Preparing Your Organization for an Active Shooter (and Beyond)

Mass shootings in the United States have drawn an enormous amount of attention in the past few years. In 2015 there were 372 mass shootings (incident where four or more are killed or wounded) in the United States, killing 475 and wounding 1,870. Here in 2016 we’ve reached 366 mass shootings, killing 429 and wounding 1,487*. The workplace is not immune to these events. Places of business make up the largest number of locations where active shooter events take place. Additionally, the workplace represented nearly 9,000 violent deaths in a ten-year span. Over half of them were due to shooting**.

What recent events have shown is the necessity to empower immediate responders, those already there, with the tools and knowledge to contribute to a victim’s survival. Care provided within the first few minutes has the greatest impact on outcome, way before professional first responders can arrive. That means quality of life, recovery time, pain, scarring and even if someone will survive is determined by the person next to them and the supplies and equipment they have on hand; not the professional first responders.

A Joint Committee established to enhance survivability in intentional mass-casualty events determined that “those present at the point of wounding have often proven invaluable in responding to the initial hemorrhage control needs of the wounded. Traditionally thought of as “bystanders,” these immediate responders should not be considered passive observers and can provide effective lifesaving first-line treatment.”***

The responsibility of empowering these “immediate responders” has fallen to businesses and organizations themselves. These injury patterns and situations though are out of the norm for most safety professionals and human resources departments and have left many with questions and doubts on how to take next steps.

SMRT Indiana created our Active Shooter & Intentional Mass-Casualty Response Program to help businesses develop and implement a response plan to be better prepared. The program is based on our MOHAWK Emergency Response System which is a simple and adaptive framework for preparing for and responding to a wide range of emergencies, big or small. We will be sharing the program at the 2017 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo where we will present resources for developing your organization’s emergency response plan, discuss injury management and tools such as tourniquets and hemostatic agents as well as covering ways to communicate to your team.

As part of the program we emphasize a few key concepts necessary for implementing an active shooter and intentional mass-casualty response plan.

You Can’t Help If You’re a Victim Too

Wanting to help those in need is a noble and admirable notion. Becoming an additional casualty only compounds the current problem. The fact is you cannot help someone if you or your team are incapacitated. Evacuating to safety is everyone’s first priority.

The ultimate challenge you’ll face is not stopping people from rushing into the fray but rather preventing individuals or groups from becoming frozen in indecisiveness. In an active shooter or other violent events, inaction can dramatically increase the extent of the overall emergency. Every training should emphasize preparing staff and team members on how to quickly evacuate and adapt should primary means become unavailable.

You’re Only Limited by What You Have on Hand

Anyone can be trained to provide a high level of initial care but they will inevitably be limited by the tools on hand. You most likely have all you need in your first aid kit to meet OSHA & regulatory requirements. These standards are more applicable to minor cuts and scrapes and not significant injury or life threat.

In active shooter or intentional mass casualty events there is obviously a higher risk for severe or life threatening injuries. Guns, explosives or even edged or blunt weapons can inflict a high level of trauma quickly to a substantial number of people. The higher the life threat the more specialized the equipment you may need and the closer it needs to be.

Nothing Goes as Planned

Most emergency response plans fail because they are static and unable to adapt to the dynamic environment created by emergencies and disasters. This is because emergencies are unpredictable and always affected by unforeseen variables. Distance from resources, blocked exits, delay in response, poor communication and weather are just a few of the factors that can impact your ability to follow the “plan”.  When faced with a real-life dynamic emergency individuals become frozen or indecisive as they are not prepared to adapt. We continuously teach individuals and organizations “the body goes where the brain has been” and include alternatives to evacuation, emergency care and communications into our training.

Although active shooter or intentional mass casualty events are a real threat in today’s world, the odds are you and your organization will not experience one.  But by preparing for these events helps you prepare for all the many other emergencies that could cause severe or life threatening injuries. Any emergency can benefit from having a clear plan for establishing safety, quick access to resources that match the severity of the emergency and accessing more advanced help. Even the resources needed in mass shooting event can be applied to natural disasters, fires, explosions and severe injuries. By being prepared for the worst, you can be confident you are ready for everything else.

We hope to see you at this year’s Indiana Safety & Health Conference where you can learn more about this topic as well as many others from some great presenters.

Josh Halstead
Director of Business Development
SMRT Indiana

About SMRT Indiana

SMRT Indiana provides specialized medical response training to individuals, businesses and healthcare facilities. Classes are offered on-site at your location or at one of their Central Indiana training sites. Classes include American Heart Association CPR, First Aid & Bloodborne Pathogens that meet your regulatory requirements. SMRT also offers additional courses such Rapid Intervention Responder Training, Active Shooter & Intentional Mass Casualty Event Preparedness and customized training solutions. Through their commerce division, SMRT Indiana also offers emergency response equipment for individuals and organizations to improve their emergency and disaster preparedness.