Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mass Shootings: Soft Target to Hard Target (Part 4 of 7)

Most mass shootings take place in areas considered "soft targets".  These are places with lax security or no security at all.  These are places where people are distracted and where people generally feel safe.  These are places where such crimes "never happen here".  Obviously we've seen that mass shootings can happen anywhere and everywhere and that no place is safe from being a target--not your home, not your local mall, not your local movie theater, not your workplace, and not your kid's school.
Here's how to change the places you frequent from soft targets to hard targets:

  • Ask if there is a mass shooter plan in place at your workplace, your kid's school, and other places you frequent.  Ask for a copy of the plan so you will know what measures have been put in place for this type of situation.
  • If there isn't a plan available (say at your local shopping center) ask why not and encourage them to work with their local law enforcement agency to create one.
  • If you are in charge of your workplace/school's security planning, be sure to work with your local law enforcement agency AND be sure that you keep some parts of your plan confidential (you don't want every part of your plan to be known by potential attackers).
  • Drill/exercise the plan.  Often.  Not only can drills and exercises be conducted "in house", many towns and cities have city-wide, even region-wide active shooter exercises and will often welcome all players that are interested in participating.
  • If you see something, say something.  Better to report something that turns out to be nothing than to not report something that turns out to be tragic.
  • Allow a way for your employees/students/the public to easily (and anonymously) report concerns to you (via an app or a link on your website).
  • Encourage your employees/students to report situations that could blow up into something bigger (ie: an employee recently took out a restraining order on her ex husband, etc).
  • Have a security team and share information with them daily (ie: with a "pass down" log of some sort.  Be sure to give them a picture of both the person who took out the restraining order, as in the example above, and a photo of the person who they took the order out on).
  • Consider having armed security.  In this case, I don't mean arming teachers who have no desire or experience with firearms, but having qualified, trained, and armed security personnel (obviously you will want to require ongoing training and practice).
  • Don't make your school/workplace a "gun free zone" with big signs advertising the fact.  That just makes the facility a target for people who want to be able to shoot up the place with no chance of being stopped.  
  • Take appropriate physical security measures as they pertain to your workplace: install a monitored security camera system with backup recording, install metal detectors, install hidden panic alarms in work spaces, require all people to wear photo ID badges, create safety barriers (with solid furniture, bulletproof glass partitions, etc), etc.
  • Hire a professional security firm to create and test a security plan for your business.
  • Get in the habit of locking doors and have entry systems that require a keycard/retina scan/etc.
  • Be sure that each office/room is securable (solid doors, solid walls if possible, secure locking system, etc).
  • Practice evacuating from your home/school/office building in multiple ways (out the door, out the window, from the roof, etc).
  • Look at ways to increase security in concentric circles.  You want to make the central part of your building as secure as possible yet you also want to ensure the entrances and exits in the building are also secure and don't forget that you can add security features to the perimeter of your property as well.
  • Make checklists for people to follow in a crisis.  It sounds obvious but people might forget to call 911 in the midst of a crisis or they may forget to lock the windows during a building lock down.
  • Be consistently inconsistent.  If people can set their watch by your workplace/school activities that means you are a better target.  Don't be a better target.
  • Institute a series of codes.  This can happen at home (have code words for various situations) and at work/school (you don't hear someone saying over the hospital PA system "someone is dying in the ICU...you hear a "code red" or "code blue" called.  This is an excellent way to warn your staff without alarming the possible assailant).
  • Make security a priority/hot topic in your workplace/home.
  • Utilize a variety of warning systems to communicate with others.  Twitter, email, text messages, etc, can be used to warn others away from your building or to ask for someone to call for assistance as well as give law enforcement up to the minute information during an event.
  • Consider teleworking and off-site working, varying work hours, etc.
  • Encourage personal security for all students/employees/family members.  This may mean physical self defense classes, bringing in security experts to make suggestions/answer questions, etc.
  • Keep hazardous materials/hazardous items secured (this means everything from locking up your firearms to securely locking up fertilizer or chemicals in an outbuilding).
  • Be extra vigilant when it comes to students/employees/family members who are: suicidal, have spoken of or acted on violent tendencies, recently divorced/in a custody dispute/recently broke up with their SO, have a history of domestic violence, have a history of mental illness, have recently been fired or reprimanded, etc.
  • Encourage all forms of safety in your school/workplace/home: have working smoke detectors, have accessible first aid kits, have adequate lighting both inside and outside, lock up valuables, have charged fire extinguishers, take "safety walks" regularly around your building/property, etc.
It's a shame that we can no longer live as obliviously as we once did.  I'm from a generation where the old farmhouse was never locked, a shotgun or rifle often hung across the back window of my truck (also kept unlocked), school was an open building where anyone could come and go, neighbors kept an eye on everyone, and the biggest news was a Friday nigh fistfight at the bar.  Those days are long gone and now we have to live and work in basically a fortress in order to ensure (or ensure as much as possible) our safety.

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