Simplistic ideas and procedures by their nature do not withstand reality tests. This is the case for many emergency lock-down procedures where unfortunately the essence of the SOP is to pacify its intended audience and not necessarily to save their lives. In a situation of imminent threat, one’s instinctive response is often the correct response. If, however, the procedure is counter-intuitive – it is likely to fail.
Lock-down procedures for public or private buildings are found in every emergency response SOP. There are lock-down procedures in response to a nearby chemical spill, for police activity in the vicinity and in the event of an active shooter/assailant in the building or facility. The idea behind the prevailing active shooter lock-down procedure is that all people must lock themselves up and hide from the bad guy who is wandering around looking for human targets.
In an effort to fulfill requirements, most organizations offer a simplistic lock-down procedure which generally states:
‘In the case of an active shooter on property, lock yourself and others behind a door, lower the blinds on the windows, silence your phones and await further instructions.’
The problem with such a simplistic lock-down procedure is that it fails many common sense tests. To start, it fails the WHAT IF? test:
* What if another innocent person is knocking on the locked door asking to get in so as to avoid the threat?
* What if I am far from the shooter who is on the other side of the facility? Should I run into the building to lock myself in?
* What if the glass doors, windows or dry wall encasing the room in which I am locked can easily be penetrated by the motivated shooter?
Police forces responding to an active shooter event often prefer that the good guys are organized neatly, locked down behind closed doors. This makes it easier for them to isolate the shooter from the crowd and eliminate him. However, in most cases, police response to an active shooter happens after the last bullet was already spent. The sad truth is that waiting for the cavalry is not likely to increase one’s survival chances. As an unarmed person in the midst of an active shooter situation, time and space from the threat is what you aim to achieve.
Here is a simple, intuitive and common sense procedure that should stand the test of a realistic active shooter scenario and perhaps save innocent lives:
‘In the case of an active shooter in the facility/store/campus, unarmed individuals should get themselves and others away from the threat and use any means to buy time. If all fails, fight for your life.’
Getting away from the threat and buying time may well translate for one person (who cannot run out) to locking himself down whereas for another person (who is far from the threat) to running outside of the targeted facility.
Security and emergency procedures must provide common sense, flexible tools for those who need them in a crisis. Follow Albert Einstein’s motto “Make things as simple as possible but not simpler” and you will find elegant solutions andprocedures for the most unimaginable, horrific and challenging problems.
Please note: for an armed security officer the procedure for dealing with an active shooter is completely reversed. The armed officer should run directly towards and engage the threat, seeking to eliminate it as quickly as possible. Running towards flying bullets is, for most people, counter-intuitive and this is why training and conditioning are absolutely essential to make sure the security officer acts decisively when duty calls. For more information on this topic link here: