Evaluating Building Layouts to Mitigate Active Assailant Threats

By Timothy Brewer

With 2017 and 2018 both setting unfortunate new records for the number of active shooter situations, the very real and growing threat of armed assailant attacks is clear. Events such as the school shootings in Parkland, FL and Sante Fe, Texas remind us that such atrocities are regularly perpetrated against the most vulnerable members of our society, and as security professionals we must do all that we can to address this issue.

Much excellent work is being conducted to better understand behavioral science, identify indicators of a potential attacker, and secure facilities, but such measures can never be 100% effective, and tragically, 71% of attackers are able to walk legitimately and unhindered through the entrance of the facility that they are about to attack.

The average active assailant attack lasts 12.5 minutes, while the average police response time is 18 minutes, so the majority of victims in such scenarios must therefore either attempt to escape or survive within their environment. Training, drills, and communication are key components in reducing the impacts of such attacks, but security professionals should also be aware of the role that the physical fabric of the school can play in preserving life. The opportunities to exit the building quickly, safely, and without coming into contact with the attacker(s) should be maximized, and where exit is either not possible or not advised due to the threat, physical protective measures should provide an effective shelter for occupants.

In Las Vegas this September, I will be discussing the psychology and movement of building occupants during an active assailant event and describing how security design and assessment can benefit from a better understanding of the implications of the building layout on the outcomes of the attack. Attendees can gain insight into design examples which demonstrably improve and hinder building egress under conditions of panic; better understand existing and upcoming industry guidance document on this topic; and will be able to take this knowledge into their own organizations to encourage leaders to innovate security design for active assailant threats.

Join us for Evaluating the Safety of Building Layouts In Light of Active Assailant Threats at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Global Security Exchange (GSX), powered by ASIS International.