As was evidenced in the recent shooting incident at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and numerous other Active Shooter incidents, the perpetrators often exhibit disturbing or threatening behavior prior to the incident but it was not dealt with sufficiently to anticipate or prevent the event. Some perpetrators also shared with other persons their intent to do harm or exhibited desires/planning to harm themselves or others.
After the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the university embarked on developing a threat management program that has become the standard for such a program and has been the impetus for such programs in other educational, governmental, and corporate environments. Unfortunately, most schools, institutions and corporations still have no clear program for identifying, assessing and managing potential threats to the organization, its students, its faculty, its management and supervision or its general staff, as appropriate. Current workplace violence prevention practices at most organizations are deficient in defining how a person would report concerns regarding suspicious or questionable behavior. Further, there is frequently no training to assist in identifying observations that should be reported, nor an anonymous method for such reporting.
This problem is not diminishing as a real threat to our communities, schools and workplaces. According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, an Active Shooter is defined as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. Active Shooter incidents do not include the following situations: gang-related shootings, shootings that solely occurred in domestic settings, robberies, drive-by shootings, attacks that did not involve a firearm, ballistic attacks (act of terrorism) and attacks categorized primarily as hostage-taking incidents.
However, most organizations have recognized this threat and have begun efforts to address the issue by conducting Active Shooter preparedness training that discusses appropriate response protocols (Run, Hide, Fight) and then conducting drills to ensure readiness. Such training and drills are a very good step in mitigating the danger posed by such a threat becoming a reality.
However, Active Shooter training and drills alone don't address the issue of fore-knowledge which can be utilized to prevent the incident from ever occurring. We therefore offer the following recommendations to every organization, school, workplace and institution for developing a program that recognizes threats and deals with them in the earliest stages.
Whatever the team is called its typical composition for a school should include at a minimum:
In their post titled "Taking Threats Seriously: Establishing a Threat Assessment Team and Developing Organizational Procedures", the Crisis Prevention Institute defines the primary goal of the TAT as proactively assessing the conditions, policies and procedures of the organization in order to prevent or reduce the chances that a potentially violent situation will occur. Based upon their post and the author's prior experience, in the event of a threat the TAT is also responsible for:
►Acquiring the consultation and resources necessary for a comprehensive investigation
►Investigating the risk posed by the circumstance
►Planning and implementing a risk abatement plan
►Determining the appropriate interventions for both the subject and target(s)
►Involving law enforcement authorities when necessary
►Overseeing post-intervention to ensure the risk has been mitigated
►Modifying, enhancing or implementing procedures, practices or facility security measures that may have been deficient in resolving the situation, preventing its escalation or may have contributed to its occurrence
James A. Francis, CPP, CFSO, has over 30 years of experience in the Security Profession, spanning both government and industry. Mr. Francis started his security profession as a Special Agent with the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He later managed the security and safety program for a major division of Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Inc. He capitalized on this broad expertise during his tenure at T&M Protection Resources and Kroll where he achieved the position of Senior Vice President at both companies. As President & Chief Consultant at LFJ Consulting Services, Mr. Francis provides leadership on a broad range of offerings in the areas of expert services, litigation support, security, and crisis management.
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