Webinar presenter Mark Warren answered a number of your questions after his presentation, “The New Normal” – Recovering from an Intruder Response Incident. Here are some of his responses.
Audience Question: You talked about communications capabilities. What systems have you experienced? Which ones are the easiest and most successfully used? What are some of the basic planning steps an organization should take? How long does it take? And what are the major issues to consider when an organization implements one of these communications systems?
Mark Warren: The biggest things that you'll hear as an organization is, let's say the Crisis Go app, they must download that app on to their smartphone. The first pushback you're going to get is, "It's my phone, you're not paying me for it, are you going to start paying me for it?". Part of the process is changing the culture of the people. I understand it's your possession, but we need to educate them that they are providing the means for you to communicate in a crisis to help them possibly save their life. What's it worth to them? That's what we typically try to do in the training to raise the level of awareness and people aren't so quick to not want to participate. I've seen the same thing in schools where we can't mandate that they do this. Well, sometimes you just have to. That is one of the biggest pushbacks that you'll get.
But that's the advantage of the group that we've worked with the most — Crisis Go. I talked about them more, not because they're the one and only or the best. I am very familiar with the Everbridge program as well. Typically, the end user can download the app at no charge. The entity will pay a scaling fee based on numbers of personnel is how I see that done. The advantages are looking into the actual workings of the app itself, what does it do and how does it work? Does it meet the criteria that we need?
That's why I spent a time going through the prevention phase — I want people to have multiple means of contacting the appropriate people within the organization to report any potential threats, or people making threats, but at the same time, have they been trained just on what is a threat. That's where the disconnect comes in because there's a denial and overcoming that normalcy bias where people hear this stuff and say, "He wouldn't really do that", and they don't take it seriously. We need to train personnel to do that.
The communication — whether it's using texting programs where it's just the employee's phones and we have their phone number in a databank… For crisis, that is not as good. That is good for general dissemination of information. What we have to be careful about is not to water down how much we use the communication platform for stuff it's not really designed to do.
We definitely want redundancy. You may have somebody that doesn't text but they're on social media constantly. So, do we have a social media presence that we can use as well? That redundancy, especially when we get into that recovery phase and start talking about communicating outside the direct organization. Communicating to the employees, we have a little bit more control over them in certain circumstances to say this is how we're going to communicate in a crisis, so we would use PA or intercom systems as the most direct. I'm not a huge fan of alarms, but maybe strobing lights, like if this red light goes off — it is only used in an intruder. So now we have intercom, PA systems, strobing, then maybe get a texting program so we can push information out directly through text. And then go to the Crisis Go or Everbridge type of thing that provides even more in-depth capability in that crisis. We're just looking for redundancy, and the communication app is just one of those. Now, when you start looking outside of your immediate group, how will we reach the family members? If we say we're going to reach you through this app, you can download it for free at no charge, it's only going to be used to identify and disseminate crucial information then we may develop that link to them that we need.
Audience Question: Often, organizations spend a lot of time planning and preparing for intruder events or mass casualty events, but less time on dealing with the after part. Why is that and is it really less important?
Mark Warren: I agree with the question. The reality is, each one of these phases is just as important. Prevention phase — if we can identify through training and education, we put processes in place, we may prevent. That's is always better than ever having to respond. But even being prepared there, if we have to respond but are never prepared in that phase, what's going to happen is even worse.
By preparing for the response phase, we tell people exactly what they need to do. Too many places are dependent on someone telling somebody else what to do. In that response phase, you can't do that. Each individual has to make an individual decision on what they need to do. That overlaps.
When you get to the recovery phase, it seems like most places, if they do anything at all, they prepare for the response phase, that's it, tell people what they need to do. Show them a 30-minute video. The problem is they're not. They're stopping it at just when the bad guy stops. The problem is where now at that recovery phase if they are not prepared, they're not going to have the system set up to really give the psychological care needed to their employees that have just been impacted by this serious incident.
When you look at workplace violence, it has been proven that after an incident like this, productivity drops by as much as 50%. The bottom line of the organization because they're not prepared to transition through the recovery process and help their employees move on, they actually go backwards. They're going to have a period of time that even when let's say it's 2 weeks later, they're able to reopen their plant, their productivity may very well drop 50% and it affects the bottom line. This is when you start doing workplace violence training, you open their eyes to all the statistics on how this going to impact them on the backside, now they have a reason to do it because monetarily they'll lose more. By not preparing, what does it do to your name brand? Now your name brand is in the media, 24/7 news cycle and what everyone is seeing is your name in relation to a negative. How your employees feel about coming back to work in general? How many turnovers you're going to have as a result of this? Turnover rates go up after such incidents because why would I want to go back to work for that place when just walking into it makes them feel unsafe. You're not going to be able to replace the knowledge base lost when you lost those personnel. Maybe they were key components, maybe some of them are design engineers that have the patents on the stuff we've done, and we just lost them. What does that do to the impact of the facility or organization? It goes a lot deeper but trying organizations to prepare just seems to be overwhelming, it's an elephant and what we're trying to get them to see is it is an elephant, but to eat an elephant, you eat it one bite at a time.
Audience Question: How can law enforcement agencies proactively reach out to their local area organizations and start having these conversations? Start helping them to encourage and start the planning process from a cross-disciplinary perspective as you have described?
Mark Warren: It can be frustrating for us as a private company because everything that we do people go, "Well, you get paid for it". The reality is it's a passion. You got to find the right people within the organization, identify the right person. If you don't, it hurts you in the long run. As an example, not too long ago, we're talking to an entity and they were working on providing churches a way to respond to these types of incidents. The police instructor that they brought in, within ten minutes, had dropped the f-bomb, he cussed, and the lady in front just cringed each time this officer was cussing. If you don't pick the right person, you don't educate them properly, you don't make sure they understand the audience that they're speaking to. It's a different environment from the training cops are used to. The problem is, if that's all I know, that's also how I teach, it typically becomes my style. Picking that person can hurt or help you. So, for the law enforcement officers, pick the right persons, make sure he's passionate and well-educated about what he's doing and prepare him to do.
Use your local chambers of commerce. Speak at those, spoke at your better business bureau. It's the outreach that we can have but it's a topic that nobody ever wants to hear about until it's happened and it's in the news again. The problem is now, everyone is so swamped and overwhelmed that we can't meet the need. How do we keep this at the forefront? Understand that homicide in the workplace is the second leading cause of death in the workplace. Tracked by OSHA, the top 6 leading causes, homicide's the second leading cause and OSHA has now said in their general duty clause you as an employer have an obligation to provide a safe working environment recognizing homicide in your workplace. That's one of the ways by doing discussions through the chambers of commerce — identify the different avenues that will give you a voice to awaken the community and show them how the community, the resiliency, if it's done community-wide can be so much better.
We work with a group in Cook County, Chicago, and that's what we did it's a community-wide organization that in this 2-day training will bring in together health care, schools, universities, police, fire, EMS, private entities and companies all together in a two day seminar on intruder response so that when we talk about these MOUs, they're going, "Oh yeah, you guys can use us to evacuate". And they're already putting things in place as a community because they were at the same table. Law enforcement doesn't always have the time to just spend on that. So, finding the right person that's passionate about it will make it their priority and hopefully, then, identify the different venues that will give you a voice, and start reaching out. Through education and knowledge, you make people want the information. I tell instructors all the time, the old adage of, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink, but it can sure make him thirsty". If I can show you you don't know what you don't know, then I can make you hungry for the knowledge. I can make you want to come to the waterhole for more water. Sometimes, it is identifying what the water is and make them thirsty.
Audience Question: What's the biggest mistake communities make in addressing their post-event response?
Mark Warren: I don't consider myself an expert, while I have so much experience in these things, and actually getting to work with communities through them directly. I typically look at the outside looking in. A lot of the information I get is just what you see on the news, and what you can piece together. But I would say it's not in the preparing. I would say if you really want to look at a good post-incident response, look at the Las Vegas shooting. Where they had the family reunification centers that became the family resource center and they had a long-term plan in effect. The way that they had press conferences to release specific information at appropriate times, they kept the amount of information that needed to be updated out there. So that people were getting what they needed to know in a timely manner and overall was very very good.
When you look at an incident that is not, you just see where everything falls through the cracks. They just didn't see this coming. The problem is then, you have no smooth process and so every time somebody starts moving towards some form of healing, all of a sudden, there's another brick wall that hits them. And they got to find a way over it, under it or around it, and the frustration starts building again and they move backwards. It directly stunts the healing process.
I would say that if you really look at these incidents after they occurred, I can give you examples of schools that had an incident that had no process in place for reunification. The parents were lined up outside the school, behind the police tape, and the police were having to keep them back. Police were having to make an arrest of parents so frustrated because they weren't being told where their children are when they will be able to pick up their children, or anything else. They were trying to cross the police line and now the police, they're not being fed the information because it was two separate entities. It was the school doing its thing in accountability and where's everybody, and the police doing their job, maintaining containment of the overall incident and you've got frustrated parents trying to break through the containment. This escalates the overall incident so that when the school finally said that the parents can come get their kids, they had no process in place, the police open the police line, there was almost a riot as the parents went into the school to get their kids. The problem is when you don't have a process in place, one – how does the school know that they're properly releasing that child to the duly designated parent or custodian. You got to look at it like a doctor, do no more harm. They've already had enough harm done. What if I release this child to a parent that has an ex-parte order against them who is ordered by the court not to have custody, but the school released the child to them, and the child is abused by that parent? This is why these processes must be in place so that reunification goes smoothly, and we don't cause more harm.
I can't say that I know of one big thing it's just a lack of being prepared. I think that's the biggest mistake made.
Audience Question: You talked about having an evacuation location, does this even apply to justice organizations and law enforcement? Should justice and law enforcement organizations also have these same plans in place just you're recommending for schools and churches, etc.?
Mark Warren: Absolutely. Most law enforcement agencies do have EOPs, but do they really have one for an active killer? We can't say that these things don't happen in police agencies either, where somebody truly goes to the police department to attack it. We've seen that happen, I was providing protection in Ferguson, Missouri, when two police officers were shot in December following the riots of that year outside of the police station standing on line. We can't say that it doesn't happen here, so what happens if they get into the facility? What's the continuity of operations for a police department? If now your police station becomes a crime scene, where and how, and what plan do you have to completely move all your operations from that building to another facility to do it? I think sometimes police departments, we take it for granted because we're the ones everyone else calls when things go bad. But what happens if bad happens to us?
Fairfax County, Virginia, I was there training a course and they had police officers shot in their parking lot. They shot into the building and they had police officers engaging the suspect from the parking lot that had to come out. There were a lot of things behind the scene that happened as a result of not having things, a plan in place, that really impacted that agency. And I talked to people directly about how it did impact the overall working conditions once it happened. People that didn't engage, people that engaged but could've done things differently. Just the whole realm of things. This goes across the board everybody has to prepare for these types of incidents, all-hazards approach. Have the emergency operations and plans in place, and if it's re-evacuation, where would we go? I think police departments specifically are in better positions to probably have the outreach within their communities to get a church to agree to allow them to use their facility. Because, who doesn't want cops in their building? It does go across the board though. Everyone has to have it and we're not immune to it.
Audience Question: Evacuation is an underestimated part of the puzzle, how can one move large numbers of people in a short time without creating a bus stop bottleneck situation of traffic? How can we convince people not to just run away indiscriminately?
Mark Warren: There are two thoughts on that. One — during the incident, we teach our 3-out approach — get out, lockout, takeout. If my best option is to get out of the building, I do want to keep going and get away as far as possible. So that, we're not going to have control over. That's part of the process that that individual makes a decision in a crisis where seconds count. Now, what we tell those people at the same time is, once you're out and you know you're in an area that's safe, you need to make the appropriate contacts. You need to contact law enforcement that you're in this facility. Make yourself known to them in a potential witness standpoint. Then, from an accountability standpoint. The other side of that question too is that's why it's so important to educate people on the front side of this incidents. I always tell people, educate people when they are rational, not emotional. Obviously, you cannot educate people when they're emotional. When they are in an emotional mind, you cannot have a rational discussion with them. So that's why in schools, we do a parents' conference and one of the things I talk to parents about is, "If this happens at your child's school, do not come to the school". Because they're rational, I can educate them as to why they shouldn't come to the school. That they're going to make matters worse. They're going to bottleneck all the roads coming in and out making it more difficult for us to get emergency vehicles in to contain and control the situation, but also to get them out which could be your loved one that's wounded that we're trying to get to that primary care facility as quickly as possible. When we can educate them from the front side, then we can diminish the overall number possible that are going to respond. They're still going to, but we can diminish the numbers.
That avoids some of that bottleneck, as far as the actual transportation of the employees or faculty and staff. I look at it like this, that's going to be an organized evacuation. We should not see unless we have so many police officers on scene that were bringing out this many at a time that if you look, one — we are establishing within the facility and safe route of transfer. In other words, I have a visual line of officers. One officer can see the next one at that corner that can see the next one at that corner all the way out to the entrance where we have that bus pull up as close as possible to bring people out in a single file, escorted on to the bus. Get that room on that bus with an armed officer. Drive off, next room. I don't really see that we should have a large number. Let's start slowing down unless somebody has a severe injury, what is the rush to come out of lockdown? I tell people all the time, "You have the rest of your lives to come out of lockdown, make sure you're right". Until they are contacted by a uniformed police officer and hopefully somebody from their organization at that locked and barricaded door telling them, "It is us, sliding my ID under the door to prove to them I'm a police officer with picture ID". And at that point, opening that door and following their directions, getting patted down and walking through that round of officers to make sure we are in a secured space, we need to slow this down at that point. It's just getting people to understand, "yes, it's scary, but if you're okay, stay focused on the task at hand". The task at hand is to make sure you remain safe and secured. How do you that? Do what you need to do until you're contacted by the appropriate people and told what the next steps are.
Click Here to watch a recording of “The New Normal” – Recovering from an Intruder Response Incident.