FTI Director Jay Hart featured on RILA's Website (part 1 of 2): Active Shooter Q&A

FTI Director Jay Hart has recently been featured twice on the website for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) covering various aspects of Active Shooter Mitigation as it pertains to the retail businesses.

The first of the two features is a Question & Answer forum where Jay addressed attendee questions following May's Retail Asset Protection Conference. The following can also be found at RILA's website under "News & Resources: Retail Checkout"

Q: Active shooter vs. active threat: We have not had any shootings, but several stabbings - some involved death. Is this still the same thinking as an active shooter? Can you give us some feedback on this style of attack, and how to deal with it? 

JH: Over the last few years there has been a shift to move away from the term 'active shooter' to terms like 'active killer', 'active threat', 'hostile intruder', or even 'violent intruder'. The idea is to move away from focusing on the tool the attacker is using to harm others and instead, focus on the attacker’s intent/actions. Moreover, because of issues related to human performance under stress, time available to train, and budget concerns, we want to give our employees ONE emergency response plan for multiple threats instead of multiple responses for multiple threats.

Q: Does an active shooter plan look different for the stores supply chain and the corporate headquarters? What are the differences? How do you sell this to the senior management team that does not want to scare associates with this topic?

JH: The safety principles and response strategies for your active shooter mitigation program should be very similar throughout your organization. However, there are specific concerns for different areas that need to be addressed. For example, the training offered to the supply chain will most likely have shorter time duration and focus mostly on pre-incident indicators and crisis response strategies (“what to do” during an active shooter incident). On the other hand, the training for corporate headquarters should include information regarding safety/threat assessment teams, best practices to handle employee terminations, discipline hearings and workplace harassment complaints. Moreover, the reality is that organizations have a tendency to shy away from active shooter training until an advocate inside the organization begins to push it forward. If you’re that advocate, here’s a good way to start:

  1. Take full advantage of everything that RILA offers regarding best practices and the experiences from other members who have created active shooter training programs for their organization.
  2. When you meet with senior management to discuss active shooter training, admit that, “Yes, active shooter training can scare people if you do it the wrong way” but your organization will be committed to doing it right and there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.
  3. Instead of just “active shooter” training, focus on “workplace safety,” which is more comprehensive and it’s more difficult for senior management to say they can’t support workplace safety.
  4. Remind everyone that this is a leadership Issue and if you don’t give your employees options, they won’t be able to make life saving choices during a critical incident.

JH: The language you use for your active shooter response program is extremely important and every organization should focus on the best communication strategy for their organization’s culture and tolerance level for discussing risk/violence. The language used for your active shooter training should also be consistent with current policies and procedures so that your program is effective and legally defensible. 

Q: What do you say to those who are opposed to this type of training because they fear it might scare the associates more than help? 

JH: Creating an active shooter training program for your company needs to start by focusing on winning the hearts and minds of your senior leadership. Their concerns about employees being scared is valid, which is why you should address their fear-based emotions from the very beginning. Remind your senior leadership that active shooter training is about giving your employees the “gift of safety,” which they will take with them wherever they go. Providing employees with knowledge about active shooter emergencies will increase their confidence during a critical incident and allow them to make better decisions during a critical moment. 

Q: Has there been any discussion on implementing an alert code to alert employees to an active shooting life threat situation similar to a "Code Adam" for missing child?

JH: Every active shooter mitigation plan should include an emergency communication strategy, of which there are normally two. First is the use of a code like “Code Adam,” which alerts employees to a specific issue while customers and vendors will most likely have no idea what is occurring.
The second option is to use “plain English” so that everyone quickly gains situational awareness.  For example, instead of using “Code Red” for an active shooter incident, the alert would announce there is an active shooter situation in progress so employees, customers, and vendors can make quicker decisions to seek safety.

Q: What were the steps you took to begin the active shooter training conversation within your respective companies?

JH: One of the best ways to start the conversation about active shooter training is to speak with your executive staff about your experience at the RILA Conference! Share everything you learned about what other companies are doing and the recommendations/best practices that were discussed. 

Q: I’ve heard voices inside the LP industry advocating for firearm training for LP agents to provide first response. Comments?

JH: The idea of arming LP agents as a first line of defense against active shooters is an issue that is emotional and very politicized. The reality is that a firearm in the hands of a properly trained person can be a life-saving tool during an active shooter incident. However, creating an armed, LP program has many barriers to entry:

  • Employee selection process
    • Background Investigation
    • Psychological Assessment
  • Budget constraints
    • Purchasing firearms and ammunition
    • Initial training costs
    • Certification fees
    • Recertification fees
    • Ongoing training/qualifications
    • Insurance
  • Legal concerns
  • State and local regulations
  • Brand reputation
While this list is not exhaustive it does give you an adequate glimpse of the issues you’ll need to address prior to implementing an armed LP program.

Q: Since we are also responsible for customer safety does any part of the training include associates communicating "Run Hide Fight" to customers during an active shooter event?

JH: When you are creating or reviewing your current active shooter training program, you want to ensure that you address the predictable questions and concerns that employees will have. And since retail is such a customer-focused business you can be sure that your employees will want to know how to handle customers during an active shooter incident. In short, every active shooter training program in the retail environment should address employee/customer interactions during real life active shooter incidents including lockdowns and evacuation procedures.​

Thank you so much to RILA for their support!

For more information on the organization, check out www.rila.org

If your organization is interested in Active Shooter Mitigation services (training, policy analysis, site surveys, etc.), please contact us at info@forcetraining.org