Tag Archives: emergency response plan

Active Shooter Scenarios

Campus safety and security is a topic of increasing concern on both a personal and institutional level. On-campus shootings can no longer be viewed as singular, isolated events. The good news is that the chance of an active shooter incident taking place on campus is pretty small. However, because of the random nature of such events, all institutions need to be prepared. Planning for an active shooter threat has become an unfortunately necessary part of the framework of institutional safety and risk management best practices.

Active Shooter Defined

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s), and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Colleges and universities understand the need for emergency response plans for many different types of disasters and typically already have processes and procedures in place to address multiple types of disasters. Planning for an active shooter threat can and should be integrated into an institution’s overall emergency and disaster preparedness plans. While many of the components are similar for most natural and man-made disasters, the inclusion of an active shooter plan generates an even greater immediacy for response. There are several considerations when it comes to the development and implementation of an emergency response plan to address any threat. These include the three Ps: Prevention, Preparedness and Post-Event Management and Recovery, each of which will be discussed in greater detail below.

See Also: “Boss, Can I Carry While I’m Working?”

  • PREVENTION

Engage in Threat Assessment

Probing how threats develop can mitigate, diffuse or even eliminate a situation before it occurs. Active shooters do not develop in a vacuum. A joint study by the U.S. Department of Education, the Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that individual attackers do not simply “snap” before engaging in violence; rather, they often exhibit behaviors that signal an attack is going to occur. The study recommends the use of threat assessment teams to identify and respond to students and employees.

As part of the threat identification and assessment process, an institution may elect to conduct pre-employment background checks to identify past patterns of violent behavior. While the background check process may not be a perfect indicator of future behavior, it does provide a useful mechanism for vetting a prospective employee. If triggering behavior is found, the threat assessment team can be used to evaluate the information and determine whether further action or intervention is needed. 

Encourage Training and Education

An essential component of prevention is training the campus community on how to identify both trigger behaviors and events that may trigger a potential incident.

Supervisor and Faculty Training: Train faculty on how to recognize early warning signs of individuals in distress. Supervisors/faculty should be aware of major personal events in the lives of their employees, as many incidents of violence occur in close proximity to such events.

Student/Community Training: Educate the campus community on how to recognize warning signs of individuals in distress and provide a mechanism for sharing that information.

Develop and Communicate Reporting Procedures

All employees and students should know how and where to report violent acts or threats of violence. Information regarding the function of the threat assessment team or other similar programs should be provided to the entire campus community. The institution should also have an internal tracking system of all threats and incidents of violence.

Continuing Staff and Student Evaluations

When appropriate, obtain psychological evaluations for students or employees exhibiting seriously dysfunctional behaviors.

  • PREPAREDNESS

Leverage Community Relationships

There are many programs and resources in communities that can assist with the development of active shooter response plans.

Include local law enforcement agencies, SWAT teams and fire and emergency responders in early stages of the plan development to promote good relations and to help the agencies become more familiar with the campus environment and facilities. The police can explain what actions they typically take during incidents involving threats and active violence situations that can be included in the institution’s plan. Provide police with floor plans and the ability to access locked and secured areas.

Invite law enforcement agencies, SWAT teams and security experts to educate employees on how to recognize and respond to violence on campus. Such experts can provide crime prevention information, conduct building security inspections and teach individuals how to react and avoid becoming a victim.

Review Resources and Security

Periodic review of security policies and procedures will help minimize the institution’s vulnerability to violence and other forms of crime.

  • Routinely inspect and test appropriate physical security measures such as electronic access control systems, silent alarms and closed-circuit cameras in a manner consistent with applicable state and federal laws.
  • Conduct risk assessments to determine mitigation strategies at points of entry.
  • Develop, maintain and review systems for automatic lockdown. Conduct lockdown training routinely.
  • Place active shooter trauma kits in various locations on the campus. Train employees on how to control hemorrhaging, including the use of tourniquets.
  • Provide panic or silent alarms in high-risk areas such as main reception locations and the human resources department.
  • Implement an emergency reverse 911 system to alert individuals both on and off campus. Periodically test the system to serve as training and verification that the equipment is functioning properly.
  • Equip all doors so that they lock from the inside.
  • Install a telephone or other type of emergency call system in every room.
  • Install an external communication system to alert individuals outside the facility.

Develop and Communicate Lockdown Procedures

Lockdown is a procedure used when there is an immediate threat to the building occupants. Institutions should have at least two levels of lockdown – sometimes called “hard lockdown” and “soft lockdown.”

Hard Lockdown: This is the usual response when there is an intruder inside the building or if there is another serious, immediate threat. In the event of a hard lockdown, students, faculty and staff are instructed to secure themselves in the room they are in and not to leave until the situation has been curtailed. This allows emergency responders to secure the students and staff in place, address the immediate threat and remove any innocent bystanders to an area of safety.

Soft Lockdown: This is used when there is a threat outside the building but there is no immediate threat to individuals inside the building. During a soft lockdown, the building perimeter is secured and staff members are stationed at the doors to be sure no one goes in or out of the facility. Depending on the situation, activities may take place as usual. A soft lockdown might be appropriate if the police are looking for a felon in the area or if there is a toxic spill or other threat where individuals are safer and better managed inside.

Evacuation Procedures Communication/Training

Evacuation of the facility can follow the same routes used for fire evacuation if the incident is confined to a specific location. Otherwise, other exits may need to be considered. Designate a floor or location monitor to assist with the evacuation and inventory of evacuees for accountability to authorities. Establish a meeting point away from the facility.

Develop a Communication System

Perhaps the most crucial component of an active shooter response plan is the network of communication systems. Immediate activation of systems is critical to saving lives because many mass shootings are over and bystanders are injured or dead before police can respond.

Create a Crisis Response Box

A crisis response box has one primary purpose: provide immediate information to designated campus staff for effective management of a major critical incident.

If a crisis is in progress, this is not the time to collect information. It is the time to act upon information.

Knowing what information to collect, how to organize it and how to use it during a crisis can mean faster response time.

Create an Incident Command Center Plan

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a nationally recognized emergency operations plan that is adapted for large critical incidents where multi-agency response is required. NIMS facilitates priority-setting, interagency cooperation and the efficient flow of resources and information.

The location of an incident command center should be in a secure area within sight and sound of potential incidents with staging areas located nearby.

See Also: Thought Leader in Action: At U. of C.

  • POST-EVENT MANAGEMENT AND RECOVERY

To ensure a smooth transition from response to recovery, plans that went into effect during the event should be de-escalated and integrated into the plan for moving forward. This will include aspects such as:

  • Media and information management
  • Impact assessment
  • Facility and environmental rebuilding
  • Restoring student, staff and community confidence

Conclusion

Though an active shooter situation is unlikely to occur at most colleges and universities, it is still essential to be prepared. Failure to do so can cause the loss of lives, severe financial repercussions and reputational damage that could take years to reverse.

Additional resources for university risk managers and administrators are available in the complete Encampus Active Shooter Resource Guide, which is available for download here.

Hurricane Sandy – Do Not Underestimate Impact

Over the next few days, you’re going to read a number of comparisons between the current Hurricane Sandy and August 2011’s Hurricane Irene. Firestorm urges you to read and take these comparisons seriously, as Irene killed 56 people with US costs upwards of $15.6 billion in damages. The total damages are still being felt.

Sandy, sadly, has the potential to be “the Perfect Storm.” Some meteorologists say a rare combination of events — Hurricane Sandy combined with an outbreak of unseasonably cold air, and a strong land-based storm system — could deliver flooding rains, damaging winds of near-hurricane force, large waves, and even heavy snow inland.

This Public Discussion details meteorological observations as of 5PM Thursday evening, 10/25:

“…Later in the period … some re-intensification is shown as Sandy deepens again off the U.S. East Coast while it interacts with another shortwave trough. Regardless … Sandy is expected to be a large cyclone at or near hurricane intensity through most of the forecast period.

“… Sandy will be pulled northwestward and slow down on Friday while it interacts with the upper-level low. Then a north-northeastward acceleration is expected by Saturday as a long-wave trough move into the eastern United States. Most of the track models now show a turn back toward the northwest by the end of the period due to Sandy interacting with an amplifying shortwave trough over the Carolinas and mid Atlantic states. However … there remain some significant differences in the timing of this interaction … as the ECMWF has Sandy farther west and interacting with the shortwave sooner relative to most of the rest of the guidance … which shows a wider turn and a track farther north. The new NHC forecast is close to the previous one … and lies roughly between the ECMWF and the GFS ensemble mean. Regardless of the exact track of Sandy … it is likely that significant impacts will be felt over portions of the U.S. East Coast through the weekend and into early next week.”

Firestorm’s Jim Satterfield states:

“While Sandy’s pattern is similar to last year’s hurricane, the water temperature is lower and wind impact may be less. Even given lower winds, flooding is extremely likely and combined with down trees and the possibility of ice, loss of power is expected as the hurricane moves inland. For businesses, now is the time to reconfirm call in numbers and messaging. The European model shows that Sandy has the potential to become a massive storm. If this model is correct, outages could be in days and even weeks.”

Rainfall Potential

Hurricane Sandy Potential Rainfall

Hurricane Sandy Potential Rainfall

As reported by the Associated Press, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said he expected to receive by Friday from the state's major utility companies, emergency plans for how they will deal with the storm.

The utilities came under intense criticism last year following widespread and long-lasting power outages caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irene in August and a surprise October snowstorm.

Asked during his monthly “Ask the Governor” show on WTKK-FM if he expected utilities to be more prepared for this storm, Patrick responded: “They'd better be.”

Patrick signed a law earlier this year that requires utilities to dramatically improve communications with their customers during emergencies. Many residents and municipal officials in areas hard-hit by last year's storm complained that they were unable to get accurate information from companies about when power might be restored.

The law requires the utilities to establish call centers that would be staffed around the clock after major storms to handle inquiries from customers about power restoration. Failure of any investor-owned utility to carry out an order by the chairman (authorized under section 4B of the General Laws of the Commonwealth CHAPTER 25 DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITIES) shall be subject to investigation and a penalty of up to $1,000,000 per violation.

In a statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on the NY-Alert website, the Governor directed the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to closely monitor the progress of Hurricane Sandy and prepare for potential storm impacts. Although the storm track is still uncertain, Hurricane Sandy has the potential to affect many parts of New York State with a variety of threats, including heavy rain, high winds, flooding, tornadoes, coastal surges, and widespread power outages.

“I have directed state agencies and New York's emergency operations personnel to begin preparations now for the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy,” Governor Cuomo said. “I urge all New Yorkers to closely track the storm's path, using local radio and television or online reports. We will actively monitor the storm's progress and take any steps necessary to protect our state's residents.”

Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) is hiring 2,000 contractors from the Midwest and United Illuminating is hiring hundreds of workers to help respond to Sandy if the storm hits the state. CL&P provides power to more than a million residences and businesses, and is warning its residential customers to prepare a home emergency kit and has begun reaching out to local officials to update them on how the company will respond if there are widespread power outages.

In Maryland, Baltimore County government is holding an emergency preparedness press conference at 1:30 p.m. Friday, in which county emergency personnel will update residents on response plans and Baltimore Gas and Electric Vice President for Corporate Communications Rob Gould will detail the utility company's preparedness plans.

Businesses Should Prepare Now
Firestorm Solutions, a nationally recognized leader in Continuity Planning, Critical Decision Support, Crisis Response, Crisis Management, Crisis Communications, Crisis Public Relations, and Consequence Management, urges businesses to review business continuity plans, and to communicate with employees and vendors to prepare for labor shortages, supply chain interruptions, power and technology systems back-ups, and other critical system and process interruptions:

  • Recovery prioritization structure for critical business functions
  • Response and recovery actions by functional department
  • Identification of critical suppliers
  • Identification of key employees and contacts

The crisis management team should include the CEO, senior officers, and key personnel representing operations, security, marketing, human resources and public information. The senior business continuity officer and his staff facilitate the crisis management discussion and decision making.

Depending on the severity of the crisis, a command center is set up including PC's, white boards, and phone lines. As status information flows into the command center, it is useful to record it on the white board for the crisis team to see at a glance.

'

Roles and Responsibilities in a Crisis

  • Human Resources is charged with updating employee information phone recordings and web site with status and instructions.
  • The security officer should communicate with fire and law enforcement, if necessary.
  • Marketing should develop customer communications, and public information should craft carefully worded statements for the media/social media outlets.
  • It is imperative that media inquiries be referred to an experienced, designated spokesperson.
  • The secretary to the board or CEO should inform directors, when appropriate.
  • The command center is staffed around the clock, and team members are rotated until the crisis passes and full recovery is completed.

Time is of the essence in crisis management, and it deserves its own plan specifying participant responsibilities. A measure of success is that the dimensions of the crisis are known and recovery activities are begun within the first few hours. In the absence of a tested crisis management plan, the crisis management process can be a turbulent and reactive instead of a calm and productive experience.

Incident/Emergency Response Plan
Implementing an emergency response plan enables a timely response to a disruptive event, with the objective of protecting people and property, while enabling an efficient recovery effort that satisfies stakeholder expectations. Firestorm's Emergency Response Team, which can be reached at 800.321.2219, is available to assist with:

  • Establishing emergency response objectives and assumptions.
  • Developing emergency response team roles and responsibilities.
  • Identifying primary / alternate assignments.
  • Collecting emergency response team contact information and documenting call tree procedures.
  • Designing a triggering process, escalation criteria and declaration criteria; establishing and documenting authority levels.
  • Documenting actions by phases, disruption or crisis for incident response at the impacted site.
  • Documenting or attaching evacuation and shelter-in-place procedures.
  • Developing and documenting response procedures that align to the emergency response objectives and assumptions; developing processes to enable recovery procedures.
  • Establishing and documenting communications strategies to internal and external resources/ stakeholders; summarizing media handling procedures; documenting crisis communications holding statements.
  • Creating a damage assessment process and assigning personnel.

For Business Preparedness
The Firestorm Hurricane Sandy Business Crisis Management Response Team is available now at 800.321.2219.

For Individual Preparedness
Firestorm offers its eBook at no charge: Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America.