Insider Active Shooter
Yet another mass shooting this past week in Virginia Beach and this shooting reminds us that the threat may come from within.
In many of the active shooter incidents over the past several years the assailant was not an employee or staff person that carried out the deadly act. In most cases they were either a stranger that picked their targets randomly, or had some connection with the location. For example, they may have been a disgruntled customer; a student; a person that had a hatred for a certain class of people; or a number of other potential relationships.
There is no way to really know how many active shooters or other types of violent acts have been avoided by secured doors or access control systems. We also do not know of any studies that have identified how the assailant chooses his victims or locations, if they have no previous association with the intended victims. There are theories and beliefs out there that the shooter(s) just looks for a location that has minimal security and a large number of potential victims. So the question is, how do we protect ourselves, our homes, our businesses and so on?
Many times when conducting a security risk assessment I am asked if metal detectors should be installed. That is always an option but are they always needed? The short answer is no, yet there are times when a business has tried everything else and their risks are such that it is time to take it to the next level.
One consideration prior to installing metal detectors is the fact that they are always positioned inside the buildings. That being the case, are we giving the potential assailant access to the building with the firearm? Of course we are, and that may not be preventable in many cases. However, are there things that we can do that may make the assailant pass your business by for a “softer-target”?
We have heard it for years that there are measures that homeowners can and should take to make their homes look more secure. In fact even convicted felons have told us how they pick their targets, and what types of things cause them to move on to a softer target. Yet, in most cases we have not applied that same concept to the ongoing active shooter problem.
Electronic Access Controls Active Shooter Prevention
One of the things that many businesses, schools, and other facilities have done to moved away from open doors, both inside and outside, and installed an electronic access control system. These systems will in most cases have all doors locked that require a card with the proper access to unlock the doors. It is pretty common these days, and the days of locks and keys maybe limited.
Not too many years ago you could walk up to a school and find most doors unlocked during the day hours. The same was true for many houses of worship and healthcare buildings to name a few other types of facilities. More and more that is changing, and it can be a major adjustment to the culture of an organization to do so.
Places like schools, hospitals, churches, courthouses and so on were never considered unsafe places, and people could come and go through numerous doors. In fact in one case when conducting a security audit of a medical center campus there were at least 75 unsecured exterior doors, most of which were for the convenience of staff. Yet every one of those entrances was an added security risk.
In today’s world electronic access control systems have go a long way to eliminate such a risk, but how do we protect against the employee that has an access card and is intent on committing a mass shooting at work?
Conduct a Security Risk Assessment Now
In the case of the Virginia Beach mass shooting the shooter was an employee and had an access control card with his assigned access rights. From published news stories he was not known by staff or management to be a threat, and was not undergoing any type of discipline at the time of the shooting. In fact, he had submitted his letter of resignation that same day prior to the assault.
It may be too early to tell, but from all indications no one saw this mass shooting coming and there have been no reported issues with the shooter in the past. He had access to the building, so there was no stopping him from entering the facility, and his weapons of choice that day were handguns which are easily concealable.
Hopefully there will be more details coming out of the ongoing investigation that will help us understand if there were warning signs, or steps that we can take to minimize this risk at our facilities. Until such time we would recommend that you assess your risks ongoing, and using the catch phrase from the 80’s “Think Outside the Box“!