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Hope is NOT a Plan

We hear it every day. “I HOPE we win the lottery.” or “I HOPE I get that new job.” and the one that makes me cringe the most “I HOPE we do not become an active attack statistic.”. Hope is not a plan. In fact, hope is an invisible wish and it will not stop a 9mm round from taking the lives of you and your staff. Some of you might be thinking that I am being too direct. There might be a few of you that will be offended by my approach. Well, sorry but not sorry. The lives of our children, family members and co-workers are at stake.

Let’s dig in a bit. The final tally of individuals killed in 2021 due to an active shooter event according to Gun Violence Archive was 702. Today, we are at 96 killed. Folks, it is only March 15th!! What will the stats tell us by June? I can easily predict that the numbers will continue to increase exponentially. Why? The answer is in the title of this blog, HOPE IS NOT A PLAN. Unfortunately, in many cases organizations have established their security protocols around hope. Organizations are merely hoping that the boxes they checked to fulfill a corporate, state or federal requirement is enough.

In order to slow this epidemic down there MUST be more organizations willing to implement a well thought out and comprehensive safety and security plan. Within this process there HAS to be an Emergency Action Plan much like the one outlined in the NFPA 3000 ASHER (Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response) Program. In section 9.3 of the ASHER standard under Chapter 9, Facilities Preparedness sits the outline for an Emergency Action Plan. Below I have outlined the critical attributes to Facilities Preparedness as written in the NFPA 3000. (NOTE anytime the standard reads SHALL it means you must do. This is not optional according to the NFPA 3000 standard)

· 9.3 Emergency Action Plan

o 9.3.1 Emergency action plans SHALL include evacuation, relocation, and secure-in-place procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, and risk.

o 9.3.2 The plan for active shooter/hostile events shall include the location and identification of lockable spaces and rooms as well as the locations of exit doors that lead directly outside or to a stairwell.

o 9.3.3 The plan for active shooter/hostile events shall include procedures for locking of doors from inside of the designated areas.

o Plans and procedures for doors for areas designated in 9.3.3 shall comply with locking and unlocking and unlatching requirements of NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code).

o The procedures for unlocking doors from outside the designated areas shall be included in the plans.

o 9.3.4 The plan for active shooter/hostile events shall include identification of doors designated as a means of egress or escape.

o 9.3.5 Doors in the means of egress shall comply with NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code) requirements for doors in means of egress.

o 9.3.6 Facilities shall make emergency action plans available to AHJ. (Authority Having Jurisdiction).

o 9.3.7 Facility emergency action plans shall include the following criteria specific to an ASHER program:

§ Facility assessment to support preparedness protective actions, and communications

§ Communications plan

§ Alert and warning plans

§ Personal emergency preparedness training for protective and medical actions for individuals to take before, during, and after ASHER incident.

o 9.4 Notification procedures shall be designed to ensure that occupant notification is made in a timely manner.

o 9.4.1 The notification process or procedure shall be designed so as not to confuse it with the building fire alarm signal.

o 9.5 Exercise

§ Exercises can be any of the following:

· Seminars

· Workshops

· Tabletop Exercises

§ Operations-based exercises including the following:

· Drills

· Functional Exercises

· Full-Scaled Exercises

o 9.5.1 Building owners and operators shall annually exercise ASHER plans.

o 9.5.2 Facilities with multiple buildings in a contiguous location shall annually exercise ASHER plans.

The NFPA 3000 is an option for an organization to follow. Chapter 9 of the ASHER Program is a small sampling of items that need to be addressed when building out a comprehensive safety and security program. The proper build out of the safety and security plan takes time, expertise and budgeted funds. This will not happen by merely HOPING it will get done. Checking a box to say you comply is not only an injustice to your organization but it’s also being negligent and can result in individuals being named in a post incident legal battle. The days of only the school or business being named in federal complaints are over. Individuals are now being named in these cases and in some cases being charged with Gross Negligence.

The development of a safety and security plan takes time and it takes resources, both financially and with experienced staff. The plan is evolving all of the time as threats and risks are identified. This is not a set it and forget it program. Having a plan to respond to an active attack is a MUST. Organizations that do not develop a plan with training and lifesaving technology built in WILL BE LIABLE if an event occurs at their facility.

OK, What Now?

1. Meet with the stake holders to discuss the current plan in place.

2. Have a third-party firm conduct a safety and security risk assessment.

3. Act on the data from the risk assessment. What changes does the organization need to make?

4. Investigate new life saving technology like an ASR system to be part of your safety and security program.

5. Implement a standardized safety and security plan.

6. Train your staff on the plan.

7. Conduct exercises multiple times a year. Your body will not go where your brain has not been. You must train on a regular basis.

8. Ask your first responders to attend a safety and security plan debrief. Make sure you are all on the same page.

9. Add Safety and Security as a top line item in your annual budgets. We cannot continue to default to the statement of “we do not have the money in our budget.” Do not gamble with the lives of others.

Building out a safety and security plan can be overwhelming at times. Most companies are struggling with staff issues for basic requirements. The thought of having to fill a slot for a safety and security resource is most likely not on the radar. Unfortunately, active attacks are not going away. It is a reality we have to deal with every day. Fortunately, there are companies out there to help you navigate the waters. Click ASR or BOTC to get more information on risk assessments or to learn more about some of the new lifesaving technology.

Checking boxes with a hope that nothing happens is irresponsible. Let hope stay in the world of rainbows and unicorns. The lives of others depend on it.

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