Firestorm Founder, Suzy Loughlin, Featured on Cheddar – How to Mitigate School Violence
In 2005, Harry Rhulen, Suzy Loughlin and Jim Satterfield founded Firestorm with the goal of mitigating incidents of violence in schools and businesses. More than a decade later, they have grown Firestorm to become a leading crisis and risk management firm and America’s CRISIS COACH®. Their mission to create safer work and learning environments has continued. Recently, Suzy Loughlin sat down with Cheddar to discuss how schools can prevent incidents of violence from entering their doors.
The Company Using Social Media to Prevent School Shootings
Risk management firm Firestorm wants to spot warning signs of tragedies before it’s too late, and it’s looking to social media for clues.
“Typically, people who perpetrate bad acts broadcast their intent ahead of time,” Suzanne Loughlin, a co-founder of Firestorm, said Friday in an interview on Cheddar. “If we’re looking and listening, we can pick up clues that might help us intervene long before the individual causes harm.”
As part of its formula to prevent school violence, Firestorm helps institutions and businesses identify threats and vulnerabilities and then designs a strategy.
One way is through algorithms and tools that scan public social media posts for warning signs and keywords like the word “gun” or “glock.”
The firm gave some example tweets that would have triggered an alarm, including, “This school is worthless. I wish it didn’t exist.”
In an actual Facebook post Firestorm shared with Cheddar, a user wrote, “All life I’ve been bullied by these same kids..well towmarow [sic] that all ends. Maryvale is gonna look ugly towmarow [sic].” The post concluded with a gun emoji.
While it’s unclear what happened in that instance, in other cases Firestorm has detected a more pressing threat.
Wired reported this week that the company’s system flagged a student’s post earlier this year that featured a picture of a gun in a backpack. When the principal approached the author of the post, he found that the student was carrying the weapon.
Even if flagged posts don’t always identify a person who is planning immediate violence, Loughlin said the system is still valuable.
“Those people still need help,” she said.
“Most school shooters, statistically, have been bullied. Bullying is a big problem. So wouldn’t that be wonderful, that we solve that issue for a student, whether or not that kid ever is going to be the one who’s on the path to ultimately bringing the gun to school?”
Loughlin pointed out that the social media watch is just one of Firestorm’s nine strategy components. But, she added, the human element still plays a major role.
“You can’t forgo the human interaction and the value that a teacher has, or a staff member, in recognizing what’s going on in that kid’s life,” Loughlin said.
To mitigate violence, Firestorm combines nine, key components to identify behaviors of concern long before an act of violence visits any campus, any school no matter how large or small, any workplace.
- Awareness Training (AT)
- Anonymous Reporting (AR)
- Media Monitoring (MM)
- Centralized Information Warehouse (CW)
- Administrator on Duty (AoD)
- Risk Categorization Matrix (RM)
- School Behavioral Assessment Team (SBAT)
- Management System (MS)
- Violence Response (VR)
All nine elements must be in place to align with best practices. Leaving out one or more elements places schools, students, organizations and employees at increased risks. Every school and organization must have all of these elements in place to do the same thing, the same way, every time. Failure will result in missing an opportunity to prevent violence.
Firestorm will help you and your organization find providers, be the provider, teach your providers – we don’t care – we’re giving you what we know works so you can implement the formula in your own environment.
Please help us share the formula to mitigate violence. Use the #ShareTheFormula hashtag and encourage others to do so. Train the next generation of educators to #ShareTheFormula – make it part of our lexicon and a fact of our legacy as a generation that we helped stop the violence. Download #ShareTheFormula here and we’ll keep you updated on when we visit your city, and new developments as others #ShareTheFormula.
As a multi-generational force for change, we – all of us – everyone reading this – are the Solution, and every Solution has a Formula. #ShareTheFormula