When called, law enforcement can arrive at an active shooter situation within 5 to 6 minutes. However, based on a drill with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office in Iowa, an active shooter can take down 30 frozen (frightened, holed-up) targets in 1 minute and 20 seconds. That’s an average of 4 seconds per shot. How can you, as security personnel, prepare for this?
The Goal: Save Lives
The goal of an active shooter is to take as many lives as possible. Victim selection is minimal or non-existent; the idea is to create havoc.
Your goal as a security professional is to save as many lives as possible and buy time for law enforcement to arrive. Catching the shooter and neutralizing the threat, even if you are an armed security professional, is something that is best left to law enforcement unless you have no other choice. Look at each scenario and try to think through how to run, hide, and fight through each one.
Scenario #1: Active shooter is not an employee (or no longer an employee)
Someone enters the lobby with a large coat and big bag. They do not have an employee ID. However, they do not approach the concierge, so you assume they are meeting someone in the lobby. Instead, they pull a gun out of their coat and start shooting.
Scenario #2: Active shooter is an employee, with access to higher floors and work spaces
Someone enters the lobby with a big bag. As an employee, they do not need to register at the concierge, but use their employee ID to go straight to their office floor. A few minutes later, you receive a message from security personnel on a higher floor that employees are encountering an active shooter.
Scenario #3: Active shooter enters a shop
Someone enters the shop and takes out a gun. They start shooting.
As a security professional, your primary function is directing all employees or people in the shop. You need them to run, hide, or as a last resort, fight. Ideally they look to you for direction, and you can give clear instructions in the middle of the situation.
Plan #1: Run, Hide, Fight
Let’s look at Scenario #1. Active shooter is not an employee, and they have no legitimate reason to go to a higher floor or inner part of the building. They are less likely to want to make any kind of contact, much less show an ID to the concierge. This greatly limits their range of movement. Those in the most danger are those inside and crossing the lobby.
Run. If the shooter is in the lobby, the most obvious exit is the main door. However, running for the main door might bring people closer to the shooter. As a security professional, identify alternate exits for those in your area. Fire exits, basement parking exits, back doors, employee exits are all valid. If you can remind those who get out to call 911, do so.
Hide. Anyone who cannot exit should barricade themselves behind solid frames that can stop bullets, as much as possible. The PA system should be accessed to warn building tenants. This is also the perfect time to call 911 and give them an update on the situation (a description of the shooter, if he has moved his position or is attempting to reach another part of the building).
Fight. This is a last resort for anyone. It assumes you and those in the building can no longer wait for law enforcement, and that there is no effective barricade between you and the shooter. Direct those with you to arm themselves with anything they can throw or strike with. If you can make the shooter flinch, you can make room to run past them or for others to run past them. If you need to fight, be determined to win.
Plan #2: Run
In Scenario #2, the shooter is an employee. They do not need to connect with the concierge, and their employee IDs provide them with a pass to the higher floors. Also, in this scenario, you are in the lobby and not on the floor with the shooter.
Run. Announce the situation to everyone on your floor and direct them to the exits. Access the PA system and broadcast the warning, asking everyone who can to run and everyone who can hear the shooter to barricade themselves. Call 911 and give as much information as you can. It would be best to prepare everything law enforcement might need: the floor and exit plan, employee lists and concierge records. Try to stay in touch with security personnel in the building and get as many updates as you can.
Plan #3: Run, Hide, Fight
In Scenario #3, the space is extremely limited. You have a shop, one large main entrance, and both employees and customers.
Run. Running targets are difficult to hit. Those closest to the main shop door can attempt to exit through there. Otherwise, direct employees and customers through the fire exits or employee exits. Instruct them to call 911.
Hide. If running is not an option, barricade yourselves behind a door and block it, if you can, with anything either flat and thick or absorbent. Call 911 and alert law enforcement.
Fight. If the shooter is about to corner your group, prepare to defend yourselves with anything that can be thrown or that can strike. You hope to distract so you can run. Otherwise, be determined to win the fight.
As security personnel, you have additional roles when law enforcement arrives. First is giving as much information as you can about the shooter and his description. Second is giving a floor and exit plan. Third is finding out, as much as possible, who is still in the building so law enforcement will know what they’re dealing with. This is a worst-case scenario, of course, but people will depend on you to know what to do.
- 1 The Goal: Save Lives
- 2 The Plan