Posts Tagged safe room

Shots fired in the building. A Gunman on the Loose!


Within ten days of presenting on this topic at a safety conference, I awoke to read about the senseless slaughter of thirteen at Fort Hood, a story which dominated the news for some time.

It is worth pointing out that on the day  of that massacre, an apparently disgruntled ex employee  walked  into the building he had worked in two years earlier and opened fire,  killing one and wounding five, a story that didn’t quite  make it onto the front page. This happened in Orlando Florida.

Just four days later and also lost in the fog of the 24 hour news cycle, was a shooting that occurred on the premises of a business in Tualatin, Oregon leaving one dead and two wounded. This was a case of domestic violence spilling over into the workplace as a man shot his ex wife.

Perhaps most bewildering is how rapidly the sobering nature of these so called “low probability” yet “high impact” events fade from memory as we return to our busy lives, with so many of us yet again not implementing an emergency plan of action for such an occurrence!

Which barrier to “awareness and preparedness” is at play here; apathy, complacency or denial?

I have been on the receiving end of gunfire albeit not in a work environment. More terrifying than the gunshots was my distinct awareness of how unprepared I was for such an event. This lead me to freeze up like the proverbial “deer in the headlights” as I tried to comprehend what was going. Valuable seconds ticked by before I stopped thinking and actually began to react. I was lucky to get away unscathed.

It is usually how we react during the very first few seconds of a shooting incident that will dictate our chances of survival.  Those who have rehearsed a plan will bypass the thinking process and react since a response framework has already been ingrained during training.  Those who don’t will be in my situation.  Gripped by fear and desperately trying to think their way through the fog of the moment, brain awash in adrenaline.

Here are few facts to keep in mind and some tips to consider:

According to Homeland Security most of the damage is done within the first 8-15 minutes of an active shooting.  Law enforcement usually will not arrive until this time period has elapsed meaning for those first crucial minutes all you will have are each other and any action plan you have put in place, or not.

If you have several panic buttons strategically placed within your facility you will be able to sound the alarm sooner in a situation in which every second counts.

If you have practiced retreating to designated “safe rooms” such as offices with heavy locking doors, your staff will be more efficient during an actual retreat.  Taking note of all “hard points” behind which to take cover is also important. (Shelter in place)

Once in a “safe room” it is critical to keep quiet, put cell phones in vibrate mode, turn off the lights and not draw any attention to your position.

Similarly if you have if you have determined that exiting the building is your best option, having walked the routes during a drill will make for a more efficient egress.  Muscle memory is crucial.

Of equal importance is knowing where you will NOT retreat to. An example is the bottom of a stairwell you arrive at only to find leads to a permanently locked utility exit door?

Exits should be constructed so that they cannot be easily blocked from the outside such as with a nearby wheeled dumpster or vehicle as was the case in the shooting at the immigration center in Binghamton N.Y. in April 2009

Redundancy during a high stress situation is always preferred. This is particularly important when designating people who will call 911, even if the panic button has been pushed.   If you have facilities at other locations they too need to be alerted.

It is also important to know how to react to the responding SWAT team who will be barking out orders and moving through your facility very aggressively.  In the confusion of the situation an innocent employee’s finger pointing to where the threat came from could look like a gun in hand!

DHS also suggests offering your local SWAT team the option of practicing in your facility after hours.  This gives them an opportunity to sharpen their skills and you a closer relationship with the very agency that would be tasked to responding were there ever an incident at your company.

Even a well thought out rudimentary plan is better than no plan at all. At this very moment it is not a gunman that is our biggest threat. It’s the three enemies of “awareness and preparedness”; apathy, complacency and denial.

Larry Kaminer

Resource: Department of Homeland Security Actives Shooter PDF

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Home Safety Tips


  • If your home is recessed from the road, does the driveway have good lighting? Dusk-to-dawn low level lighting is thought to be a more effective deterrent than motion detector lights. Be sure the home, garage, side areas and parking area are also very well lit.
  • Prune or remove shrubs and bushes that offer natural cover to an intruder, especially near ground floor windows. The more open your “lines of sight”, the better. It is best to close drapes at dusk, dawn and during night time hours.
  • The door to storage sheds should be locked. Don’t leave stepladders on the side of the house. They offer easy access to upper floors.
  • Hang a small bell from entrance doors so you know when the are being opened or closed. Your doors should always be locked, even during the day.
  • Ground floor windows should only be opened part way with secondary securing devices to prevent them being pulled open or pushed up.
  • Be sure to know how to use your home alarm system’s “silent” and “panic” functions. Wireless fobs are always a good idea.
  • Can you activate your car alarm from inside your home? If so, keep your vehicle key fob close by as an additional alarm option. Dogs are always an additional deterrent.
  • If you do not park your vehicles inside the garage, it is best to not leave the remote for the door in the vehicle. Make a habit of bringing it inside with you.  Be sure to also lock the interior door to the garage even if the garage doors are down.
  • Keep a flashlight, fire extinguisher and charged cell phone next to you bed. You should know how to escape from a second story without using the stairs. This is also crucial if there is a fire. A fold-out ladder is suggested. ( See
  • Designate a “safe room” with a sturdy door where you can retreat with your cell phone if need be. Be sure that you receive a cell signal in this room. Preferably this room does not have a window. Keep a flash card with your home address, a flash light, bottles of water and a fire extinguisher in the safe room. If you are not calling from a land line, the 911 operator will not know your address. You can easily read your address from the flashcard if you are in a state of fear.
  • The safe room (Sometimes referred to as the Panic Room in Hollywood)  is where you want to secure yourself and family members if you think or know an intruder is in your home and exiting the dwelling is not an option. This is the room from which you will call 911 and stay secure until help arrives.
  • Never open the door to a stranger regardless of how legitimate their story or how well groomed they are. Looks can be deceiving. Call the police if you are uneasy.
  • Think “outside the box”; consider the incident of a woman who purchased a magazine subscription from a seemingly sweet young man on her doorstep. Upon his return the following day “to correct a paperwork error”, he violently assaulted her.
  • Remain alert when leaving or returning to your neighborhood. We let our guards down in familiar environments. This is why most car accidents happen less than two miles from home. If you think you are being followed do not drive home. Proceed back to a well light busy area or a police station and call for help.
  • Try and vary your route home from time to time. The less predictable you are the more difficult a target you become.
  • If you live alone in a gated community, add a second letter to your first initial. For example, “J & L Smith” on the complex’s directory board. Also, be aware of the areas around the entry driveway, especially if you need to open your window to use the keypad. This area should be well lit and not offer convenient hiding places.
  • Your outgoing message should be limited to “We are not available right now. Please leave a message.” This should be recorded in a mans voice even if a man does not live there. Do not give out any additional information or confirm the phone number the caller has just dialed.
  • When you come home if you find the door unlocked or open, do NOT go inside. Retreat to a neighbor’s home, your vehicle or a well lit, busy area. Call the police for help!
  • If you happen upon intruders upon entering your dwelling exit your home immediately, progress to a well light busy place and call the police. Do not confront, challenge or close distance on an intruder. These are the situations where an intent to rob may rapidly degenerate into violence. Your focus is on your safety. Property can be replaced.
  • Review telephone and front door rules with your family periodically. Remind them to always pay attention to their instincts.


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