The Active Shooter Dilemma: There is a Better Way.

It was Valentine's Day; a day to celebrate love. But for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, it would be a day that would go down in infamy as one of the most deadly mass shootings in American history. With at least 17 dead, the Valentine's Day shooting is worse than the Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings.

Jeff Slotnick, CPP, PSP, was interviewed twice as a Risk Consultant by Q13 News in Seattle to reflect on the situation and attempt to bring some insights. We asked him to provide us some insights as well. 

Q13 Slotnick Interview 2-14-2018.png

When I have been asked to be on the air and comment on tragic situations like this, I usually have very little time to prepare. But I do know this, most people have 3 very basic questions:

  1. What just happened?
  2. How does it inform my future?
  3. What action can we take before we encounter this again?

We know that this active shooter was displaying anomalous and dangerous behavior. There were incidents with family, with friends and with the school that, if pieced together, would have potentially led to some preemptive action.  

We also have enough experience with these situations to know that this behavior can be monitored, measured and processed through a protocol and escalated, if needed, to deter or thwart an attack. .With the dismal state of mental care in this country we have not yet admitted to ourselves that this is the new normal with new responses needed. 

We have the tools to do this. 

Let me paint a new normal scenario for your consideration.

Every organization (schools, churches, businesses, etc.) should have the means to monitor and measure the behavior of their community. Every community should develop a protocol for how they would use information gathered from their stakeholders to properly protect their stakeholders. Human Resource professionals need to work closely with their security teams to ensure this happens. Let me provide one use case:

Any Facebook post of guns and death threats should involve law enforcement. As well, the organization should immediately place that individual on a watch list that can be used by the administration and security to identify them and take appropriate measures.

Video surveillance and analytics is now within reach to recognize the approach of suspicious vehicles and people. This can be monitored by "Virtual Security Officers", remotely, much like we can monitor our homes today. If the officers can identify activity early enough they can take preemptive actions that could save lives or the assets of the community. We now have the ability to combine voice with the video to speak into a situation and provide much needed communication to the stakeholders. Voice (intercom) can be used for lock down, instructions on exits and private communication in key areas of the building or campus. The same video can be shared with first responders to provide situational awareness and actionable response. 

There is a psychological reaction to interrupting a potential active shooter. It is articulated well in what is called the "OODA Loop". In law enforcement training I have often called this by the founder of the theory: "Boyd's Loop". 

Boyd theorized that we become linear in our thinking when we decide to embark on an action. In this case, an intruder or potential active shooter. To disrupt this, you must move their psychological state to "Observe and Orient". They now have to react to a new normal for them, the fact that someone has interjected themselves into the situation. I am saying this could be a physical act by a security or law enforcement officer, or it could be through a virtual observer using video and voice. 

If your voice technology can be heard clearly, no matter the environmental circumstances (screaming, gun shots, traffic, etc.) then you have what we call 'intelligibility'. If the voice technology is integrated with other technologies like access control, video, etc. as well as your protocols, you have achieved the highly efficient and measurable term: 'interoperability'. If it is reliable, scalable, and highly reliable, then you are subscribing to IT's mandate for mission critical applications. 

So now we get to the key question. What can we do, today, to help mitigate these incidents? The human and material expense of this incident, including the cost of law enforcement and recovery, would have more than paid for the technology I am talking about. But we continue to have to experience the pain before we take the necessary action. People will continue to use their weapons of choice to cause injury and death. Eliminating weapons may be an option in a future world. But it will not happen tomorrow. We must stop reacting and begin to plan for the new normal.

Editor's Note: Jeff Slotnick will be attending The Great Conversation in Security on March 5 and 6 and will be on the panel called Intelligent Communications in The Age of Voice.