A Country Under Siege

Over the last several years it seems that the number of mass shootings has increased. The year 2015 saw fourteen killed in San Bernardino, California in December; nine killed at Umpqua Community College in Oregon in October; four killed at a military site in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July; and nine killed at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in June. Twelve were killed at a Washington Navy Yard in 2013, and perhaps, most tragically, 28 children and teachers were killed at the Newtown Connecticut Elementary School in 2012. In the last decade, I count 38 mass shootings where between 3 and 33 people have been killed (VTI in 2007). Schools, movie theaters, churches, coffee shops, malls, apartment buildings, even a military base… there is no place where such atrocities are impossible to occur. Is your organization the next place to make it into the news because of a violent intruder? Precautionary measures need to be taken so as to lessen the possibility of you, or your organization, being the next victim.

Here are some steps to take:

  1. Begin by having a frank discussion with your organization’s leadership –your Board of Directors and/or your Executive team. Establish your tolerance for risk in light of what we see in this dangerous world of ours.
  2. Form a study group to research some of the matters addressed below.
  3. Consider the layout of your organization. Where are the vulnerable points where an armed intruder may gain entry and/or have access to your employees/volunteers/clientele/members?
  4. Consider all points of entry. Are you able to know which doors and/or windows are open or even unlocked? Do you have a protocol to make certain doors and windows are secured during the day and/or after work hours?
  5. Consider what you can “see.” Do you have video cameras at all sensitive points? Does your staff know who is entering before the intruder gains entry?
  6. Do you have metal detectors?Is such appropriate? If not, why?
  7. What is your policy on weapons? Some laws bar them from certain premises, such as children’s nurseries. Would such a prohibition be permissible? Enforceable? Or even desirable?
  8. Would signage about cameras or weapons be a deterrent?
  9. Do you keep track of past individuals who had keys/passes?
  10. Do you have a record of who is in your building? Would a sign-in/out be appropriate?
  11. Do you allow your staff to be armed if they possess a state pistol permit?
  12. Do you provide training for response to a violent intruder? There are a number of organizations that provide training. In example, see www.alicetraining.com.
  13. Should you consider hiring a security service to provide an armed professional?
  14. Have you discussed what your staff will do and how people will get away safely should you experience a violent intruder?

It is unlikely that the world is going to become more peace-loving with the passage of time. Since the time of Cain and Abel there has been violence, even between brothers. Although none of us want to have to go through an airport TSA-type of screening to merely get into our church or favorite theater, we must look at everything that is dear to us and everyone who holds value to us and consider what a prudent response is before someone does something violent in our circle of influence. Please take steps now, while you are able to make a positive difference to preserve life.

Brian H. Merriam, CPCU, ARM, AAI
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