One of the sad realities of today’s world is the threat of an active shooter situation. Rather than deny the threat, it is important for leaders of any organization to understand the need for a comprehensive plan to address these situations and make sure staff is prepared if an active shooter event does occur.

A study done in 2016 by the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Institute of Health found that the U.S. had more public mass shootings than any of the other 170 nations investigated. Furthermore, ALERRT Active Shooter Data, the nonprofit arm of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Reponses Training (ALERRT) program tasked with training America’s law enforcement for active shooter response, analyzed 192 active shooter situations between 2000-2015 and discovered that business locations were the site of more than half of all events. Because of this, it is vitally important that every business, leader and employee understands and executes a crisis response plan to stay alive.

In 2002, ALERRT developed the Avoid, Deny, Defend response to active shooter situations, which has become the preferred method of response for civilians as recommended by our nation’s
law enforcement. 

Speaking to the effectiveness of the program, ALERRT says, “Over the years we’ve seen response times shorten and the capabilities of law enforcement increase. As a result of increased public awareness, many citizens have asked what individuals can do protect themselves and reduce the dangers faced during one of these events. Avoid, Deny, Defend has been developed as an easy to remember method for individuals to follow.” 

Following the theoretical background for each step of the Avoid, Deny, Defend process can help keep your staff out of harm’s way.

During an act of violence, starting with an “avoid” step keeps you out of danger before a situation develops. Avoidance is all about getting away from the situation as quickly as possible. Here are factors to look for:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
  • Develop an exit plan for your team and/or the area you work in.
  • Put distance between yourself and the source of the threat as quickly as you can. The more distance and barriers between you and the threat, the better.
  • Most important, never re-enter the situation. When you get to a safe area, call
    911 immediately.

If avoiding the threat is not possible, or too difficult to do safely, move to “deny” steps. Denying can refer to:

  • Maintaining distance between you and the threat. Move to a different area of the building and/or area, if possible.
  • Creating barriers between you and the threat. For example, push a table in front of the door if you are in a conference room.
  • Turning off the lights, remaining out of sight and being quiet. Hide behind large objects and silence your phone to stay hidden.

When avoidance and denial fail, the last resort is to defend yourself. You have the right to do so by any means necessary; this is about surviving. Be aggressive and committed to your actions and do NOT fight fairly.

If trends continue, 2019 will be another year where active shooter situations are an unfortunate reality. By following the recommendations of programs designed by crisis response professionals, you can keep yourself and your staff safe.