B.L.U.F. (Bottom Line Up Front)
Compliance with an armed robber is likely to save lives.
Compliance with an active shooter will likely increases fatalities.

SafePlans recently completed enterprise active shooter defense training for a Fortune 500 casino/hotel corporation. This training was critical because there is a very real risk of a terrorist and/or active shooter type attack. However, because these locations, like other businesses that deal in cash transitions, have the potential of being robbed, the training also included differentiating between an armed robber and an active killer.

A 2014 FBI report states active shooter type attacks are on the rise and employees should be trained in active shooter response using the Run-Hide-Fight Survival Options.  Run-Hide-Fight is the best practice for active shooter response, but the standard best practice for robbery response is compliance; no amount of money is worth a person’s life.  Being able to tell the difference, under stress, can save lives.

For industries that deal in cash transactions, this is where active shooter specific programs fail and why an all-hazards approach to active shooter defense is needed.  An all-hazards emergency preparedness program will identify both robbery and active shooter workplace violence as possible hazards and provide strategies that consider both (all) hazards.  Active shooter defense training must be industry-specific and incorporate relevant hazards. Instructing a teller or cashier to “Counter” or “Take Out” an active shooter without training them how to differentiate between an armed robber and an active shooter can be catastrophic.

Situational Awareness
Being aware of the risk for robbery and an active shooter-type attack is the first step in Situational Awareness and Getting Before “X.”  From there, specific Pre-Attack INdicators (PAINs) can be explained so that “See Something-Say Something” actually means something.  To illustrate the importance of Situational Awareness, imagine a killer is coming to a crowded casino to carry out an attack.  You cannot stop him from coming, but you can determine when you observe his intent. When would you want to know? 

In the parking lot or at the main entrance?
Obviously the parking lot.
                At the main entrance, or in the lobby?
                          Main entrance.
                              In the Lobby, or on the casino floor?

The sooner a dangerous situation can be recognized, the more options you have in responding.  Situational awareness is not anxiety or paranoia.  A prepared and alert attitude that lends itself very well to the hospitality industry.  A “See Something. Say Something” program to encourage situational awareness AND educate people of Pre-Attack INdicators (PAINs) should be a part of all workplace safety training.

Decision Making

To help people make these decisions under, our training program relies upon OODA
the combat proven Boyd Cycle or the OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) Loop.

Differentiating between a mass killer and active shooter is not complicated, but under the stress of a critical incident, simple things tend to become difficult.  To help ensure all staff understand how to respond to an intruder-based threat requires training and situational awareness.

No plan or training can account for every emergency and the OODA Loop, which was originally designed to help fighter pilots make faster decisions during aerial combat, can help.


Active shooter response is the focus of this post, but employee training must include workplace violence prevention strategies to get before “X.”.  Unfortunately, threat assessment programs can fail to identify potentially violent people and physical security cannot stop every attack.  Therefore, it is vital that all facilities implement response plans and training to mitigate the impact of a violent intruder and maximize survivability for occupants.




About the author:
Brad Spicer is the founder of SafePlans, a leading provider of all-hazards preparedness solutions; including a DHS designated anti-terrorism technology and national active shooter prevention and survival program.

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