Training classes and workshops for security-related topics are often perceived as a necessary evil by employees and their bosses, who see these sessions as either a waste of company time, covering an unlikely event, or creating fear in the workplace. It’s only after a significant national event, a local tragedy, or an issue at their firm that employees and management pay more attention to the on-going need for training and policy updates.
One of the only positives to come from national tragedies like the 9/11 attacks and the recent spate of workplace, school, and mall shootings, is that it helped remind and reorient American businesses to the need for better safety and security policies, new procedures, and updated training. The employee orientation process provides a useful opportunity to tell employees that we are now living and working in what is called the “new normal.” As such, we will pay more attention to issues that in the past got glossed over in the former orientation process, including evacuation plans; mandatory wearing of ID badges; access control policies; visitor and vendor access policies; cybersecurity policies; the location and use of first-aid products and equipment; CPR and AED training; fire drills; bomb or phone threat responses; and domestic and workplace violence prevention awareness and responses.
The terroristic attack in December 2015 that left 15 San Bernardino County employees dead, at the hands of a coworker and his wife, led to a large increase in requests for “active shooter/mass attacker” training classes around this country. Public-sector employees felt especially vulnerable after this incident. Police and sheriff’s agencies, along with training consultants who specialize in workplace violence prevention, were inundated with calls from worried HR, Legal, Security, and Facilities directors, asking for training. Since that time, many organizations have received awareness and response training, and have initiated drills based on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) protocol known as “Run-Hide-Fight.”
The centerpiece of this type of training is the 6-minute “Run-Hide-Fight” video, created by the DHS and the City of Houston, TX, in a partnership. The film was shot in July 2012, just 2 weeks before the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting that killed 12 people and injured 70. The video has had over 31 million YouTube views and offers a short but impactful message to the training participants who see it. In the rare but catastrophic possibility of an active shooter or other armed attacker entering your facility, get out of the building quickly and safely, taking as many people with you as you can; hide out and barricade yourself and your coworkers in the safest room possible in your building or on your floor (shelter in place in a breakroom, restroom, storage area, lockable office, conference room); or as a last resort, fight back, using physical force, improvised weapons, or body weight.
Speaking at the 2015 annual conference for the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told the group one of the biggest lessons his department learned in their review of the response to the mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center was the reaction of the survivors when his officers arrived. “People froze when they saw us. They wouldn’t leave their positions. What we discovered was that since the two attackers were wearing dark clothing and carrying assault weapons, when we responded and were wearing dark uniforms and carrying rifles, the group was so frightened, they thought we were the original attackers returning to the scene.”
Chief Burguan’s comments point to the need for continuous awareness-building training in the Run-Hide-Fight response protocol, which should include a drill involving a demonstration of the Run-Hide phases. Instead of waiting for another mass shooting in the United States to restart the discussion on what to do when faced with an active shooter, many organizations are taking a proactive approach, scheduling this type of training as part of new-employee orientation and on-going employee awareness-building.