MADISON, Wis.—Seventy-nine percent of organizations feel only “a little bit” or not prepared for an active shooter incident, reports CUNA Mutual Group, saying that preparing for an active shooter is something all credit unions need to take seriously.
Information on preparing for an active shooter incident was presented during CUNA Mutual Group’s 2019 online Discovery Conference, just weeks after two back-to-back shooting incidents occurred in the U.S., one in El Paso and another in Dayton, Ohio.
Carlos Molina, senior risk management consultant at CUNA Mutual Group, said unlike most workplace emergencies, the unpredictability and immediate threat of an active shooter incident makes it extremely difficult to have a standardized evacuation and response protocol.
Why Preparation is Needed
He said 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 deal with an active shooter, noting the key is to have awareness of one’s surroundings.
“When we all started in this business we remember the traditional teller line—just one block of tellers,” said Molina. “Now, in growing numbers, you have light branches, with fewer staff and more automation. It’s important for credit unions to develop a plan for each type of environment.”
Molina emphasized it is time for the movement to take these incidents very seriously.
“You are either prepared or unprepared,” he said. “I think, from a credit union standpoint, we need to focus on consistency and situational-based training. Credit unions have to be really committed to going through how an active shooter situation could occur in each of its branches.”
Emergency Action Plan
CUNA Mutual said creating an emergency action plan is an important step in protecting the organization from an active shooter, but it is only effective if the CU trains employees on how to implement the plan in the event an active shooter situation arises.
“The best way to prepare employees for active shooter situations is to conduct active shooter drills, at least annually. These drills will allow every employee to act out their roles and ensure they know what to do in the event of a real-life active shooter situation,” Molina said.
CUNA Mutual said staff should be trained to:
- Recognize an active shooter or the sounds of an active shooter.
- Know how to respond to an active shooter incident:
- Safely evacuate their area
- Safely hide to avoid detection
- Fight back as effectively as possible
- Know when and if emergency personnel or 911 should be contacted
- Recognize and cooperate with emergency responders
- Understand the facility’s emergency action plan along with maps highlighting traditional and nontraditional escape routes and potential secure areas to hide.
- Provide key information to law enforcement
- When attending offsite events, such as annual meetings or conferences, employees should also know locations of exits, evacuation routes, fire alarms, and aid/security stations.
Molina added that responding to an active shooter situation will be determined by the specific circumstances of the encounter. He said that while it’s difficult to prepare for planning and practice can make a difference in saving lives until law enforcement arrives.
“Remember, in the case of an active shooter situation, follow the simple message—run. If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the immediate area and exit the building to a safe, protected location. Always keep your hands visible. And hide. If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you and barricade or lock the door. Use your surroundings to aid yourself. Finally, fight as a last resort, when and only when your life is in imminent danger.”