Prevention and Preparedness
The threat of an active shooter can exist in any segment of society — from schools and government offices to any business in the private sector. Because of this high degree of uncertainty, formation of a threat assessment team for any business or institution should be regarded as a must, with an active shooter committee as part of the task force, aimed at focused communication between the threat assessment team and the immediate community.
Proper threat assessment happens in three stages:
- Identification – Detection of an at-risk person who exhibits behavior common to previous active shooters. Any individual manifesting symptoms of depression, intense anger, disproportionate feelings of hurt or humiliation, and/or a fixation on violence should raise an alarm.
- Assessment – Determination of whether or not the person or people pose a legitimate threat, or if the warning signs prove to be false indicators based on further investigation. Institutions and businesses need to be trained and equipped to properly make this distinction.
- Management – Taking timely, active and appropriate steps to minimize the threat of violence — in best-case scenarios, intervention.
One of the tragedies of every shooting in the workplace, at school, or in the community at large is that in nearly every instance, certain insights previously glazed over suddenly come into full focus. Some may have suspected that something wasn’t right, but failed to come forward because they weren’t sure or didn’t want to cause trouble for anyone. Silence can be deadly — and this is why it’s so important to establish a threat assessment team, and right from the outset, to involve everyone in the community it intends to serve.
Ideally, the threat assessment team will glean and process information about a potential threat in its early stages, and intervene before an actual threat materializes. Communication is absolutely critical to the effectiveness of any threat assessment effort for the same reason that anti-terrorist professionals have to rely on the public to “say something” if the public sees something — it simply isn’t possible for security professionals or advocates to have eyes or ears everywhere.