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3 ways to improve your active shooter preparedness and response capabilities

Every organization should establish a policy to reduce the risk of impacts from active shooter events. (AP Photo)
Every organization should establish a policy to reduce the risk of impacts from active shooter events. (AP Photo)

The recent mass casualty shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas is the latest active shooter event to threaten personal and commercial safety and well-being.

From 2000 through the first half of 2016, more than 600 people were killed in 213 active shooter events identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These attacks have affected organizations of all types, including schools, retailers, health care organizations, manufacturers, entertainment venues and arenas and hospitality businesses.  

Here are three ways that your organization can prepare for an active shooter event and be ready to protect and aid employees, customers, and guests, manage critical business functions, and quickly return to normal operations.

Planning and testing

Every organization should establish a policy to reduce the risk of workplace violence and impacts from active shooter events. This policy should:

— Establish procedures through which employees can report violent or troubling behavior.

— Set criteria for escalating incidents to a pre-defined threat assessment or management team.

— Address additional security measures that may be needed to safeguard employees, guests, and others.

— Reflect input from your organization’s security, human resources, and legal teams, and potentially law enforcement, along with feedback from workforces.

— Be reinforced through tabletop exercises and drills.

Security, crisis communications, emergency response (including active shooter), humanitarian assistance, and crisis management plans should align with your workplace violence prevention plan. They should be similarly updated and reinforced regularly.

Related: 5 secrets to create a successful threat plan

Protecting people

The primary focus during and after a violent event should be on employees, customers, and guests. Your organization should be prepared to:

  • Execute active shooter response options: Run, hide, and fight.
  • Provide first aid and other support to injured individuals (when safe to do so).
  • Care for employees who witness an incident and may be traumatized and/or in shock, including possibly funding for grief or trauma counseling.
  • Respectfully attend to deceased employees and support families and loved ones.

In a crisis, communication will be essential but could be hampered by misinformation, panic, and other factors — especially in public or event spaces. Develop a clear protocol for response team members to communicate during and after an attack with each other, employees, customers, guests, security, law enforcement, corporate headquarters and other stakeholders.

Business continuity and recovery

After addressing immediate life safety and investigative concerns, focus should shift to maintaining operations. That includes accounting for:

  • Continuing or resuming critical business functions and processes.
  • Allowing employees to work remotely as needed.
  • Review security measures.
  • Providing additional humanitarian assistance support, as required.
  • Identifying and addressing potential gaps in insurance programs.

Active shooter events and other forms of violence can strike anywhere and any time, and unfortunately they often arise without warning. Businesses cannot fully eliminate these threats, but you can take action now that may reduce the risk to your organization, better protect its people and hasten its recovery.

Related: Hiring and firing practices can help protect employees from workplace violence

Renata Elias is a consultant with the Marsh Risk Consulting Strategic Risk Practice. Contact her at renata.elias@marsh.comThis article first appeared on and is reprinted here with permission. Visit the Marsh Risk in Context blog for the original post.


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