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5 Essential Elements of Active Shooter Prevention – Response, alone, is not enough

Emergency preparedness efforts that begin and end with “response” are simply not sustainable. As emergency planners, we must account for the full spectrum of preparedness.

We developed our AlerT Active Shooter Defense program as a system that accounts for all elements of preparedness – prevention through recovery.

In this post we will discuss the necessary elements of an active shooter prevention plan, discuss the importance of each component, and provide resources to implement them.

1. Awareness is Key

Contrary to how the media portrays mass killers – they do not snap. Years of data prove that this kind of violence is predatory – pre-planned. These attackers are more akin to a pot of water coming to a boil. They are methodical; often taking days, weeks, or months to plan an attack.

How you can improve Awareness

Incorporate situational awareness into your preparedness training materials for staff and stakeholders.

Take advantage of our free AlerT resources to get started (or log in)

2. Understanding Threat Identification

Understanding the behaviors of a potential attacker is a vital first step in your prevention efforts. The ability to identify concerning behaviors enhances situational awareness – empowering staff and safety stakeholders to report the actions of a potential attacker earlier on.

Utilize Anonymous Reporting to Facilitate a Culture of Accountability

Improved situational awareness and the ability to identify behaviors is a great first step in bolstering your preparedness efforts; however, staff and stakeholders may still be reluctant to report someone of concern without the proper processes in place.

Consider implementing an anonymous reporting program – encouraging staff to speak up when a potential issue or threatening behavior is observed.

See our SAFE Reports Anonymous Reporting and Case Management Tool

Staff and stakeholders must also understand the nature of threats – making a threat vs. posing a threat. Just because someone makes a threat does not mean they pose one. Additionally, someone who poses a threat may never openly make a threat. Anonymous reporting aggregates concerns – providing valuable data to threat assessment teams. Analysis of this data should be used to determine and understand the nature of various threats.

3. Threat Assessment Tactics and Training

Threat assessment is an imperfect and complex process – requiring a significant amount of study and development. Safety stakeholders should take time to educate themselves on the following:

  • Data Interpretation
  • Biases
  • Pathways to violence
  • The role of mental illness
  • Threat enhancers
  • Warning behaviors
  • Triggers and stressors
  • Mitigators or De-Escalation methods

Implementation of a threat assessment approach hinges on educating the community and organization about the importance of a positive climate that focuses on providing help for people before problems escalate into violence.

Think: SAFER

Share: Share Resources and reporting options

Awareness: Maintain awareness for warning signs.

Foster: Strengthen and foster relationships to build a positive climate.

Engage: Engage with persons for whom there is concern.

Repeat: The process of prevention is never-ending.

Download the AlerT Threat Assessment Guide: Establishing a School Violence Prevention program to discover more about the SAFER process and see how you can implement a sustainable threat assessment program for your school or district.

Resource Download

Threat Assessment Guide: Establishing a School Violence Prevention Program

4. Threat Management – Develop Policies and Procedures

Implementing a sustainable active shooter prevention plan requires organizations to develop comprehensive policies and procedures relevant to threat management. This includes the notification process, establishing boundaries, intervention methods, administrative action, civil actions, criminal enforcement, and documentation protocols – to name a few.

These policies and procedures should be clearly identified to all employees and stakeholders in an effort to demonstrate transparency and improve awareness.

You will want to include multiple stakeholders and departments in the development of these items to ensure that all bases are covered – legal and otherwise.

Effective policies and procedures should: 

  • Ensure all threats of violence are taken seriously and investigated.
  • Specify procedures for dealing with threats from employees.
  • Clarify the role of administrators in relation to law enforcement.
  • Clearly identify the threat assessment team.
  • Specify team training requirements.

5. Threat Management is a Group Effort – Build a Team

To ensure your policies and procedures are effective, organizations should assemble threat management teams.

Threat management teams are responsible for interpreting reports, collecting/analyzing data, collaborating on intervention solutions, and training employees on their organization’s threat management policy.

It is recommended that this team be composed of staff from several different disciplines to facilitate collaboration, streamline workflows, and enhance communication between departments. Relevant and advantageous skill sets include expertise in the following:

  • Law enforcement
  • Security 
  • Mental health
  • Social services 
  • Legal
  • Human resources

In complex cases, the team may draw upon professionals in the local community.

The interdisciplinary team approach improves the efficiency and scope of the assessment process and reduces the risk of observer bias.

AlerT trains organizations to identify these team members and provides stakeholders with tools to build sustainable threat management teams

Looking to Improve Your Active Shooter Prevention Plan?

While this list of active shooter prevention elements is a great place to start; the implementation process is no easy task. Our team is glad to help!

Contact us today for more information on our active shooter prevention training options. Additionally, we encourage you to take advantage of all our AlerT resources – including our new Threat Assessment Guide (get it today, at the link below). 

Download the AlerT Threat Assessment Guide: Establishing a School Violence Prevention Program

This comprehensive guide outlines current threat assessment and school violence prevention best practices, provides actionable steps in establishing a sustainable threat assessment program for your district and includes several other valuable resources for your team. 

Download your copy today!

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