By MIKE LEWIS
SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. — In Nathan Harmon’s view, some companies fall short when it comes to preparing their employees to face workplace violence.
Specifically, he said, people need to be prepared for what has become known as an “active shooter.”
The most recent incident in this region happened on June 28, when a gunman opened fire with a shotgun inside The Capital Gazette offices in Annapolis, killing five employees and injuring two others.
The Department of Homeland Security has a 13-page booklet on how to respond to an active shooter. In those situations, the booklet advises people to escape if possible or hide if they cannot flee the building.
Only as a last resort, “and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter,” it states.
To best prepare staff members, the booklet states, organizations should create an Emergency Action Plan and conduct training exercises.
Harmon, a supervising instructor with BSR in Summit Point, W.Va., stresses the importance of the exercises.
“Too many places are checking the boxes on making an annual online requirement (for training),” Harmon said.
“There’s really no retention or confidence-building with that kind of training,” he said. “No one ever pushed a button, watched a driving course then got their license and started driving.”
BSR offers security and safety training classes, including B.E.C.O.N. Active Shooter Training. The course mixes classroom sessions with audio of 911 tapes from the scenes of mass shootings and hands-on practice in various scenarios.
B.E.C.O.N. stands for Barricade, Egress, Control, Oppose and Notify. Harmon called it a “nonsequential” system people can employ to protect themselves and others.
During a July class at Summit Point, W.Va., participants learned and practiced ways to barricade doors, using items such as chairs, desks and blocks of wood. They learned that even a belt looped over a doorknob and held firmly against a wall can help hold a door closed.
Under “egress,” they learned to always be aware of exits and the importance of knowing designated rally points, where people can meet and report once they have escaped the building. Harmon stressed that those sites should be chosen carefully, so people fleeing the building are not in the way of police and emergency crews coming to help them.
“Control” applies to controlling your emotions, Harmon said. But it also means constantly reassessing the changing situations people face as an incident unfolds. The keys to maintaining control, he said, are to prepare, plan and practice.
“Oppose” is the worst-case scenario, when a person is forced to directly oppose a perpetrator. Participants learned that they usually have things at their disposal, such as telephones and fire extinguishers, that they can use in a crisis.
At one point in the session, Jeremy Jenkins, who works at Dalb Inc. in Kearneysville, W.Va., was taken away from the group and set up as a “gunman” complete with a toy weapon. He burst into the room expecting to see people calmly seated at tables, as they were when he left the room. Instead, he was pelted with a hail of stress balls.
“When you walk in (and) see balls coming at you, it was shocking. … It was the surprise effect, you know? You don’t know what you’re walking into,” he said.
And under “notice,” participants discussed how notice of the danger can be passed and updated to inform the people at risk and emergency organizations that can render aid.
Harmon, who created and developed the course, has 21 years of experience in the Marines, law enforcement and private security. According to the BSR website, the eight-hour course is certified through the National Certification Program with the International Association of Directors for Law Enforcement Standards and Training in more than 35 states.
The training does not have to be done at Summit Point, Harmon said.
“We can come to you and put this training on,” he said. “It’s all about what you want to do and what you can do in your environment.”
The Department of Homeland Security states that an Emergency Action Plan and training exercises can help an organization’s staff members respond to an active shooter situation. A booklet prepared by DHS provides this advice:
Emergency Action Plan
Create the plan with input from human resources department, training department, the facility owners/operators and local law enforcement and emergency management agencies. An effective EAP includes:
• The preferred method for reporting emergencies
• An evacuation policy and procedure
• The emergency escape procedures and route assignments
• Contact information for, and responsibilities of, the individuals to be contacted under the EAP
• Information about local hospitals
• An emergency notification system
DHS states that “the most effective way to train your staff to respond to an active shooter situation is to conduct mock active shooter training exercises.” The exercises can include:
• Recognizing the sound of gunshots
• Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard or when a shooting is seen
• Calling 911
• Reacting when law enforcement arrives
• Adopting a survival mind-set during times of crisis