Before joining his family’s equipment rental business, Bledsoe Rentals, based in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Adam Fouts was a police officer — a certified instructor on his way to also becoming certified in defensive tactics. Well-versed in active shooter and other scenarios, Fouts now uses that training to help safeguard his rental business and staff.
Securing the operation: “Criminals are opportunistic and go the path of least resistance. The best thing is prevention, so we have invested in a high-quality security system with as many deterrents as possible — cameras all over. We do not hide the cameras because it is not a deterrent if people don’t know you have them. We also are well-lit with windows all around us,” he says, adding that he has placed monitors in key areas as well as emergency panic buttons at the counter and in managers’ offices.
Becoming less of a target: “We also are a credit-card based operation. If you have less cash on hand, you are less of a target,” he says.
Creating a plan: “There is no cookie-cutter plan. A lot depends on the layout of your building, the area you are in, your processes, etc. We have differences in the plans of our two locations,” Fouts says.
A key is ensuring his employees understand how situations can deteriorate and the protective steps they can take. “Our training centers around dealing with conflict or confrontation,” he says, noting that he deliberately keeps the training simple. “If you have too many nuances, it can be hard to think through all of that when you are in a highly emotional, adrenaline-pumping situation. People tend to get tunnel vision, so we center our training around that if there is something not right — hearing gunfire, seeing a confrontation escalate up front, etc. — act as if it is the real deal.”
Fouts notes that situations can unfold in different ways. “Yes, there is a scenario where a person comes in with a gun out, but a lot of situations don’t just happen. Usually, it takes time to unfold. It may start with an argument or maybe someone is hanging around your shop, acting funny and waiting for customers to leave to make his move. It is looking for those different things and then acting at the first sign of danger. Waiting even minutes could take away valuable time for law enforcement to be en route. For law enforcement to be effective, they need as much time as possible. False alarms are worth lives saved,” he says.
Front counter: “If they recognize signs beforehand, such as a customer getting out of hand, they can call for a manager or hit the panic button,” Fouts says.
“If it does get to the point where they are being held at gunpoint or someone is insinuating that they have a weapon, I tell my employees to just comply and give them whatever they want. Don’t cause any confrontation or run after the suspect. Don’t try to play the hero. It is not worth the risk,” he says.
“If it goes south in any way, I tell them that if there is an opportunity, get as much distance and put as many barriers between them and the suspect as possible. Moving targets are harder to hit than standing ones,” Fouts says.
Back of the house: “If others in the building recognize something is going on up front, they shouldn’t hang around in the back or hide. There is a time and place to hide if they can’t safely get away, but for us, we have a back door. If something unfolds, they are instructed to leave and create as much distance from the store and them as possible and get out of the line of sight as quickly as possible,” he says. “Create the distance first and then worry about calling 911.”
Management: “Their offices face the front counter, so they can hit the panic button if they see something happening,” Fouts says.
Managers also are trained on behaviors, including those of employees, that could become violent.
“We promote a work environment of teamwork and respect and don’t settle for anything less than that. It should only help the business in general, but it also creates an environment that makes it less likely for problematic situations to occur between employees that lead to violence. We handle any situation that happens between employees swiftly and fully. We don’t leave situations unaddressed or unfinished,” Fouts says.
Training staff for an active shooter situation
To best prepare your staff for an active shooter situation, create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), and conduct training exercises.
Components of an emergency action plan. Create the EAP with input from several stakeholders including the human resources department, training department, facility owners/operators, property manager, local law enforcement and/or emergency responders. An effective EAP includes:
- A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies.
- An evacuation policy and procedure.
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments — examples include floor plans and safe areas.
- Contact information for, and responsibilities of individuals to be contacted under the EAP.
- Local hospital information — name, telephone number and distance from your location.
- An emergency notification system to alert various parties, including:
- Individuals at remote locations within premises.
- Local law enforcement.
- Local hospitals.
Components of training exercises. The most effective way to train staff to respond to an active shooter situation is to conduct mock active shooter training exercises. Local law enforcement can help when designing training exercises.
- Recognizing the sound of gunshots.
- Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard and/or when a shooting is witnessed:
- Evacuating the area.
- Hiding out.
- Acting against the shooter as a last resort.
- Calling 911.
- Reacting when law enforcement arrives.
- Adopting the survival mind set during times of crisis.
Additional ways to prepare for and prevent an active shooter situation.
- Ensure the facility has at least two evacuation routes.
- Post evacuation routes in conspicuous locations throughout the facility.
- Include local law enforcement and first responders during training exercises.
- Encourage law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams and bomb squads to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security