Five Methods for Defeating an Active Shooter
Many of you will remember the photo of the Dallas shooter outside of the Federal Building. Now ask yourself if this was your Office, School, or House of Worship how prepared would your company or institution be to recognize the signs of trouble as those Federal Officers did and deny access and ultimately defeat the shooter?
I have written extensively, and you have heard me say many times our goal has to be how do we get in front of the crisis. Monsters always start out as gremlins, so if we truly want to stop or minimize loss of life and injury, we must learn to recognize the signs of people at risk and intervene before they move to the point of crisis and ultimately violence. Until we understand the concept of emerging aggression and recognize pre-incident indicators, we are by default saying that loss of life is acceptable.
But when we can’t get in front of the crisis and it goes bad, we must, as the Dallas Federal officers did, be prepared to move swiftly in our response. Homeland Security has done an outstanding job with their Run, Hide, Fight campaign in teaching the public how to respond during a crisis. We, however, need to create the same top of mind awareness when it comes to helping institutions and particularly those tasked with protecting their employees, students, and teachers or parishioners how they should respond. The catalyst ultimately lies in recognition of the danger followed by effective communication.
What follows is, in my opinion, the essential steps to be included in any Active Shooter Response Plan. I was first introduced to this progressive response model early on in my protective services career by reading a publication I believe was “The Bodyguard Bible.” I have since sought to add my own meaning to terms, consistent with the changing threats and the environments where we find ourselves providing protection. Particularly when we shift our focus from a solo client to securing the masses. I call this model or acronym D5, short for Deter, Detect, Deny, Delay and Defeat.
Every company, educational, or religious institution needs trained, vigilant, and capable guardians to serve as visual deterrents. To help proactively PREVENT an attack by encouraging the potential threat to choose a different location or target. This can be achieved through environmental design, i.e. circular driveways with strategically placed statues and planters which minimize a terrorist’s ability to use a vehicle as a weapon against the inhabitants of the desired structure or targeted group. However, prevention more commonly reveals itself through trained personnel, neatly dressed, and hyper-vigilant, whether in uniform or suits.
If we can’t deter the attack, we must be trained to RECOGNIZE an attack is underway or imminent. As we saw with the response from those Federal Officers. In order to detect a threat, we must move away from the traditional perimeter or lobby greeter, who’s only asset is a beautiful smile, and to become trained, first observers. Sister Mary has been welcoming people with a smile at the front door of her house of worship for over 20 years. She is excellent at making you feel welcomed on the way to the sanctuary, but how good is she at recognizing that the impeeded gait of the approaching stranger could be the identifying sign of a terrorist wearing a suicide vest?
Once we recognize an attack is underway or imminent, we want to secure the perimeter, classrooms, or any other place people may be gathered, to RESTRICT ACCESS. If the lobby hostess, concierge, or security officer recognizes an attack is underway, do they have the ability to send building-wide communication via a panic button, intercom, or radio to initiate the lockdown of the facility or alert first responders, whether that’s building security, law enforcement, or both simultaneously? Has the church safety team practiced lockdown procedures for the sanctuary? This is also where clearly marked exits, and coordinated communication can help steer people away from the threat.
If we can’t deny access, then we must do everything we can to SLOW THE SHOOTER DOWN. Create obstructions, barricade doors, and other access points. If you can’t get your protectees out, at minimum keep them quiet and moving.
When all else fails, you must be prepared to NEUTRALIZE THE THREAT. You must fight like your life depends on it, because yours, and the lives of those you are tasked with protecting, are at risk. If you don’t have a firearm, consider improvised weapons (i.e. fire extinguisher, broken broom handles or other bludgeoning items, scissors, etc.), or physical aggression. Over ninety percent (90%) of the time, the attacker is a lone individual, and despite what people used to think, they are not superhuman. The reason they are often successful in causing harm is that they have a force monopoly. There are the only ones bringing violence.
However, when they meet resistance, almost half of the time, they are killed by law enforcement, armed security, or civilian bystander. Forty percent (40%) of the time, they take their own lives during the event. As it pertains to suicide bombers, when confronted, they often detonate. That is why it is critical with suspected suicide bombers that we try to identify and engage them on the perimeter to minimize their ability to bring harm to a higher concentration of people, particularly in restricted areas.
At the Point of Crisis
By: Mark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS
Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC. He is an internationally published author, keynote speaker, security consultant to educational institutions and frequent contributor to several print, broadcast and online media. Panther Protection Services is a full-service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Protective Services, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction. Web: www.pantherprotectionservices.com
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