Looking back at the attack at the Pulse nightclub, one of the key factors that is often missed in the tragedy was the presence of armed security at the entrance. As the attacker approached the building he was engaged by Officer Adam Gruler. Officer Gruler valiantly and courageously exchanged gunfire with the attacker. Unfortunately, he was unable to neutralize the shooter and stop the attack. While all this occurred, the patrons of the club were enjoying the loud music and oblivious to the approaching threat. In active shooter events this is a common theme; the victims are unaware of the danger until it is too late.
There is something that can be done to alert building occupants of a threat. A simple notification system with sirens and strobes can reduce casualties and save lives. As a country, we do not have any protocols in place for alerting building occupants to this type of threat. The OSHA General Duty Clause requires building and business owners to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. Chemical, fire, and climactic alert systems are in place in buildings, but a hostile intruder alert system isn’t required, even though an armed intruder event is more likely than all of the others combined. Being aware that a threat exists is the number one factor of survival. The second is a quick response by law enforcement. Adding a notification system that sounds an alarm, alerts building occupants, and informs law enforcement is an essential component to reducing casualties.
We have seen this play out numerous times in active shooter events. The Pulse nightclub patrons weren’t immediately aware of the shots outside or inside. A former marine that recognized the shots had no means to activate a building wide alarm. At Columbine, it was a teacher, David Sanders, that ran the halls attempting to warn others of the threat. He paid with his life. In incidents at Atlantis Plastics and Excel Industries the employees at the front office called 911 after witnessing shootings in the parking lot, only to have the shooter proceed to enter the business. Employees were gunned down while working unaware of the hazard that approached. An alarm system that will sound sirens, activate strobes, turn off equipment, shutdown music, turn on lights and alert building occupants is a simple solution in each of these situations.
The SafeDefend system was designed with the express intent of alerting everyone in a crisis. The system is designed to sound alarms and strobes inside the building, send text and emails with information including the exact location of the threat, and alert first responders to the threat while providing them with specific information on where to confront the crisis. Learning from the lessons of other mass casualties hazards has reduced casualties. Taking those proven response protocols and applying them to workplace violence and active shooters will do the same to limit casualties and heighten response.