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Fears of Gun Violence Force Business Owners to Rethink Workplace Safety

‘Stop the bleed’ training, security cameras and locks take root in companies with formerly open doors.

PHOTO: PETE RYAN
BY RUTH SIMON AND CHIP CUTTER – SEPT. 22, 2019 6:24 PM ET

Many small-business owners are hardening their defenses as concerns about gun violence escalate.

Thirty-five percent of business owners say they have taken steps to protect against potential shootings or other workplace violence—or plan to do so soon, according to a monthly survey of nearly 800 small companies conducted for The Wall Street Journal by Vistage Worldwide Inc., an executive coaching organization.

Some companies are adding security cameras and replacing open-door policies with buzzers and locks, while others are signing up for advanced first-aid training or making tough choices about allowing weapons at work.

“One can say the chances of [a shooting] happening are slim, but we need to be prepared as much as we can,” said John Marten, president of Shepherd Color Co., a manufacturer of pigments for industrial uses with about 300 employees. “It’s always a balance to find the right place where you can function and live your life,” he added, “but be as safe as you can.”

The Cincinnati-based company has put electronic locks on doors that had been left wide-open during business hours and provided active-shooter training. The company also plans to install surveillance cameras on its 60-acre campus. Limiting access to manufacturing buildings, where material moves via forklift, can be particularly challenging, Mr. Marten said.

A half-dozen Shepherd employees will soon begin “Stop the Bleed” training as part of a national program to teach bystanders how to treat gunshot and other life-threatening wounds before first responders arrive.

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The concerns of small businesses vary widely, said Brink Fidler, president of security-training firm Defend Systems in Nashville, Tenn., which has conducted training programs at dental offices, manufacturers and assisted-living centers, among others. Some business owners worry about how to respond to a disgruntled former colleague, he said. Others fear a domestic dispute spilling into the workplace.

Ken Clark, chief executive of Chenal Family Therapy PLC of Little Rock, Ark., with about 110 employees, said therapists became more concerned about safety following the shooting last year of three mental health workers on the campus of a state-operated veterans facility in California. “When it’s a workplace similar to yours, all of the sudden you pay attention,” he said.

Figuring out the right steps is challenging for a small, fast-growing company that must weigh, for instance, whether to spend money on active-shooter training or something more business-focused like updating its website, Mr. Clark said. Chenal has installed cameras in patient waiting areas and near building doors in some offices, and hopes to soon roll them out in all 17 locations.

Chenal bars clients from bringing weapons to its offices, which have solid-core doors that swing out and are hard to kick in, but employees with appropriate training are free to carry a concealed weapon. Mr. Clark has wrestled with whether he should have a gun.

“I have made what I think is the educated choice: There is more risk in me owning a pistol than in me not having one in the office,” Mr. Clark said. “I am also the kid who gets his foot caught in bike spokes,” he added. “I would be the one shooting myself in the foot.”

Dr. Brian Eichenberg, the owner of a plastic-surgery center in Murrieta, Calif., obtained a concealed-weapons permit in 2015, after the San Bernardino shootings. He started locking the front door to his office the following year after he put up a billboard advertising breast augmentations that triggered a death threat.

“I have a .45-caliber handgun,” he said. “I hope I never use it anywhere.”

Even if small businesses can’t afford their own security staff, they can develop evacuation plans and safety protocols, said Eric Gandy, deputy chief of the Clearwater, Fla., police department, which has conducted about a dozen training presentations at small businesses in the past year.

At bigger companies, workers may be unaware of the presence of a shooter, particularly if they work on a separate floor, Chief Gandy said. Smaller companies, with workers located in proximity, may be able to more quickly identify a threat, but employees are likely to have less time to escape. Chief Gandy advises workers to think creatively, which could mean throwing a chair through a window to escape or using a fire extinguisher as an improvised weapon.

After a 2015 shooting at a nearby community college, Orenco Systems Inc., a manufacturer of wastewater collection and treatment systems in Sutherlin, Ore., signed up for a service that puts a panic button on workers’ smartphones to more quickly notify authorities, said Senior Vice President Jeff Ball. New employees receive active-shooter training when hired and a refresher every six months.

Potential gun violence isn’t the only safety challenge. KBM-Hogue, a contract office furniture dealer with about 120 employees, in May relocated its corporate headquarters to a less visible space after several incidents involving homeless people unsettled employees.

“We made the conscious decision to leave that space, to give up the visibility and move across the street … just to get everybody away from that feeling of being uncomfortable and unsafe,” said Stan Vuckovich, the company’s chief executive. “Safety shouldn’t factor into making a real-estate decision for your business. It factored in a big way for our business.”

Write to Ruth Simon at [email protected] and Chip Cutter at [email protected]

34 killed – 64 Injured – Three Active Shooter Attacks

In just one week, this country has suffered through three terrible active shooter attacks that took the lives of 34 people and injured countless others.  While each attack has its own unique circumstances, the intent of the attackers was pretty much the same, to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time.  In two of these attacks, nearby police responded swiftly and engaged the gunman to stop the assault.  In the third however, the gunman had completed his carnage upon police arrival and he simply gave himself up to officers a block away from the scene as they were searching for him.

The attack on the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, took the lives of three innocent victims ages 6, 13, and 25 and wounded 13 others.  The shooter, wearing body armor and multiple spare magazines, gained access to the festival grounds by cutting through a perimeter fence allowing him to bypass any security screening process.  Once inside the festival grounds, he opened fire on a large group of people near the food area without discrimination.  Police officers at the festival responded immediately and engaged the gunman who took his own life during the ensuing firefight.

The mass shooting at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, took the lives of 22 innocent people and wounded 24 others.  The shooter began his rampage in the parking lot outside of Walmart where he began firing upon patrons as they were coming and going.  He then entered the Walmart and continued his heinous attack as he hunted down his additional victims.  El Paso police officers arrived on scene at 10:45 AM, six minutes after receiving the first 911 call, and began the process of searching for the gunman.  The suspect was located a block away from the Walmart at 11:06 AM where he turned himself in to officers and was taken into custody without incident.

The active shooter attack on the streets of Dayton, Ohio, resulted in the deaths of 9 people and caused injury to 27 others.  The attacker opened fire on a crowd of people on the streets and sidewalk outside of Ned Peppers, a popular establishment in the Oregon district.  Police officers that were in the area, heard the gunfire and immediately responded to neutralize the threat and did so only 30 seconds after the attack began.  The video showing the police response is an amazing tribute to the officers and their willingness to face evil head on and without hesitation.

If not for the close proximity of law enforcement as well as their deliberate response, the Dayton attack as well as the Garlic Festival attack would have been much worse.  Both situations demonstrate how swiftly an amazing amount of damage can be done in very little time by a crazed gunman hell bent on mass murder.  The Garlic Festival shooter fired 39 rounds before being stopped and also wore body armor along with multiple spare magazines.  This makes it clear that he intended to do much more damage as well as his intent to engage with law enforcement.   The Dayton attacker also wore body armor and possessed approximately 250 additional rounds of ammunition making it clear that he strived to do much more damage as well as anticipated being engaged by police.  As evidenced by the surveillance footage, his intent was to enter a crowded bar and commit a heinous amount of carnage and would have been successful if not for the incredible acts of the Dayton police officers.

The shooting in El Paso further illustrates the fact that it does not take very long to kill and injure an incredible amount of people prior to law enforcement arrival.  Thankfully in this case, the shooter stopped his killing spree on his own and surrendered to law enforcement but that did not occur until 27 minutes after police received the first 911 call.  Swift engagement by law enforcement is clearly critical to mitigating the damage during these events.

We all know that the Dayton and Garlic Festival responses are not the norm as most of these attacks last anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes.  An incredible amount of damage and killing can be completed in that time.  As a nation, we remain focused on improving our law enforcement response to these events as well as exploring additional means of prevention and thwarting of these planned attacks, and we should.  The incredibly overlooked space that needs improvement is in the middle, meaning empowering and training people what to do should they find themselves in one of these events.  We need to continue our focus on all facets of combating this problem with more emphasis on response and recovery for EVERYONE.

Should you find yourself in the middle of one of these horrific attacks, would you know what to do and how best to respond?  Would you have the skills and the tools to stop significant bleeding in a family member or a friend?  Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best; “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  What’s your plan?

5 Ways to Make Our Schools More Secure

There is quite a bit of focus these days on the fact that corporations, churches, businesses and other organizations need to focus more time and resources on preparing for a critical incident such as an active shooter. I couldn’t agree more as I am very passionate about this fact. However, the single most critical organization that needs to focus A LOT of time and energy into critical incident and active shooter preparation is our schools. Whether it is a crazed gunman, an extremist terrorist, or the lunatic ex-spouse of a staff member, the threats to our schools are real and are not going away.

It was in April of this year when the ex-husband of Karen Brown, a special education teacher in San Bernardino, entered her classroom and gunned her down while she was teaching. He also struck two students in the process, killing one, before turning the gun on himself. In the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, the shooter wandered the school executing victims for 11 minutes before being encountered by the police and taking his own life. All of his victims were shot between 3 and 11 times EACH. These are two starkly different incidents with very different shooters behind the gun. Their motives and intended targets in both incidents were vastly different yet the result was still the same. Innocent lives were taken by crazed gunmen on school grounds and the existing security policies and measures failed.

Outside of the existing potential threats previously mentioned, our schools have to begin considering that they qualify as both a soft target and a high value target to terrorist organizations. Both terrorists and active shooters alike seek maximum carnage with minimum resistance and our schools would traditionally provide both to these deranged individuals. Although police response times to active shooter events have improved greatly, it could still be the most important three minutes of your life.

HERE ARE FIVE CRUCIAL THINGS EVERY SCHOOL SHOULD BE DOING TO IMPROVE THEIR SECURITY.

Consistently secure all buildings. This may seem simple and elementary but it can be a game changer. One door left unlocked and unattended could make a life a death difference. In the Columbine High School shooting, not a single locked door was breached by the shooters. In the San Bernardino incident, the gunman attempted to enter a side door where he would go unnoticed but it was locked and he was forced to enter the main entrance. Although their security policy still failed, the incident could have been much worse had he entered undetected. Even on the most beautiful of days, keep all classroom and building doors secured and locked. You are sending a message to anyone seeking to infiltrate your campus.

Conduct regular and visible patrols. This task should be shared by staff and faculty so that everyone participates in proactively creating a secure environment. Furthermore, the more personnel involved, the better. This also sends a message to any potential intruders that you have multiple people involved in securing your campus and that they will meet resistance. If ANY unknown or suspicious person is identified on campus or in a building, then you MUST confront them. Confront them IMMEDIATELY and ASSERTIVELY and preferably in pairs if the personnel is available. When any criminal is seeking a victim, they are looking for just that, a victim. Being assertive and not avoiding the situation communicates clearly that your campus is not a soft target.

Get a threat assessment and security evaluation done for your particular campus. Every school building and campus is different and will have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to achieving physical security. There are also several ways to advantageously exploit certain features of particular buildings and construction materials during a critical incident. Hiring a professional to evaluate your facility can make all the difference when it comes to critical incidents.

Have a plan. This also sounds elementary and obvious but I have been astounded at the number of school personnel I have spoken with that don’t have a real plan. Unfortunately today our schools face multiple threats from both nature and man and having specific plans for those events and your particular campus are extremely important.

Waiting for the School Resource Officer to handle the situation is NOT a plan. Although SROs are an outstanding resource for schools, they cannot be everywhere all of the time. Even if your campus is small and it only takes one minute for the SRO to get anywhere on campus, one minute is an eternity during an active shooter event. Every school, campus, and faculty composition is different so having a customized plan creates an outstanding advantage when seconds count.

Practice and train frequently. When in danger, the human brain goes directly into survival mode. We cannot reason, our only instinct is to survive. When we do this, we have one of three reactions, fight, flight or freeze. These are primitive instincts that have kept our species alive for thousands of years, but they are just that: primitive. Our survival instincts can be programmed to change the way we respond under critical stress levels. The ONLY way to do this is through training and repetition. During any critical incident most people will have some sort of reaction, but prior training allows you to RESPOND.

To learn more about obtaining a security evaluation, training for a critical incident, or strengthening the security of your school or campus, please visit our website at www.defendsystems.com or give us a call at 615-236-6484.

Why Active Shooter Training for School Personnel is More Important than Physical Security

While I would never advise a school or any other organization not to improve their physical security, it would undoubtedly not be first on my list of recommended safety and security enhancements. Although improving physical security is very important for a variety of reasons and is typically selected as the first option in response to calls for an increase in school security, Active Shooter Training for school personnel is my first recommendation. 

WHY WE START WITH ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING…

Unfortunately in our world today, these calls for action are the result of some type of school shooting tragedy.  They are not a result of some random property crime or simple assault that occurred on one of our campuses.  When is the last time there was an outcry for increased security due to a laptop being stolen from a school’s computer lab or because two teenagers got into a fistfight?  It just does not happen.  We are accustomed to accepting these types of crimes and incidents as part of life that occur regularly and therefore we are desensitized to them.  There is no feeling of shock, horror, or sadness because someone spray painted the front of the school.

Sadly, we as a nation all feel the shock, horror, and sadness every time there is a school shooting.  No matter how frequent these become, they still shock the senses of the majority of society and inevitably lead to calls for improving school security.  The demand for security improvements typically results in some physical improvement such as adding surveillance cameras, metal detectors, high-security glass, or even the addition of a school resource officer.

THE CASE FOR STARTING WITH ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING FOR PERSONNEL AND STAFF…

While these are all certainly steps in the right direction, any physical security improvement should be secondary to extensive active shooter training for faculty and staff.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Physical security measures will not prevent the majority of school shooting attacks.  It is an unfortunate fact that the vast majority of these attacks are launched by current or former students who possess the inside knowledge to exploit the security vulnerabilities and gain access to the school.

All school personnel should be armed with the knowledge of what to do during an attack no matter what part of the campus they are on and no matter who is or is not with them.  Having very specific active shooter response plans for every classroom, office, gymnasium, bathroom, locker room, and any other part of the facility is critical to saving lives because it allows trained personnel to respond instantly with a very specific plan and purpose.  Every campus layout and school floor plan is unique and therefore should have plans and protocols specifically designed for that facility.

All active shooters understand that once they fire that first shot, the clock has started.  They accept that there will be a very swift and powerful law enforcement response and they do not care.  They do care about committing maximum carnage during that small window of time and that is exactly what they do and when they do it.  Once law enforcement personnel arrive, they will be confronted very swiftly and their rampage will be stopped or they will flee prior to law enforcement arrival. All that being said, the focus needs to be on that window of time from when the first shot is fired until the event is over.  The event is not over until the shooter has been neutralized and all persons in need of medical aid are in the care of medical professionals.

THE EFFECTS OF ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING FOR SCHOOL PERSONNEL…

Training school personnel on best practices of avoiding gunfire, proper barricading, counter assault maneuvers, and hemorrhage control techniques is the most critical element to improving school security. (Although every victim of an active shooter attack cannot possibly be saved, the grim reality is that several victims of past attacks could have been saved had personnel known simple bleeding control techniques and had the tools to apply those techniques on site.)

Training faculty and staff to respond to these events immediately and with a very specific plan and purpose will undoubtedly mitigate casualties and increase the survivability rate should an attack occur.  While we will, unfortunately, never be able to completely prevent these attacks from occurring, we can absolutely tilt the survivability odds in our favor.  Active shooters could care less about your physical security measures because they typically have nothing to do with slowing them down once they are already inside.  What they are not prepared for is resistance.

In every active shooter event, there is undoubtedly a significant time gap from when the shooting begins to the arrival of law enforcement.  Our active shooter training fills that gap. For more information about our training for your school staff and faculty and how we can help your school create a safer environment, give us a call at 615-236-6484 or go to defendsystems.com.

Why Businesses and Organizations Should Train for Active Shooter Events

“1 October” will forever be synonymous with the most horrific and deadly mass shooting in American history. Almost two weeks has passed since that incredibly evil attack suddenly changed every Americans’ sense of safety and security and many questions still go unanswered. The motive remains completely undetermined, the timeline is foggy at best, and the puzzle pieces of “how” are just beginning to fall in place. Liability and responsibility are being bounced around from MGM Resorts, to the Las Vegas Police Department, to the gun lobby in America like a pinball.

As humans, it is in our nature to feel the need to hold something or someone accountable for such a tragic event. I believe we would all agree that the shooter made the choice to devalue human life to such a degree that he decided to execute 58 innocent people. As for the other potential liability, the courts will make that decision in due time.

When we hear the term “active shooter” most of us associate it with such events as the Las Vegas Massacre, Columbine High School, Pulse Nightclub, or Sandy Hook Elementary, and rightfully so as these tragic events ripped at the heart of every American. A study conducted by the FBI on 160 different active shooter incidents revealed that over 50% of active shooter incidents occur in a commerce setting and that 55% of the time there is some connection between the shooter and the targeted victims.

The same study also found that 23 of those 160 events occurred at locations that were closed to pedestrian traffic, meaning there was some type of access control or security in place. Of those 23 incidents that occurred in a “secure” building or facility, 22 were either current or former employees. What this means is that the vast majority of active shooter events that occur in the workplace are being carried out from within the organization.

Any business or corporation can and should do everything they can to physically secure their facility from an intruder but it is often the case that the “intruder” is one of their own. Whether they are disgruntled about their employment situation or involved in some crazy office love triangle, it is most common for these attacks to come from within.

While doing a speaking engagement at a recent safety and risk seminar, one participant asked us what to be looking for as it relates to this very issue of targeted violence from within. There is no easy answer here as everyone has a different trigger that sets them off and sometimes they hide it well. Other times, however, the volatility of a particular situation or employee is readily identifiable. In those instances the “see something, say something” model is absolutely critical. If management is not made aware of a particular problem or situation then they cannot take action.

So what do you do to help mitigate the situations you don’t see coming? HAVE A PLAN AND TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES.  

In a previous article, I discussed the fact that most active shooters seek maximum carnage and minimum resistance.  By having a good solid plan and conducting training, you are sending a message throughout your organization to all employees that you are preparing and there WILL BE RESISTANCE. You are also identifying your corporation and facility as a hard target and we all know soft targets are preferred by active shooters. Whether you come up with your own plan or hire a professional to complete a security evaluation and conduct training, get it done. Your life may depend on it.

To learn more about obtaining a security evaluation, training for a critical incident, or strengthening the security of your business or organization, please visit our website at or give us a call at 615-236-6484. We are passionate about helping people and organizations achieve real security.

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