Now is the time for employers to plan for an active shooter crisis | #malware | #ransomware


Sadly, mass shootings such as the recent melee in a Buffalo supermarket, claiming the lives of seven victims, and in Texas where 19 elementary school children and several adults were assassinated, can be expected to recur.

According to a new report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  the United States saw a 52% increase in active shooters from 2020 to 2021, with many shootings resulting in deaths. Crisis management and communications experts like myself believe emphatically that no organizational brand — shopping mall, entertainment venue, government agency, house of worship, hotel, health and human service provider, company, automotive dealership, school, college or purveyors of consumer goods — is immune to this type of nightmare. This is why crisis management planning is no longer an option, but a requirement for profit and non-profit organizations.

An organization’s crisis management and response plan should include an internal employee team responsible and trained to perform risk assessment and mitigation, emergency response, crisis communications to internal and external stakeholders, and action plans to address the physical and emotional toll and continuity of business in the aftermath of a deadly attack.

Following the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, I spoke to a young CEO of a moderate-size high-tech company, one of many operating in corporate office parks within the Route 128 belt. He told me his company has a workforce of about 130. When asked if his company had a crisis communications and management plan and a designated, trained team to implement the plan should a crisis develop, like an active shooter, his response was, “We’re in the high-tech business and in a safe suburban office park so an active shooter crisis is really unlikely.”

Really? I told the executive about the carnage on Dec. 26, 2000, at Edgewater Technology located in a Wakefield office park, where an employee shot and killed seven of his co-workers using an AK-47, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 32-caliber pistol. He fired 37 rounds shooting many in the back of the head.

No brand is immune to this type of crisis — which is why crisis planning is imperative.

According to a recent survey by PWC consulting, of 2814 global businesses only 39% of US respondents had a crisis management/communications plan in place.

A crisis management plan is not only for an active shooter but may be employed during a fatal medical mistake, a sexual harassment and assault charge, corporate embezzlement, an industrial accident, ransomware attack, product recall or workplace violence. If mishandled, these incidents could lead to a devastating image and reputation crisis that could negatively impact employee morale and talent recruitment, financial performance and market share and overall consumer trust.

What should organizations do? First, retain a highly experienced crisis management and security consultant to review and update your existing plan; if you don’t have one, they can help create one. A crisis management committee would be created and trained to effectively respond and communicate during a crisis. A security audit of your workplace would identify vulnerable security risks. Local business and trade associations should offer seminars for their members on crisis management and communications planning. Organizational leaders should seek out webinars and books on crisis preparedness. Employers should not be reluctant to allocate financial resources for retaining outside crisis counsel to help review or formulate plans and training.

As first responders are reviewing their emergency response plans in the aftermath of the two recent mass shootings, employers large and small must do the same.


Billerica resident Rick Pozniak spent 40 years as a crisis and public affairs executive. He is certified by FEMA in crisis communications.



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