ASI (Active Shooter Incidents) continue seemingly unchecked and potentially spurred on by media despite public outcry and comprehensive analysis by law enforcement agencies. The role of prevention, however, cannot fall directly onto the shoulders of police departments and law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agencies are there to enforce the laws, but if the law has not been broken, they have no power. That fact is that law enforcement must enter the picture at the precise time in which there is enough cause to act. The Active Shooter Incident in Santa Barbara earlier this year points to this as fact.
Understanding the Face of Prevention in an ASI
Random Active Shooter prevention must be multifaceted in its approach because the police are not on scene when an ASI occurs. That means that the public is often the first awareness link in the chain of an ASI. That is a weak link. People may not notice, or they may fail to report pre-ASI behaviors to the right people. School authorities may or may not act on the information that is given to them by students, teachers or parents. It is clear that prevention must be approached in such a way as to put the right people in the right place at the right time. An impossible situation at best but there are other options than just relying on the public to be the sounding bell for a potential ASI. That option is security guards. Armed or unarmed security professionals can make a difference. These are trained individuals who are on alert to look for anything out of the ordinary. They typically guard the same property areas day in and day out and are very aware of their surroundings.
Even if a random active shooter is not spotted early on, pre-stationed guards would be on the scene within moments or minutes. Specially trained guards can notice marked changes in behavior. Mental illness is almost always a part of an ASI and the shooter almost always makes their intentions known. We saw this again on the campus at UC Santa Barbara. Further, high caliber security companies use passive measures too. Many are using real time reporting technology such as RelianceTrac and have the ability to put high-tech solutions into place immediately.
Surviving an ASI Event
The Department of Homeland Security provides a pocket guide that addresses how to respond to an ASI. Their advice begins with calling 911, followed by evacuation, hiding and taking action. The handbook suggests that throwing items at the shooter may be one method of taking action.
With real time reporting in place, security officers would notify their base, who would notify 911 and the property or campus they are protecting. Hopefully the property or campus would have an Emergency Response Plan in place and initiate it at this point. During this time, security officers would be able to keep the police informed of the shooter’s location and description before they arrive. Seamless integration is something that security officers are used to performing on a daily basis. This means that as police arrive on the scene; the role of the security officers would shift. Guards would become a position of assistance to help contain and isolate the shooter or to direct people away from the shooter. Can security make a difference? Yes, it can.