Over the past few months, there have been a multitude of violent attacks occurring across the United States. The Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in October, followed up with the New York Terror Attack later that month. Just a couple weeks later, a Texas church was shot up during a Sunday morning service, killing 26 people. Today, we have heard of yet another shooting, this one occurring at a New Mexico school resulting in 3 deaths, including the suspect.

With the increase of violent acts happening across the world, it’s important for every business, regardless of size to be familiar with how to prevent, respond to and recover from active attacker situations. Preparis held a webinar on “The Truth About Active Attackers & Dealing with Them in the Workplace” with guest speaker, Bill Hildebrand, CEO & Protective Security Consultant at NationWatch Protective Advisors just two days prior to the New Mexico school shooting, where 83% of attendees indicated that out of all recent attacks, they are most concerned about active shooters. With the most common current threats being active shooters, vehicle and edged weapon attacks, it’s no wonder that active shooters are the most fear-inducing.

Where do Active Shooter Situations Occur?

According to the NYPD 2012 Study, roughly half of all active shooter situations took place at commercial facilities and 24% took place at schools. However, active shooter incidents typically occur in 5 main types of locations:

  • Office buildings
  • Open commercial areas
  • Schools
  • Factories
  • Warehouses

Active Attacker Trends

When an active attacker situation occurs, there tends to be more situations that follow and mimic the attack. This creates attack trends.

Here are a few active attacker trends that businesses and individuals need to be aware of:

  • Incidents are short, generally lasting only 2-3 minutes in duration. It usually takes 3 minutes for law enforcement to arrive on the scene once an incident has been reported.
  • The increase in incidents is partially due to a copycat phenomenon. When one attack occurs, someone will see it and decide to re-create the attack. 
  • Increased tendencies to use multiple shooters, explosive devices and targeting first responders.
  • Vehicle attacks have also been increasing. Since July of 2016, there have been 12 reported incidents.
  • Edged weapon attacks create terror and have been increasing over the years, with 6 reported incidents occurring since September of 2014.


Liability Risk for Businesses

With the increased amount of active attacker situations occurring in commercial buildings, it’s important for businesses to understand their liability risks as well.

Here are a few risks businesses face:

  • Civil actions for negligent hiring, retention and supervision
  • 3rd party negligent claims
  • Requests for leave by employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Claims resulting from mental impairments claimed under the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • OSHA citations, fines or criminal charges


How Businesses can Prepare for and Prevent Attacks

  • Develop and implement an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) that specifically addresses active attacker scenarios.
  • Conduct training on the plan and threat awareness training for personnel.
  • Exercise the EAP with a progressive exercise plan.
  • Update your EAP based on exercise feedback and changing threat environments.
  • Invite law enforcement, fire rescue and EMS responders to tour your facility and have input into your EAP.
  • Open lines of communication and transparency between employees and management concerning threats.
  • Include an intelligence component to compliment physical and procedural practices (Infragard, HSIN, ASIS, etc.).


Responding to an Active Attacker


  • Have an escape route and plan in mind
  • Leave your belongings behind
  • Keep your hands visible when confronted by law enforcement
  • Know the difference between cover and concealment
  • Evacuation may be to a hiding place

Hide Out

  • Hide in an area out of the attacker’s view
  • Block entry to your hiding place and lock the door
  • Silence communications devices


Take Action

  • Call 911, but only when it is safe to do so
  • As a last resort and only if your life is in danger, attempt to incapacitate the attacker (throw items at the attacker).


The Attack is Over, Now What?

Here are a few post-incident considerations for businesses once an attack is over: 

  • Have a company representative liaison to law enforcement and fire rescue to provide information about facility layout, occupants and emergency plans.
  • Coordinate media releases with public safety agencies’ Public Information Officers (PIOs).
  • Provide shelter for employees/staff that were detained for investigation, if possible.
  • Comfort employees/staff and assist them with notifying family members.
  • Provide employee/staff assistance with post-traumatic stress management counseling.
  • Review your EAP and modify it, if necessary.
  • Update and continue personnel training on threat awareness

To watch “The Truth About Active Attackers & Dealing With Them In the Workplace” webinar, click here.

To download Preparis’ Active Shooter Checklist, click here