Hope is NOT a Plan for Crisis Event Management

It is commonplace to hear exclamations of "hope" in our everyday lives.   “I hope we win the lottery” or “I hope I get that new job”, and the most cringeworthy one, “I hope we do not become an active shooter statistic.”  Yes, decision-makers actually utter those words all the time when referring to their concerns about the active shooter epidemic we are all facing in America.

Hope is not a plan.

In fact, hope is an invisible wish or prayer and hope will not stop a gun round from maiming or killing anyone.  Hope won't protect you or the people you are responsible for protecting in your organization.  In fact, exclamations of hope only solidify that an active shooter event can happen anywhere, and in the aftermath of an actual event, that it was foreseeable and no one in authority did anything to protect people from it.

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, I'm sorry, but not sorry. The lives of our children, family members, and co-workers are at stake.  Yes, it is that straightforward.

Hope is NOT a Plan

Hope Hasn't Worked in the Past

Let’s dig in a bit. The final tally of individuals killed in 2021 due to mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, was 702. Today, as of March 20, 2022, we are at 111 killed.  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, many organizations have established their security protocols centered around hope. Organizations are merely hoping that the boxes they checked to fulfill a corporate, state, or federal requirement is enough.

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Ditch Hope, Embrace Meaningful Solutions

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. Section 9.3 of the ASHER standard (under Chapter 9, Facilities Preparedness) shows the outline for an Emergency Action Plan.  Below I have detailed the critical attributes to Facilities Preparedness as written in the NFPA 3000 standard. OF IMPORTANT NOTE: anytime the standard reads SHALL, it means you must do this. It is not optional according to the NFPA 3000 standard.

9.3 Emergency Action Plan
  • 9.3.1 Emergency action plans SHALL include evacuation, relocation, and secure-in-place procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, and risk.
  • 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.
  • 9.3.3 The plan for active shooter/hostile events SHALL include procedures for locking doors from inside of the designated areas.
    1. 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).
    2. The procedures for unlocking doors from outside the designated areas SHALL be included in the plans.
  • 9.3.4 The plan for active shooter/hostile events SHALL include the identification of doors designated as a means of egress or escape.
  • 9.3.5 Doors in the means of egress SHALL comply with NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code) requirements for doors in means of egress.
  • 9.3.6 Facilities SHALL make emergency action plans available to AHJ. (Authority Having Jurisdiction).
  • 9.3.7 Facility emergency action plans SHALL include the following criteria specific to an ASHER program:
    1. Facility assessment to support preparedness protective actions, and communications,
    2. Communications plan
    3. Alert and warning plans
    4. Personal emergency preparedness training for protective and medical actions for individuals to take before, during, and after the ASHER incident.
  • 9.4 Notification procedures SHALL be designed to ensure that occupant notification is made in a timely manner.
  • 9.4.1 The notification process or procedure SHALL be designed so as not to confuse it with the building fire alarm signal.
  • 9.5 Exercise - Exercises can be any of the following: 
    1. Seminars
    2. Workshops
    3. Tabletop Exercises
    4. Operations-based exercises to include the following:
      1. Drills
      2. Functional Exercises
      3. Full-Scaled Exercises
  • 9.5.1 Building owners and operators SHALL annually exercise ASHER plans.
  • 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 just 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.  Industry standards, like NFPA 3000 also subjects organizations to a minimum recognized standard of responsibility.  In the event that an active shooter event does occur, this will be problematic for any organization that chooses to NOT implement some form of mitigation and crisis management plan.

Taking it a step further, 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 a school or business solely being named in 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. All safety plans must be constantly evolving as threats and risks are identified. This is not a set it and forget it program. Having a conscious plan to respond to an active attack is a MUST. Rest assured, organizations that do not develop a plan that incorporates training and lifesaving technology WILL FACE LIABILITY, both legally and reputationally, if an event occurs at their facility.

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The Path to a Safety Plan - How to Act Now

Here are the basic steps all organizations and schools must be taking now so that an effective safety and security plan can be implemented and followed.

  1. Meet with your stakeholders to discuss the current plan (if any) 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?  What gaps were identified that need to be filled?
  4. Investigate new life-saving technology, like an ASR Threat Alert 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 as you will ALWAYS fall to your level of training in a crisis event.  
  8. Ask your local first responders to attend a safety and security plan debrief. Make sure you are all on the same page so that the people charged with saving lives are involved in the plan.
  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 shortages for basic roles across their organizations.  The thought of having to fill a position for a safety and security resource is most likely not even on the radar.  Fortunately, there are expert, risk-minded companies out there that can be a valuable resource for schools and organizations to navigate the waters.

The reality is that active attacks are not going away. It is unfortunate, but it is a reality we have to face.  Every day, acts of violence are consistently increasing in schools and businesses across the country.  Checking boxes with a HOPE that nothing happens is irresponsible. Let hope stay in our hearts for things we cannot change, safety and security do not fit into that category.  You can make conscious and thoughtful improvements to your safety plans right now and the truth is that the lives of others depend on your organization doing just that.

About the Author:

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Jon Cross started his public safety career working in Law Enforcement for the State of New Hampshire. After several years of public service, he left law enforcement and worked in defense contracting. While in that role, Jon was appointed as the liaison between his firm and the Department of Defense where he participated in many cross-functional groups that focused on soldier safety. Since then, Jon has launched a successful security consulting firm (Black Ops Tactical Consulting) that contracts work in the United States and internationally.

Jon lives in Massachusetts with his wife and their three daughters. The family enjoys spending time outside, being active, and serving the community through their local church.  He is an avid hunter and fisherman. In addition to the outdoors, Jon has flown hot air balloons and raced motorcycles on the amateur moto circuit.   His motto is “If you do not experience it now, you might regret it later”.

Additional Resources:

  • Black Ops Tactical Consulting performs security risk assessments (and more) for companies and organizations of all sizes.  Included in the Assessment:
    1. Pre Audit Meeting with the Management Team
    2. Audit of the Organization
    3. Post Audit Management Review Meeting
    4. Detailed Audit Report with Findings
    5. Next Step Recommendations
  • ASR Alert Systems is a patented state-of-the-art critical incident response technology specializing in the field of alert notifications to Law Enforcement and First Responders in the event of an active shooter or other crisis. The ASR technology can be customized to any industry, building, or event. They deliver customer-specific technology unmatched by anyone.  With the press of a button, officers and dispatch are directly notified of the incident, along with the address and location within the building. They know what is happening, where it is happening, who it is happening to and help is on the way immediately. This significantly reduces response time from Law Enforcement while also notifying all those under attack within the organization/building. If your school or organization needs help navigating risk assessments and safety solutions, please reach out to ASR below.  They also offer active shooter preparedness training as well.  It is their mission to help provide more resilient organizations and school campuses with viable safety solutions both with training and technology.  Saving time saves lives.
Have questions or wish to schedule a virtual demonstration? Please contact ASR below.