Five keys to preventing and responding to an active shooter

Potential violent threats to “soft target” places of lodging, resorts, casinos, and shopping/office buildings abound, whether in Mogadishu or Montana, from disgruntled employees, disturbed individuals, violent criminals, extremists, or jihadists.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association has expressed concern over perceived threats, pointing out that since 2001 more than 62 attacks have occurred in hotels in more than 20 countries. Still, the risk is manageable. Appropriate threat-based application of security resources (e.g.: physical security systems, guards, and operations) may serve effectively to deter violence. Law enforcement and private sector liaison must be ensured.

Clues precede violence

Most workplace violence-oriented shooters also exhibit “red flag” behavioral conduct

All active shootings and related terror are preceded by a period of hostile surveillance during which the prospective shooter (s) observe the target location and gather intelligence. Most workplace violence-oriented shooters also exhibit “red flag” behavioral conduct, which may tip off coworkers or others to their potential for violence. Adopt a security mindset and embed security within your organization’s DNA. Make it a cultural trait.

The likelihood of your firm experiencing gun violence at work is very low; however, the harmful and negative impact of such an event is so damaging and disruptive that correct risk mitigation must be undertaken, in our view.

5 key learnings for preventing and responding to an active shooter

Follow these five key learnings for preventing and responding to an active shooter:

  1. Conduct a thorough security risk assessment of your businesses. Determine any aggravating threat factors to your executives, properties, tenants. Understand local crime and terrorism risks.
  2. Carry out physical security reviews and determine consistent minimum security practices and standards. Remediate any exposures.
  3. Educate employees through security awareness training sessions, to include active shooter and workplace violence prevention and response content.
  4. Develop and Implement a workplace violence prevention policy.
  5. Create site-specific active shooter plans for your firm. Communicate the plans to stakeholders and staff and exercise or drill them regularly. Make them part of your crisis management plan and your emergency response toolkit.


Nicholas A. Smith, Jr., CPP, Willis Towers Watson Security Practice Leader, is a global security professional, board certified in Security Management. He has extensive corporate security and federal law enforcement and intelligence work experience. Nick graduated from the University of South Carolina and has completed executive education at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Categories: Claim & Risk Control, Employee Wellbeing, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

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