Mass Casualty Awareness and Preparedness — Active Assailant Response Planning

In anticipation of GSX, we sat down with presenters of upcoming sessions in order to get a better understanding of the topics at hand. This week we are featuring, “Mass Casualty Awareness and Preparedness — Active Assailant Response Planning,” presented by Dale Buckner, CEO/President at Global Guardian, Dennis O’Toole, Former Anne Arundel SWAT Lieutenant and Federal Law Enforcement Tactics Instructor at NA, and Greg McAleer, Senior Vice President of Business Operations & Risk Management at Global Guardian. Read on for what they had to say and don’t forget to register for GSX 2022!

Q: How did you become interested in your topic?  

DB: An employers’ duty of care obligation is to keep their employees safe and out of harm’s way – and to provide assistance should a crisis, such as an active assailant in the workplace, occur. When employers have effective duty of care programs and emergency response plans in place – and partner with the right provider – it can save lives and ensure business continuity. As the founder and CEO/President of Global Guardian, a leading duty of care provider, our mission is to ensure the safety and security of our clients. One of the things we regularly do is emphasize the importance of crisis preparedness trainings and tabletop exercises to support employees and workforces in an increasingly unpredictable world. 

In the past five years, the threat landscape in the United States and around the globe has steadily expanded, which is having a detrimental impact on business continuity. One of these top threats is violent crime and mass shooting events. When defined as four or more people shot, a total of 693 mass shooting events took place in 2021, 13.4 percent higher than 2020. This year alone, there has been almost 200 mass shootings to date. 

With the rise in crime, and active assailant events, you can’t think it is not going to happen to you. According to the FBI, active assailant attacks typically involve significant planning: 77 percent of attacks took over a week of planning and 24 percent of active shooters (who are 18 and older) have undergone military training. On average, it takes approximately ten minutes for law enforcement to arrive on scene to intervene, but most attacks end in less than five minutes. This means that to survive, individuals must be prepared to react promptly and properly.  

We work with our clients to prepare them for these types of attacks and make sure they are aware of how to respond pre-crisis, during, and post-event. Real-life examples show these types of trainings work; when Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and others from his congregation were held hostage, he credited the security courses that the congregation had participated in with making sure he knew what to do to get himself and those around him to safety. I cannot emphasize to our clients, and to the security professionals at GSX, the importance of being prepared and knowing how to respond in an active assailant incident.  

Q: Tell us about your presentation and why security professionals should have this topic on their radar.  

DO: In the United States, the number of mass shootings has been climbing steadily over the years, making it imperative for organizations to have proper training, plans, and protocols in place.  

Security professionals need to know how to ensure their workplaces are prepared to respond to an active assailant incident. It is critical that security professionals work with corporate leaders to develop, communicate, and regularly exercise emergency management plans to protect assets, support employees, and minimize loss in the event of an active assailant incident. Such plans also go a long way toward increasing resiliency, ensuring business continuity, and supporting and empowering employees.  

Our presentation will discuss the current threat environment and how this has impacted active assailant incidents. We will provide real-life examples of how to prepare for and react to such an incident through tabletop exercises and scenarios. Participants will leave equipped with the necessary skills to train and prepare their employees to respond to workplace violence or an active assailant incident, including how to identify red flags, assess risks, and look out for and monitor threats that are made either in person or online.  

Q: How do you see this issue evolving in the next 2-5 years? 

GM: Since 2020, mass shootings have increased, with 611 incidents taking place in 2020 and 693 incidents in 2021, including the March 16 shooting in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead and the May 26 shooting at a rail yard in San Jose, California, in which nine people were killed. Already in 2022, there have been almost 200 mass shootings to date. The stress of the pandemic and state of the world these past three years have impacted the population in a multitude of ways; it is imperative that we pay attention to how we emerge from the pandemic as reopening may affect vulnerable populations. We may witness an uptick in mental health and wellness challenges during reintegration into workspaces, which unfortunately can result in violence.  

Mass shootings and active assailant threats affect businesses and individuals, making it critical that the security professionals charged with overseeing corporate and employee safety programs establish emergency response plans and protocols, make them available, and test them. Companies should conduct regular active assailant drills, tabletop exercises and engage local law enforcement. Security professionals and corporate leaders must know their people, have a well-practiced plan, and empower employees to speak up if they see warning signs that could prevent an active assailant incident. Active assailant incidents will continue to be a major threat to all individuals and businesses and security professionals will have to address it, plan for it, and respond. 

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