Stop The Next Mass Shooter: A Workplace Violence Tabletop Exercise

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, “Stop The Next Mass Shooter: A Workplace Violence Tabletop Exercise,” presented by Bryan Flannery, President at Foresight Security Consulting, and Charles Ahmad, CPP, Founding Partner at Group Nine Risk Consulting. Read on for what they had to say and don’t forget to register for GSX 2023!

Q: How did you become interested in your topic? 

CA: I spent the majority of my career with the U.S. Marshals Service locating and apprehending violent felons who were on the run. Fugitive work was something I loved and had wanted to continue until I retired. As it turned out, the Service had other ideas. In 2017 I was reassigned to a Judicial Security Unit and went about the work of protecting members of the federal judicial family, up to and including Supreme Court Justices and a Cabinet member. While it wasn’t something I asked for or ever intended to pursue, I ended up thoroughly enjoying, what was for me, an entirely new area of law enforcement.

Initially, my focus was largely protective intelligence which involved proactively investigating threats of violence to federal judicial officials and facilities. I soon learned about the warning signs displayed by individuals who are planning violent attacks to include mass shootings and found the work both interesting and rewarding. After a couple of years in that role, I was promoted and led the entire unit. My responsibilities then grew to include all aspects of security risk management for multiple courthouses and hundreds of federal judicial officials, and I continued to teach classes on workplace violence and active assailant intervention and response.

Brian and I are very excited and appreciative of the opportunity to present on this topic at GSX 2023! 

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

CA: Unfortunately, the threat posed by active assailants, such as mass shooters, isn’t going away. To effectively address this ever-increasing threat, I highly encourage security professionals to receive specialized training and to form a threat assessment team within their organization. In forming a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team, reports of concerning behavior can be examined and addressed utilizing an industry accepted framework that has proven effective in numerous cases. As I moved from law enforcement to the private sector, I have committed myself to getting this message out with the ultimate goal of saving lives. 

Q: What advice would you give security professionals interested in this topic? 

BF: Part of preventing workplace violence is understanding that the perpetrators plan, prepare, and are predatory. We must be open to recognizing that while we may not agree with it, the attackers always have a grievance, and helping people solve their issues early will better help us prevent workplace violence. It may seem like a departure from what we consider “normal” security work, but practitioners must be open minded about a new way of thinking about prevention.  

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

BF: With a little over a year of distance from the pandemic, more companies returning to the office, and still struggling community resources I believe the next few years will inevitably bring an increase in preventable Workplace Violence incidents. From the reactivity of aggressive pushing and shoving to a targeted attack of tragic violence, leaders should begin bolstering their workplace violence prevention efforts now by creating and maintaining Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams that work cross culturally to include security, HR, and legal.

Leveraging a company’s desire to best serve their employees, security professionals and practitioners should be outspoken evangelists for holistic security programs. Preventative measures like reporting mechanisms, policies, and multi-disciplinary threat assessment and management teams should be parts of the comprehensive programs all organizations strive for. Prevention of targeted violence is certainly the goal, but better care for people can be the standard by which we achieve it.