Is Active Shooter Training Enough?

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Is Active Shooter Training Enough?

PaigeBy Paige Rucker, Firestorm Principal

Recent events in our country have made the phrase “Active Shooter Training” more and more familiar. Following the Aurora shootings and other such tragedies, the Lubbock, Texas Police Department decided to offer lone gunman active shooter training to civilians. They created a YouTube video in July 2012, that went viral (with over 2M hits) and focuses on the Run, Hide, Fight concept of surviving an active shooter event. The training video replicates a real-life combat scenario and demonstrates what civilians can do in event of an active shooter. Since then, active shooter training has become more and more popular across the country.

What exactly is the definition of an active shooter? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined population area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”

Although, this type of crime has existed for decades, it seems reportage of such events would have us believe that the number of these incidents is on the rise when in fact, it isn’t. According to Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a book, Mass Murders in the United States – A History, mass killings are not increasing. In fact, they have actually dropped. Duwe’s data indicates that mass killings claimed 32 lives in the 80’s, 42 lives in the 90’s and 26 lives in the first few years of 2000. According to these numbers you have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

So, is active shooter training enough? Nope, not by a long shot. The likelihood of an active shooter, or the “black swan” event, is rare. What isn’t rare, and actually on the rise, are workplace violence related homicides. According to the Violence Prevention Coalition, homicide was the third leading cause of occupational deaths in the United States in the year 2000. It was the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.

So what are we missing? While any kind of workplace violence prevention program is a good thing, let’s not forget one of the most critical elements of prevention – leakage. Every workplace violence event in our country, whether it was active shooter or single homicide had similar characteristics – someone saw something or someone heard something. It was those red flag triggers we heard after the fact. It was the Facebook posting we heard about later, the threatening comments someone thought was a joke or the feeling someone had that something just wasn’t right about a particular person but failed to report it to anyone. We could take a lead from the Department of Homeland’s Security’s marketing campaign to combat terrorism and terrorism related crime in our country – If you see something, say something.

Research proves that employees who commit violence against other employees are likely to share similar characteristics. The most common profile is a white male 25 to 50 years old, a loner with a history of violence or fascination with weapons. The violent worker is also likely to exhibit signs of depression, self-destructive behavior, paranoia and/or other behaviors specific to personality disorders. This is also a person who had the trifecta of personal issues recently and just can’t seem to move past their emotions.

Becoming more self-aware and recognizing these red flag triggers are great forms of prevention. On-the-job and external forms of stress are “major contributors to workplace violence” according to Robert F. White as stated in his paper, Workplace Violence: A Case Study. Having a system in place to anonymously report concerns is another critical piece to the puzzle. There is no evidence that supports that Zero Tolerance is effective. It doesn’t work for the military and it certainly doesn’t work for businesses or schools. No one wants to be responsible for getting someone in trouble, whether it be a child or an adult. Going back to a culture of “Suggestion Box” mentality may be the answer to truly getting to know the issues within your workplace environment.

So as we look at this epidemic of workplace violence in our country, let’s not overlook the issues that could lead us to that random event in the first place. Let’s begin by taking predictive measures that allow us to more closely examine what’s truly going on in our workplace environment.

Free Workplace Violence Resource

Firestorm’s Suzy Loughlin’s paper on Workplace Violence is available for download:

Click here for the complete white paper.
Firestorm Whitepapers are no-fee resources provided as a service to help you in all aspects of Crisis Management, Business Continuity, and Preparedness.


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