Unfortunately, as current events show, active shooter events continue to affect multiple aspects of American life, including the workplace.
For Lieutenant Neal Bohannon, while tragic, these events also contain lessons to help prevent the loss of life when the next active assailant attacks a workplace.
Bohannon, who has more than 21 years of law enforcement experience, will be presenting Active Shooter: Response Options For Civilians – Lessons Learned From Recent Events with Lieutenant Rich Hampton at WCI’s conference in August. WorkersCompensation.com recently caught up with Bohannon to preview the session and gain some insight on what employers and employees should know about active assailant situations in the workplace. Here is what Bohannon had to say.
- What will attendees gain from your session that they wouldn’t be able to pick up anywhere else? There’s a lot of 15 minutes videos that employers default to, and certainly there’s value in those things, but what we do is we go in depth into what it means to run, hide, and fight. We’re going to take you into the topic emotionally, so we can take you into memory recall. We do it in person because we have to make that information connect with you.
- What do employers need to know about active shooter training and education that they don’t know now? Number one, they need to understand the seriousness of the topic, and they also need to understand that they don’t need to spend a lot of money. You can put a titanium dome on your facility, but if the shooter comes from within, that dome won’t mean anything. If you are going to spend money, where are you going to spend it? You can spend millions of dollars, but that won’t guarantee anything. The number one issue we see is communication capabilities. Organizations aren’t set up through technology or infrastructure to get information to everyone who could be affected. That’s the number one critical failure. If an active shooter or assailant situations occurs in one part of an organization, it’s important that all other parts of the organization know it. That’s when we get people inadvertently placed in harm’s way. And then from a prevention standpoint, we talk about mental health programs, programs that are “left of bang” to address issues before the incidents. Our specialty is the survival piece, but we look at prevention too. For so many organizations and problems, the big question is, “What can I buy to make this go away?” Unfortunately, the reality is that there are no guarantees in a gun fight. While we certainly recommend equipment and technology, we call it mitigation for a reason. There’s nothing out there that’s going to be a magic pill. All we can do is prepare you.
- The topic of an active shooter situation is like none other. How can training/education stick so that people will be able to do what they need to when faced with a real-life active shooter situation? Every instructor is looking to get that retention on a long-term basis. Maybe it’s personality, maybe it’s how we tell the stories. We talk about specific incidents and go into how it happened. We take them into incidents and organic stories that come out of those incidents, which are stories of heroism and stories of tragedy. It’s not uncommon to see emotion in our audiences, and so we know that there’s a connection and we have a good response rate. People will come back two or three years later and have retained the material.
- As a related question, how do you get people to understand the importance of taking active shooter education and training seriously without creating unmanageable anxiety? I don’t know that there’s an easy answer to that. You do have to make people appreciate the seriousness of it, but I’m not a paranoid guy. I do take small steps where I don’t have to walk around in a state of paranoia. We’ve become less situationally aware of our surroundings, and we need to get some of that back. You don’t have to let it consume you, but there are things every day we can do to be prepared and more aware of our surroundings.
- Based on your experience, how ready is the average workplace for an active shooter situation? Not very. I don’t get into a lot of percentages about how much employers have spent or how much time they devote to training. I have read a lot of reports that get into percentages of what businesses have invested. What I do know is that businesses aren’t as prepared as they think they are. Businesses have a lot of things to do on a daily basis to make money, and an active shooter program isn’t one of them. But when you talk about deliberate indifference and foreseeable harm, we know these events, while rare, do happen. Active assailants are a known harm in America. So it’s imperative that businesses take steps to be prepared so that they can mitigate the potential harm.
- What else would you like people to know about your session and training? We pride ourselves on being able to connect with the audience. We have had several individuals who have attended our sessions who have survived active shooter situations and survived it. Those people come up and thank us for our training, but my response to them is, “That was you. You did that. You were there, you recalled the information, and you put it an action, I was just the teacher.”