This already violent year now carries the ugly scars of two more mass shootings, this time in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which killed more than 30 people and inflicted devastating wounds on dozens more. The shooter in each instance respected no place and no one. Their bullets ripped through victims of all ages, genders, races and origins.
The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings in the U.S., defines a mass shooting event as “a single incident in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are shot and/or killed at the same general time and location.” Since January, the organization has logged 275 deaths and 1,065 injuries as a result of mass shootings.
No place where people gather is immune: Not hotels, churches, schools, malls, restaurants, convention centers, hospitals or corporate offices. How can anyone safeguard themselves and loved ones? Survival begins with a heightened awareness of surroundings. In a building, that means knowing the location of at least two exits and places to take cover.
Employers always have been held responsible for the safety and well-being of employees and customers on their property. But the stakes rise higher when that responsibility begins to include preparing large groups of people for a mass shooting event to minimize casualties. The best defense begins with an active shooter plan as part of an overall crisis management program.
Effective crisis management begins at the top, with the full engagement of the senior leader, whether that be a corporate CEO or the property owner and extends to everyone with responsibility for managing teams and large groups of visitors, including general managers, meeting planners and even tour guides.
Their responsibilities include assessing risks throughout their organization, securing vulnerable areas inside their buildings and outside on their grounds and providing real-time protection utilizing people, technology and processes.
More and more organizations are stepping up to accept that responsibility by hiring highly experienced security experts to analyze risks and identify resources needed to protect employees and guests while they are on company property. They also are committing generous resources to develop a step-by-step crisis management plan and keeping it up to date.
An important tactic is ensuring the flow of information, in real time and across a wide spectrum of channels, during a crisis. Organizations must plan in advance to develop systems to proactively disseminate information quickly and accurately, such as by text alerts to employees and customers, a hotline to law enforcement and web pages for the public and news media.
It is critical to include the new media and public in any crisis plan, because failure to fill the void of information during the heat of a crisis forfeits an organization’s opportunity to minimize the spread of misleading information, which can go viral in a matter of seconds and irreparably damage its reputation.
It’s equally important to manage any backlash in real time and across a wide spectrum of channels by correcting misinformation by engaging the public through social media, the organization’s website and news media.
Sadly, mass shooters continue to shake the world on almost a daily basis. An integrated crisis management plan should be considered an essential part of an organization’s daily operations. The plan needs to be widely disseminated, frequently updated and practiced with periodic drills involving property-level staff members designated to handle onsite emergencies as well as messaging to customers, the public and investors.
An effective plan for any organization or venue with a high concentration of people should include the following elements:
- Clearly defined protocols to anticipate, manage and mitigate mass shootings
- An up-to-date chain of command with emergency phone numbers
- A list of staff members trained to manage a crisis
- Training at all levels, both at the enterprise level and at each property
- Scheduled practice drills
Now is the time for property owners and executives to conduct thorough reviews of their crisis management and business continuity plans to anticipate the potential perils of controversial events and most importantly, establish protocols to mitigate the disruption of mass shootings and restore business as usual.
David Trumble is principal of Integrated Crisis Management Solutions, an organization composed of security operatives and communications professionals offering risk assessments, streamlined emergency protocols, management training, customer/media relations and recovery programs.