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Are You Actually Ready for Emergency Response?

I write this blog in response to a recent conversation with a staff member who works in a multi-story building.

Like any other multi-story building, there are members of the general public, various departments, and security.

I find that all too often, I meet with security staff and management teams, and there seems to be what I would call 'Unearned confidence'.

This level of confidence has no foundation in skills analysis of the staff, a physically practiced response history, or an algorithmic approach to operational application.

The biggest challenge to overcome - Hero Complex / Hero Syndrom

Often this phrase is misused or reflective in the negative. I am only mentioning this in the

sense of individuals/teams/organizations that are unaware they have replaced effective planning and preparation with a level of arrogance.

If you have worked in security for any length of time, you have probably met the guard that tell you all their war stories and how effective they are.

This can sometimes be amusing or entertaining at first, but it gets really old very fast. The trouble is, this time a person is rarely open to feedback.

As much as I use the personal example in this, these characteristics can be found in departments, teams and organizations.

What would you do?

Most security teams have loose ideas but not a structured plan. Let's use the conversation I mentioned at the start of this blog.

Imagine you are working in the downtown of your city, in a multi-story building. A combination of other staff departments and the general public.

Suddenly you get a report that an unknown individual has presented a knife in their hand and walking with intention of harm and intimidation.

What is the plan now?

  • Do you have a lockdown procedure?

  • If you go into lockdown, does all the staff of every department know what to do?

  • Do you have stages of lockdown?

  • Does each staff member know their priorities regarding their lockdown zone?

  • Who is the single person in-charge to communicate or coordinate?

  • Do you have staff members trained in critical first aid ready to respond as soon as it's safe to do so?

  • Does your staff know how to triage injuries?

  • If you can isolate the armed aggressor, do you intentionally isolate with environmental controls?

  • Do you have access via CCTV to keep up to date?

  • Does law enforcement have a clear and safe entrance

  • Who is your emergency response liaison on site?

This is just an example of some of the topics to identify before the emergency and be able to measure objectively the skills and knowledge of all staff involved.

What can I/We do to be better prepared?

The first step to preparation is to create a situation that can be discussed as a tabletop exercise. Have different departments or staff present for the exercise. It is very important that each department collaborates, as there are often various details that are only known to each department. The goal of the conversation is the work through the activity step by step, not to create a situation that is only a problem or too over the top to be likely.

Once, you complete the tabletop conversation, go back and find a way to break each critical decision into phases/stages. Identify the policies that are required, environmental controls available and any additional equipment or training as required.

Now you are on your way to building the first generation of an effective plan. Once you feel the plan is reasonable, run a mock drill.

Mock Drills

A mock drill is a very informative tool to help staff with critical decision-making, build some resilience to stress, and identify the training gaps from theory to practice.

Housekeeping: Make sure that you communicate to all stakeholders in advance of the mock drill, and signage for any public that might misinterpret events, and share with the local external agencies (Police, Fire, etc..) of your drill in advance.

Find a safe way to use props that appear reasonable to the scenario.

For example, the knife pictured here is a training knife that lights up and beeps if contact is

made. This could help demonstrate the value of proximity and positioning, as well as the number of first aid incidents required post-incident.

Once you have completed the mock drill, then debrief the event to identify what the successes are, and what areas need to be addressed.

Not sure where to begin?

Building up a procedure, plan and mock drills can feel very intimidating. There are a number of different organizations that might be able to help in different areas. If you are looking for professional consulting, I would strongly recommend doing a little bit of homework before booking, as for references and meeting to see how the rollout and procedure would be applied.

If you are in Alberta, we at SCOPE Safety & Security are happy to help with any of your needs or refer a professional.


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