An active shooter is an individual who is actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, according to the Department of Homeland Security. In most cases, the situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes—before law enforcement arrives on the scene—individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to respond to an active shooter situation.
Even if the company is able to resume its operations after an active shooter incident, recovery can take an extensive amount of time. To recover from a shooting, organizations should make continuity planning, personnel issues and communication strategies top priorities.
In the event that an active shooter is in the vicinity, remember that employees are likely to follow the lead of management, and customers are likely to follow the lead of employees. The Department of Homeland Security makes the following recommendations:
If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises with the following considerations:
- Have an escape route and plan in mind.
- Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
- Leave your belongings behind. Managers or individuals responsible for your company’s emergency preparedness kit should grab it on the way out only if doing so doesn’t put them in further danger.
- Help others escape, if possible.
- Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
- Keep your hands visible so the shooter does not see you as an immediate threat.
- Follow the instructions of any police officers.
- Do not attempt to move wounded people.
- Call 911 when you are safe.
If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Your hiding place should have the following characteristics:
- Be out of the active shooter’s view
- Provides protection if shots are fired in your direction (e.g., an office with a closed, locked door)
- Doesn’t trap you or restrict your options for movement
You should also take some basic steps to prevent a shooter from noticing your presence or entering your hiding place:
- Lock any doors, if possible.
- Blockade the door with heavy furniture.
- Silence your cellphone.
- Turn off any source of noise (e.g., radios or televisions).
- Hide behind large items (e.g., cabinets or desks).
- Remain as quiet as possible.
If evacuation and hiding are not possible:
- Remain calm.
- Dial 911 to alert police to the active shooter’s location, if possible.
- If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.
As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and or incapacitate the active shooter by doing the following:
- Acting as aggressively as possible toward him or her
- Throwing items and improvising weapons
- Committing to your actions
If workplace violence does happen in your business, you’ll likely face questions like:
- Will the police investigation delay my ability to access the premises?
- Is temporary security needed?
- When will employees be healthy enough to return to work so business can resume?
- Will I recover lost business income if I cannot continue operations?
- Who will cover the costs of leasing a temporary space to get back to business?
- Who will pay the costs of employee benefits if the business cannot resume activities the day after the incident?
Do not assume that your standard commercial insurance policies will cover those expenses. Workers’ compensation, business interruption insurance and general liability insurance are unlikely to pay all costs related to a workplace shooting. Active shooter insurance is becoming a popular way for businesses to fill the gaps in coverage left by the following policies:
- Workers’ compensation—If an employee is severely injured during an active shooter incident, they are likely to be covered by workers’ compensation. However, if an employee witnessed a co-worker being shot and needs psychiatric care in order to come back to work without fear, the cost of care might not be covered by workers’ compensation in some states, simply because the employee didn’t suffer a physical injury. Active shooter insurance can pay the psychiatric medical bills of your employees regardless of which state your business is located in.
- Business interruption—Don’t assume that your business interruption insurance will cover you if you can’t conduct business due to a loss or disaster. For example, if an event is so tragic that you have to cease business operations despite the lack of physical property damage, that’s considered a business decision, not a covered loss under your business interruption policy. In contrast, active shooter insurance would pay for lost business income up to your policy limits in the event of a workplace shooting, regardless of the reason for closing your business.
- General liability—The impact of an active shooter can spread to business partners, clients and vendors, but general liability insurance won’t automatically cover third parties. For example, if hurt on your premises, third parties may allege you didn’t take proper precautions to keep them safe. If someone sues you and wins, your general liability policy will likely pay for covered damages and expenses up to the policy limits—but you will still likely end up paying for additional uncovered expenses.
Active shooter insurance is more suitable for covering a wide range of violence-related exposures to third parties—and it protects you whether you are negligent or not. In addition, it will cover medical and funeral expenses immediately following the incident. This may provide quick and compassionate relief to victims and decrease your risk of reputational damage.
These are just a few major exposures that active shooter insurance could cover, but be aware that not all policies are equal. A well-written policy can include coverage for temporary security for your business, media management and psychiatric care for witnesses. An experienced insurance advisor who is familiar with your business can customize a policy that meets your needs.
There are other steps you can take to prevent an active shooter situation. Contact your partners at ProAction Insurance Services for a guide on how to prepare your business for an active shooter, as well as other comprehensive articles and posters to safeguard your business and your employees.