In times of uncertainty, anxiety is alleviated by the notion that “something” is being done. When it comes to workplace safety, that “something” often leaves much to be desired.
NPR’s “At Many Workplaces, Training For A New Threat: Active Shooters” serves as an informative primer for those not conversationally familiar with the safety challenges confronting today’s business leaders. The coverage provides a practical insight into the en vogue practice of “preparedness training” which is currently being replicated across a cottage industry of providers. Also referenced, is the reality that the only real take-away many of these these training programs provide, is often nothing more than a false sense of security.
As any medical professional will tell you, treating a symptom may offer some temporary relief, but eventually you’ll have to address the core concern. Chicken Noodle soup will make you feel better if you get sick, but the flu shot will keep you from falling ill in the first place.
As fears are always bigger than budgets, the bottom line of safety concerns comes with a key questions: Would you rather the temporary twinge of preventative pain or run the odds in risk of future torment?
Run, Hide, and Fight is the new Stop, Drop, and Roll.
Remember the 80’s? When “Fire Prevention” meant teaching kids to Stop, Drop, and Roll? Then to ease their fears, they were taken outside to see the shiny new fire truck that would come save the day? It was a dog and pony show. It was designed to instill confidence in parents. To rest them assured their children were properly protected. In reality it was a ruse, distracting them from the shoddy, frayed, and exposed electrical wiring running alongside drywall and kindling. It was simply cheaper to run the risk that nothing would happen. To hold out a little while longer until the new funding came in. To pretend the risk wasn’t really there, and should the risk become a reality? Well, at least they had taught the kids something practical.
When moments matter most, instructing people to Run, Hide, and Fightundoubtedly saves lives. Training the police to prevent a known threat from getting out of hand is critical for the securing of the public safety. That said, neither of these applications do anything to prevent the problem from happening in the first place. They are canned prescriptions. Chicken soup.
Insider threats do more harm than outside actors
Perhaps the most prominent parallel between the San Bernardino shooting and the recent airline attack causing TSA to adjust their procedure, is the reality of just how many violent offenders are actively participating in the very measures meant to thwart their plans. By taking part in active shooter drills and everyday security screening measures, these soon-to-be-offenders aren’t just reading the other team’s playbook, they are joining in on their practices.
The lead to the last paragraph in the the All Things Considered article reads:
“The San Bernardino facility attacked in December conducted monthly active-shooter trainings. One might be tempted to say it didn’t work…”
The reason they failed was because the guy who shot up the place worked there…he did those trainings too! He already knew where the exits were, which guards were weakest, and where his victims would run and hide.
For those who wish to do harm, the single most influential factor of target selection is “likelihood of success.” This is why insider threats always pose a greater risk of harm than outside actors. Students attack their schools, and workers attack their offices because that is often where: the initial grievance is born; where the ideation that they can “do something about it” is first nurtured; and where the “research and planning” for their attack can often be disguised as day-to-day activity.
To help treat this core concern, today’s forward-thinking business leaders are learning to proactively embrace crisis management and emergency response plans that can effectively co-exists within the framework of their executive protection operations. These over-arching vulnerability reduction programs are no longer viewed as a pain-point employed for the benefit of the c-suite few, but rather as a cornerstone of productivity that safeguards the quality and and capability of corporate growth as a whole.
Practical awareness as part of an overall protective intelligence strategy is not a new practice. For decades, similar techniques have been utilized by financial investors to chart the trends of central banks and monitor market fluctuations. Comparable methodologies are used by the military to identify the geopolitical destabilizers which often precede terror concerns. T0day, the digital and technological applications in the workplace allow for the human resource process to effectively identify pre-incident indicators — that when properly managed — reduce risk and prevent violence.
The first steps toward preparing today for a safer tomorrow begins with promoting a positive protective posture; ensuring the policies on paper are the same as what are being put into practice; and by rewarding an awareness to the vulnerabilities which surround you so that those key issues may be effectively addressed. Everyday safety requires the participation of everyone. There is still more work to be done, but a practical approach to the realistic risks we face will help to ensure the certainty of future safety for all involved.
Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.