Are we looking at the Active-Shooter contingency correctly?

Are we looking at the Active-Shooter contingency correctly?

July 20, 2020 Uncategorized 0

The rising wave of violence and antisemitism combined with COVID-19 has rushed the nation to a gun shopping spree and launched Jewish and other faith-based communities back to “active shooter” training programs. This reaction is not only “instinctive” but embedded in the American way of life and security paradigm.

Don’t get me wrong – Gun training and the ability to defend yourself is vitally important.

However I believe that as security professionals we should engage a process of debriefing and analyzing incidents to discover the most effective measures to protect our subjects.

Here are the basic assumptions and understandings about active shooter incidents:

  1. The incident in Halle (Germany) last Yom Kippur was thwarted by having the reinforced door shut, good monitoring and no other access point. No defensive shots were fired.
  2. The common denominator in the Pittsburgh, Poway and Christchurch (NZ mosques) incidents was that the doors were wide open and the killers walked in undisturbed.
  3. If you get to the shooting part you are already in “damage control” mode – Take, for example, the shooting in West Freeway Church of Christ (Fort Worth, TX, Dec-29-2019) where a gunman opened fire in the church killing two. The quick response of a highly trained local PD range instructor ended the incident. However, 2 innocent lives WERE lost.
  4. In the same incident the gunman opened fire from within the church after spending sometime inside (looking pretty conspicuous).
  5. According to the FBI report (download report here) there were 27 active shooter incidents in the US in 2018 and 28 incidents in 2019, of which only 2 incidents were in houses of worship resulting in 3 fatalities (2019). In 2018 (download report here) the sole active shooter incident in a house of worship took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, resulting in a massacre of 11 innocent souls.

From the above we can retrieve a few insights:

  • From points 1-4 we can conclude that our first objective has to be – keep the perpetrator outside. This can be achieved with a combination of few elements:
    • Physical measures – fortified door and working access control system
    • Greeters who can identify and screen visitors. The greeters should be people with good personal knowledge of congregants, who can identify them.
    • Effective access and screening protocols and procedures.
    • Facial recognition system may be a great addition.
  • From point 3 we can glean that the professional level required to conduct effective “damage control” is extremely high. The Israeli Shin Bet security operators (all trained IDF combat veterans) go through rigorous training where they shoot thousands of rounds in close-to-live scenarios (under stress conditions) and maintain constant high level of physical fitness and Krav Maga. They retrain in short time intervals and get tested every re-training session. So the question is – how close to this standard can we get? And once the set standard is met can you re-train at the required interval to maintain it (hint: a full day once a month at least. Attached below is the qualification test for FBI field agents, who are not security operators. It’s a start)
  • Point 5 raises other questions
    • What is the likelihood of the active shooter scenario to happen?
      A U.S. government study counted 3,728 Jewish “congregations” so the probability for an attack on a single synagogue is 0.027% yearly. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect and train. However, fortunately, the likelihood for an active shooter is pretty slim.

So, that poses another question.

  • Are there other scenarios as or more likely as this that may happen?

The answer to this question is yes. And a lot more than one.

  • In Pueblo, CO a white supremacist was charged last November (11/2019) in planning to bomb Pueblos Temple Emanuel. The affidavit of the FBI special agent in charge reveals that the bomb plot was the second plot to attack the synagogue. The primary plan was to poison the temple through its water supply.
  • A scenario of individual murder was the murder by a neo-Nazi of Blaze Bernstein on January 10, 2018 in OC, California and 34 years earlier in June 18, 1984, the neo-Nazi murder of Alan Berg in Denver, CO.
  • An additional attack scenario is ramming by car or truck.
  • The cyber arena is another scenario – attack through infrastructure.

Apparently, active shooter is not the only threat to our communities, but it is the one that captivates us –  which brings us to another question.

  • How do we allocate resources to respond to other scenarios?

The answer to that is tricky. Of course each institution has to allocate its own resources, but bear in mind that grant money cannot easily be used for training.

The conclusion is that before “going for the gun,” assess your situation. Set a security plan in which the armed volunteers are only a part of your plan and only the last resort.
Remember that the most effective way to confront an active shooter is locking him out, calling law enforcement and most importantly –

Be smart

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