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Why Facilities Need to Prioritize Safety Preparedness
With the news of yet another tragic mass shooting, I was recently asked if I thought my small community of 10,000 residents was any safer a place to raise my family than a bigger city. Although violent crime is practically non-existent here, I still had to answer, “no.” All one has do is think back to the summer of 2020 when peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were met with counter-protesters carrying assault-style rifles. Thankfully, the situation didn’t escalate, but the threat was there.
No one thinks armed assailants live in their communities or will enter their facilities. I’m sure students in Uvalde, Texas, didn’t. Nor did shoppers in Buffalo, New York, or parade-goers in Highland Park, Illinois. But the truth is, active shooter situations can happen anywhere.
Facility managers play an important role in occupant safety. One way is to ensure their facilities have an emergency preparedness plan that includes active shooter situations and that occupants know how to respond. Our article on crisis architecture outlines what active shooter drills should include, and just as importantly, not include.
The focus of the article is on schools, but these tips can be applied to other facility types, especially places of worship or offices where these incidents aren’t always top of mind. For example, as I write this, what would happen if there was an active shooter situation at my work? My kids, who have had this training in school, would be better prepared than me who has never participated in a drill. Similarly, a few years ago, I served on my church’s leadership council and we discussed this topic, but didn’t know where to begin. Articles like the one this month would have been useful to share. Facility managers can be a resource occupants turn to for help.
If your facility doesn’t have an emergency plan or has one that doesn’t include active shooter situations, draft one immediately. Those of you who have a plan in place, ask yourself when was the last time you conducted a drill? Even if it wasn’t that long ago, there are likely a lot of new occupants in the building who don’t know the safety procedures.
In addition to drills, managers should re-examine their facility’s access control and security measures to make sure they are working properly and are a true first line of defense. Do doors, windows and security systems need to be upgraded or replaced? There are a lot of new products on the market that will help improve security measures.
It saddens me that not enough is being done to reduce the threat of gun violence in this country. However, until that changes, we’ll have to increase the security and safety of our facilities. It’s a shame facility managers are put in this position, but it provides an opportunity for them to shine.