Mass shootings in schools, public buildings, and other high-profile locations tend to grab the headlines, but recently a wave of shootings in the western U.S. served as a reminder that many other ‘soft targets’ are also vulnerable to attack. A study by the National Institute of Justice found that 31% of mass shootings in the last 50 years happened in the workplace, 17% in retail establishments, and 13% in a bar or restaurant. A recent report from the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center found that 51% of mass attacks took place in businesses, with open spaces coming in second at 35%.
Some of these types of venues, due to optical, practical, logistical, or cost reasons, have not adopted more robust security systems, or any systems at all. This presents a challenge for public safety officials as they must gather intelligence to prevent these types of incidents. Two of the shooters in California recently did not fit the typical profile of a mass shooter, complicating the situation further.
Jin Kim, a widely recognized subject matter expert in active shooter and workplace violence risk management, says that the two primary reasons preventing establishments from implementing better security strategies are denial and underestimating the potential offender. He warns that the suspects are becoming more tactically sophisticated and efficient in their application of deadly force, making it more crucial for establishments to adopt comprehensive safety assessments and better employee training.
As a longtime active shooter expert, I believe that the public needs to change its understanding of active shooter incidents altogether. These incidents take place from 0 to 8 minutes and law enforcement most often will not arrive until eight minutes after the event has begun, leaving employees vulnerable. I believe that every organization needs more aggressive security programs and comprehensive safety assessments, technology tailored to a structure’s unique challenges, and better employee training.
The recent wave of shootings in the western U.S. highlights the need for all organizations to implement better security systems and employee training to protect against mass shootings. Public safety officials face challenges in gathering intelligence and preventing these types of incidents, but it is crucial for establishments to take the necessary steps to protect their employees and customers.