records is evidence of discrimination.”
Retaining Professional Legal and Investigative Resources is Sound Preventive Action.
Former Special Agents for one of the military services or government agencies who are experienced in conducting background investigations for security clearances, etc. often work with attorneys or private investigation firms. They are trained to get real answers.
Again, there are procedures you must follow before conducting or contracting for a thorough background check. You must tell the applicant you intend to do the check and that you might use the information to decide about his or her employment. The applicant needs to give you written permission to proceed and should receive a summary of the findings. There are also requirements regarding maintaining these records.
Obviously, there are different laws in each state and we’re not lawyers. But, we strongly recommend that you get guidance from attorneys who are practiced in the field of employment law and work out policies and procedures to reduce the risk of inadvertently hiring people with a history of violence and intimidation.
Most Mentally Disturbed Individuals Will Exhibit Telltale Behavior in Advance of an Actual Attack.
In the workplace, people can develop violent tendencies. Most of the time, warning signs are apparent that should alert potential victims, co-workers or authorities of the potential – even pending – danger. Unfortunately these indicators are often ignored or not taken seriously.
The Department of Labor provides some definitions that may be useful for you to review with employees.
In most cases, it is the employees who will recognize warning signs, and it is employees who must take the first steps to diffuse the situation. If they don’t, things will only escalate.
Level One violence provides early warning signs. Typically, Level One violence shows up in an employee being a bully, intimidating or disrespectful, unable or unwilling to work with others, or verbally abusive. The appropriate response on the part of other employees is to report the behavior.
Level Two adds obstinate comments, often of a sexual nature. The employee argues, flouts policies, threatens to hurt others, sends threatening notes, and sees himself as victimized. A supervisor must immediately be called to intervene.
Level Three behavior poses an immediate danger to people or property. It could include threats of suicide, displays of rage, fighting or destruction of property. Employees must protect themselves and call 911.
Level Four often involves domestic violence or acts by someone who enters the workplace but who does not work there. It could include robbery, severe violent beating, physical assault of sexual nature (including, but not confined to rape), arson, sabotage, extortion, etc. This level of violence requires a team response.
Again, we are not lawyers, and the descriptions above may be incomplete or inaccurate. No matter what the exact behavior, employees need to know HOW to respond and be ENCOURAGED to do so. The responsibility for this training lies with management.
The United States Leads All Other Developed Nations in Workplace Violence.
As said above, we experience an average of two million instances of workplace violence every year in the U.S. The average cost to businesses is estimated at $36 billion! These costs include loss in productivity, medical costs of injuries, insurance, legal fees, property damage, counseling for employee and customer survivors mitigation expenses (including site security measures after the event), damage to the reputation of the employer business, loss of personnel (death and turnover), interruption of business relationships and loss of revenue . . . even the loss of the business altogether.
Yes, The Frequency of Lone Wolf Terrorist Attacks Will Continue to Grow.
You can be sure the rantings of some politicians who use the fear of terrorist attacks and the specter of gory beheadings for calculated political benefit will make for more headlines in the coming months.
But the larger issue is workplace violence – and we have become numb to it. We simply accept it as a way of life, with little we can do to prevent it. The reality is we can do many things to minimize the risk of it happening in our workplaces.
Smart hiring practices are a good place to start. Well-trained, competent HR staff is another. Using professional background investigators, thorough, coordinated interviewing techniques as well as professionally-conducted exit interviews go a long way toward mitigating the risks of hiring people with psychological issues who are likely to become big problems for the business in the future.
Joseph Krueger co-authors http://EmergencyPlanGuide.org. His background includes training with U.S. Military Intelligence as well as insurance fraud and Community Emergency Response. You can get more Business Continuity and Workplace Preparedness information via weekly Advisories from Emergency Plan Guide. Sign up below.
Don’t miss any of our Special Reports. Sign up now to get an automatic notification via our Advisories.