9-11 May 2023
ICC Sydney

Preparing For The Unthinkable

One of the greatest challenges facing Australian facilities managers is how to respond in the wake of a crisis situation and prepare for the unthinkable. As professionals with responsibility for people and property, it is both a legal and, more importantly, a moral requirement to ensure that all evacuation, fire and bomb threat procedures are up-to-date and well drilled. Too often, such procedures are treated as perfunctory compliance requirements, rather than the lifesaving necessity they can be.

If you haven’t already done so, the New Year heralds a timely opportunity for facilities managers to check when their company’s emergency policies and procedures were updated. When was the last time they were drilled? And how long has it been since a thorough risk assessment was conducted on your premises by an appropriately qualified professional? These are all vital questions particularly in the wake of the recent tragic sieges. And while most buildings will have a formal fire, bomb and emergency evacuation plan – how many facilities actually have an active shooter management strategy? Do not for a second believe that your existing emergency evacuation plan will suffice. An active shooter situation requires a very different strategy from an emergency evacuation, if for no other reason than the last thing you want is to funnel the building’s occupants into stairwells and other locations which could be used by a gunman.

To start your thinking about an update to your safety plan, I’ve listed some top tips on what to consider in the event of such an emergency:

  1. Warn individuals not to enter an area where the active shooter may be.
  2. Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  3. Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  4. Leave belongings behind.
  5. Help others escape, if possible.
  6. Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  7. Keep hands visible at all times.
  8. Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  9. Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  10. Call 000 when it is safe to do so.

If it is not safe to flee the building, possibly because the active shooter is nearby, people should be encouraged to find a place to hide where they are less likely to be found.

A hiding place should:

  1. be out of the active shooter’s view;
  2. provide protection if shots are fired in at people (i.e., an office with a closed and locked door);
  3. not trap an individual or restrict their options for movement.

To prevent an active shooter from entering one’s hiding place, people should:

  1. lock the door.
  2. blockade the door with heavy furniture.
  3. close, cover, and move away from windows.
  4. Switch mobile phones to ”˜silent only’ as the vibration setting can give away a hiding position.

It is important to explain the difference between cover and concealment. Concealment simply provides protection from sight (such as hiding behind a curtain), while cover provides protection from both sight and gunfire (such as hiding behind a heavy wooden locked door, or desk).

If people are trapped in a building with an active shooter but are able to relay information to police, they should note:

  • Location of the active shooter.
  • Number of shooters, if more than one.
  • Physical description of the shooter(s).
  • Number and type of weapons held by the shooter(s) i.e. pistol, shotgun, rifle
  • Number of potential victims at the location.

Last but not least, when police do arrive and take control of the situation, people should:

  1. Try to remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions
  2. Put down any items in their hands (i.e., bags, jackets)
  3. Immediately raise hands and spread fingers
  4. Keep hands visible at all times
  5. Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as holding on to them for safety
  6. Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling
  7. Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.

There are a range of other measures that can be implemented to prepare for active shooter situations ranging from developing a comprehensive emergency management plan to preparing your facility more thoroughly. I would encourage every venue and facility manager to look closely at their emergency management plans with a view to reviewing, revising and updating any such plans where necessary in the hope of minimising the potential for any future devastating incidents. The reality is, such incidents as those which occurred in Sydney and Paris over the last few months are extremely difficult to predict and/or prevent. However, with proper planning and forethought, their effects can be greatly diminished and minimised.

Written by John Bigelow

John Bigelow is Editor in Chief of Interactive Media Solutions (IMS), an innovative digital, print and online publisher. In addition to publishing Security Solutions Magazine and Education Technology Solutions, John has written for a wide variety of national and international publications as well as giving expert commentary in regard to security issues through various media outlets including 3AW, 2GB, 4GB, Sunrise and the Today Show. Prior to his work in media, John spent almost a decade working in the security industry in a variety of roles including training, operations and guard force management.

Image source: shutterstock.com

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