It’s easy to look back on the bad things in life and think of how you might have handled things differently. Yet, an active shooter incident is not something to reflect on only after it happens. There is a connotation that every active shooter plans to commit an attack for weeks or months in advance. This is not true. One incident of workplace violence could catalyze a catastrophe, and you need to understand how recognizing an active shooter in the making must be part of your threat assessment.
An active shooter can select targets without reason and intends on killing or harming as many people as possible. Per the FBI, active shooter incidents do not involve domestic violence, but that implies a lack of warning signs. Rather than waiting for an incident to happen, you need to know a few things about what does and does not cause an active shooter to go on a killing spree.
There Is Not a “Standard Profile” of Active Shooters.
From the tragedy in Sandy Hook to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre, you might think authorities have created a profile of typical active shooters. Unfortunately, the differences between active shooters in past incidents are missing a pattern. Per the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center, fewer than 13 percent of active shooters engaged in threatening behaviors before committing an attack. However, this means that up to 13 percent of active shooter incidents may have been prevented. Somewhere along the way, training and threat assessment fell short of ensuring staff or appropriate personnel could recognize the warning signs of an active shooter.
For example, 19 percent of active shooters exhibited stalking or harassing behaviors. This includes committing physical assaults, threatening bodily harm with a weapon or repeated physical violence to intimate partners. Essentially, this contradicts the stereotypical trends in active shooter personas, but it also indicates the presence of violent behaviors before committing an incident. So, certain signs and indicators of active shooter risk can be derived and included in routine threat assessments and active shooter training programs.
Who May Become an Active Shooter?
Anyone can become an active shooter. Regardless of race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, personal beliefs, business practices and more, the risk of becoming an active shooter is present. Even those you do not suspect can suddenly become your worst nightmare, threatening you, your employees, your customers and even other businesses in your neighborhood. But before engaging in a violent act, an active shooter may display the following behaviors:
- Suicidal or self-injurious thoughts or actions, such as cutting or intentional overdose.
- Homicidal thoughts or actions.
- Engrossment in violent literature, such as weapons’ magazines or violent-geared YouTube channels.
- Withdrawal from social activities.
- Development of a personal vendetta against a person, place or thing, including your business.
- Experiencing a profound loss in the time before the attack, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or employment termination.
It is also important to remember that these behaviors are not a requirement to committing an active shooter incident. In other words, even people who have not expressed any of these behaviors can still commit an attack. Additionally, most active shooters do not have a previous criminal history involving violent crimes.
When You Should Act.
There is another disturbing fact about active shooter incidents that you might not have realized. Up to 70 percent of all incidents occur in a business or commerce setting.
It may seem like they occur in schools or personal settings often, but they occur right where you work more than anywhere else. More importantly, most incidents do not end in a gunfight between police and the shooter.
They end when the shooter stops firing, often turning the gun onto the shooter as a means of suicide. But, what if the situation could be stopped earlier? That’s where your role as an executive or manager in your company comes into play.
The best way to stop an active shooter from killing you and those in your business is to stop the event from happening in the first place. Let your team know the risk they face, and ensure every person in your business understands active shooter incidents and how to respond. They need to know how to recognize a possible active shooter from behaviors. 13 percent is not much, but what if your business is one of those that could have fallen into that category?
You cannot waste time with active shooter planning or training. It needs to be ingrained in the fundamentals of your business. Depending on your industry, you already have plenty of training required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), such as training to avoid pathogen exposure in the medical field.
Your business takes on these typical risks because the world cannot function in a state of fear or panic. Yet, every employee knows the basics of wearing gloves and trashing items appropriately. If you work with electrical wires, you understand the need to disconnect power before performing maintenance. So, why wouldn’t you give them the upper hand by offering and completing active shooter training today? Think of active shooter training like maintenance for your company. It might not be needed today or tomorrow, but at some point it’s going to be needed.
One last thing: six of the active shooting incidents since 2001 were committed by women.
Never assume someone that is brandishing a firearm or threatening your business is simply having a bad day and not likely to commit an attack.
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