Articles & Resources

Real Solutions to True Safety – Enough of “Doing Things Just to Say We Did Something”

Creating true organizational, and personal, safety and security requires a foundation. These essential “foundations” are rarely established before we set out to achieve our safety and security goals. Without foundation, however, we will never achieve true safety and security. So, what are the solutions?

It Starts with Establishing Goals

We have to have established goals for what safety and security means to our organization. What exactly are we trying to achieve when we spend time and invest our organizations resources in safety and security-related endeavors? In simpler terms – why are we doing the things that we are doing? Unfortunately, there is a wide-range of reasons that make it difficult to establish a bottom-line goal or, at minimum a manageable number of things that will provide a target.

We get from organizations daily requesting our training and/or physical site security assessment services. The first question I will ask the requester is – “why do you want these things done?” The typical responses, following a pause (which immediately tells me that goals haven’t really been considered), are “because it’s required”; “because our employees want it”; or “because that’s what everyone seems to be doing”. Here’s the bottom-line with these types of reasons – none of them are good enough! None of them will ever achieve true organizational safety and security.

As a result, we have established a manageable list of goals that, if achieved, will get your organization as close to “true safety and security” as possible.

  • The desire to “truly” keep people safe
  • Mitigate Risk (Prevention)
  • Limit Organizational Exposure to Liability

If you can establish and support these goals within your organization, the time and resources invested will pay much bigger dividends.

Once these goals are established and embraced, next we have to begin to establish foundation for achieving them. How do we do this?

First, We Have to Understand That We Cannot Prevent Acts-of-Violence From Happening in Their Entirety

It’s not about the guns…

It’s not about the signs that should have told us that the bad guy was “potentially” a bad guy…

It’s not about what could have or should have been done…

The bottom-line is that regardless of what we do, in the end, we CANNOT AND WILL NOT stop acts-of-violence from “ever” happening. Thinking that any solution(s) will stop these incidents from “ever” happening is no different than thinking we can stop murder, in general, from “ever” happening. Unfortunately, no matter what we do, mass-casualty incidents will continue in our businesses, schools, churches, and homes.

So, what CAN we do?

We CAN stop or prevent “some” incidents of violence from happening, and we CAN keep more people safe when they do happen.

Following yet another horrible tragedy, this time at Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, we immediately begin to hear theories about where things went wrong.  How did we allow this to happen? Why were the signs ignored? Why aren’t high capacity firearms banned? What can we do to stop this from ever happening again?

The honest truth is that – again, we CANNOT and will not stop these tragedies altogether! The question of how we can stop this from happening again is no different than asking this same question for homicide in general. The difference is that when more people are killed under the same category (homicide), it draws more media attention. Do not be mistaken, there are incidents that can, have been and will be stopped for a variety of reasons – ultra-aware and ultra-vigilant people, those who do “see something and say something”, or law enforcement investigations brought on by tips or reports. Those and various other reasons have successfully stopped mass-casualty incidents; however, there is no way to prevent 100% of incidents.

In the instance of the recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, let’s look at the practicality of dealing with “all of the signs that were present to indicate that this was going to happen” and “this could have been avoided.”

Nikolas Cruz was:

  • Expelled for disciplinary problems a year prior
  • Known for shooting/harming animals
  • Grieving the loss of his father and adoptive mother
  • Captivated by guns and knives
  • Angry

First, it’s important to keep in mind that there are literally hundreds to possibly millions of people who would fall into either all or just some of these “signs-of-danger” categories.” We must then add in the hundreds, if not thousands, of additional possible signs that were not present in Cruz but might be in other potential threatening people. The question is then presented: Who exactly should be responsible for determining persons who should be of concern, identifying what “danger signs” should trigger a response, following through with making the determination about whether or not this person needs attention, and finally deciding how much attention and what length of time this attention needs to be placed on the person in question.

What would an effort like this require? To start, it would require tremendous resources that would cost an enormous amount of money possibly generated through mandated excises. It would also require changes in our current laws in order to be truly effective. Remember, we have a Constitution and laws that protect people including those who are “potentially” a threat to others.

Many argue that it is law enforcement’s responsibility to investigate potentially dangerous people. We do not disagree with that; however, many times, regardless of concern, there is very little that law enforcement can legally do as follow-up after making these determinations. Because law enforcement officers cannot arrest or charge people based on theory, “danger signs”, or erratic behavior, without first having compiled evidence that a crime has been committed, there is little to nothing that officers can do beyond simple initial questioning.

To continue our hypothesis of being able to avoid this shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, let’s assume that someone, or a group of professionals, had made the determination that because Cruz had all of the above signs, he was “potentially” dangerous. What steps would be taken next?  At this point in our theory, he has not done anything criminal (no single sign above is considered illegal), and he still may never, and likely will never do anything criminal or of harm to anyone else. For now, the potential danger that he poses is simply a “concern” based on personal or professional judgment.

In this case let’s assume that we have taken every feasible step with Cruz, within the confines of the law. Now what? Should we now designate someone, possibly a law enforcement officer, to follow him around every day for the rest of his life based on “professional concern”? Or should we simply lock him up for the rest of his life “just to be safe”? That may sound like a great solution – until it’s you or someone that you love and care about that is seen as being “potentially” dangerous and is followed or locked-up as a result.

What about the guns? This is simple – it has nothing to do with the guns. Guns aren’t magic tools that aim and shoot themselves.

We can debate the numerous different aspects of these incidents and how to prevent them from happening again, and we should do this because it will ultimately save lives; however, we must never forget that we simply CANNOT stop it completely. It will happen again and again regardless of our efforts to try and stop it.

“In spite of the fact that we cannot or will not prevent acts-of-violence from happening in their entirety, it doesn’t mean that we should try! It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do everything to make ourselves unattractive as victims!”

Terry L Choate, Jr – Co-Founder, CEO/President of Blue-U Defense

So, What Can/Should We do?

First: We have to believe that it can happen to us!

If we don’t believe that it can happen to us, any training that we receive will go in one ear and directly out the other. Is it likely to happen to us? No, it’s not. But is it possible? Absolutely! And it seems to be becoming more-and-more possible every day.

Second: Establish the responsibility for safety and security.

Safety, security, training, etc. is our personal responsibility. We cannot expect our businesses, schools, churches, etc. to give us the training and tools to keep ourselves, our children, and our families safe. It is OUR responsibility and duty, to do whatever is necessary to train ourselves and our loved ones to give us/them the best chance of surviving a sudden, unplanned incident of violence.

Third: We have to create a culture of safety within our businesses, schools, churches, and homes.

Safety has to be something that is taken very seriously by organizations that serve and employ others. There MUST be time devoted to training, clear and realistic policy, procedure, and plan development. We cannot, however, expect employees, students, congregations, etc. to turn this culture on when they arrive at work/school/church and then turn it off when they leave. This Culture of Safety has to start at home with our children and families. It has to be lived everywhere, all of the time. When we create this “culture of safety” at home it significantly enhances security of everyone, everywhere.

Fourth: We have to secure our facilities and have a way to covertly communicate a problem to everyone within our facility within fractions of a second. These critical elements are solved through reality-based security surveys that focus not on “technology” (alarms, cameras, badge-readers, etc.), but on the resources that we currently have available to us. True security is about people, not technology. Your building is your building, your layout is your layout, and your resources are your resources. The focus needs to be on creating an overall plan/program that makes the best use of what you already have – people!

Fifth: We have to know what a threat is likely to do in our specific facility

If we don’t establish what a threat is likely to do inside of our specific facility, based on testing under reality-based conditions, we cannot possibly effectively secure our facility.

Sixth: We have to develop, or further develop, policy and procedure that is truly based on reality.

Policy and procedure are designed to guide our employees as to what they are expected to do if some specified “thing” happens. What typical policy/procedure fails to take into account is “Will our natural reaction as human beings allow for the response that the policy/procedure is expecting”? In far too many cases, the answer is “no, they do not”. If that is determined to be the case, then we have a problem that needs to be corrected immediately.

This also means evaluating our Emergency Plans to ensure that they are going to work based on reality. We work with so many organizations which all have Emergency Preparedness Plans. The problem: They are predominantly based on things that look great on paper but will not work in reality. And if they will not work in reality, they have little value. You must review your Emergency Plans and make sure that they make sense and will work!

Seventh: Understand that we cannot develop a plan for an act-of-violence

Plans are typically based entirely on assumptions. As a result, we plan to these assumptions but then, reality strikes, and the things that we assumed would happen do not. Even if one minor detail of our assumptions was inaccurate, suddenly everything that went into our plan becomes worthless. So, we cannot develop a plan for an act-of-violence.

Further, many believe that policy and procedure equal’s a plan. Unfortunately, this in far from true. We have clients that have incredibly good workplace violence/active shooter policy and procedure, but when we approach employees with various scenarios and what they might do under such circumstances, they cannot form any solutions. This problem can, and should, be corrected.

How do we accomplish this? By developing “thinkers”. Thinkers are those with the expertise to “react” most appropriately under highly dynamic circumstances and make decisions based on the circumstances are they are facing them at the time. Developing “thinkers” means establishing the individual responsibility for safety and security, and then providing the educational and training resources to become proficient “thinkers”

Drilling is another great tool however, with drills, participants know this is a drill and that there is no real danger. As a result, the chaos that is inherent in a real incident is not effectively replicated in traditionally run drills. We have unique ways to create this chaos without adding any elevated levels of danger to the drills that we conduct and give them far more real educational value.

Finally:  Be Aware. Be Prepared.

Ultra-awareness, ultra-vigilance all of the time.

We need understanding and training that is designed to truly keep people safe. We can no longer “train for the sake of saying that we trained”. We cannot throw solutions out to people that are designed to solve problems that the recipients of the solutions do not understand. We need training that empowers people to understand that they CAN win knowing nothing more than what they already know: that technique-based solutions only work in controlled environments where opponents are allowing them to work and that continuous education is critical to avoid the perishability of this type of training that keeps this “culture of safety”.

Ultimately, the topic of workplace violence, the number two cause of death in men in the workplace, and the number one cause of death in women in the workplace, and active shooter, must remain a top-priority for our businesses, schools, churches, families, etc. We have to stop making this important only when a tragic incident occurs. We have to stop thinking that it’s not going to happen. We have to stop putting it off in favor of other things. Likely, it will never happen. But if and when it does, and we are not appropriately prepared as individuals, or organizations, we will have some very serious problems to deal with.