The paradigm once was that terrorism is the tool of the weak for those unable to impact a policy change against strong governments. Hijacking airplanes, gunning down civilians and blowing up places of worship were permissible in the name of a worthy cause.
Today we find ourselves in a world where the practice of targeting civilians has developed into a strategy on multiple levels. On the theological level, we see ISIS and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. On a simpler level we see lone wolf attacks like the recent white supremacist shooters. These killers have a common focus to attack soft targets to wound and kill as many civilians as possible.
In the United States we face a new threat in the unprecedented wave of seemingly random shootings at schools and workplaces. Without going into political dimensions and deeper issues where randomness plays a major role in shootings, vigilance is key.
As this USA Today headline states “El Paso, Dayton make 251 mass shootings in the US in 216 days, more shootings than days in the year.” Interfor’s mission is to present up-to-date information such the Soft Target, Active Shooter, & School Security Resources(in particular, the Active Shooter white paper, one of the most comprehensive resources available) to educate on awareness of an active shooter. Three major concepts from the report can be very valuable:
Run, Hide, Fight
Evolutionary instincts kick in during a highly stressful, potentially life-and-death situation, such as an active shooter on the premises. These three actions are self-explanatory and show the most basic human responses when faced with the threat of a live shooter.
Sadly, as 2018 was deadlier for schoolchildren than service members, many of the recipients who read these instructions were students.
Children are instructed to run (find a path and attempt to evacuate), hide (lock or block a door), or in the absence of any other options, fight (attempt to incapacitate the shooter). These are similar protocols to ONE (Observe, Navigate, Escape) and all rest on the same premise: do what you can to distance yourself from the shooter. If no other options exist, engage and attempt to neutralize the shooter.
The Six Phases of the Attack
These seemingly random attacks are not because one day the shooter simply decided to attack a school or Walmart. A quick synopsis of the pattern reveals that the shooters spend a considerable amount of time (sometimes years) preparing their assault and thinking carefully who their victims will be.
The six phases can be categorized: I Cognitive Opening: The “Mindset” > II Planning > III Preparation > IV Approach > V Implementation > VI Post-Incident Mitigation. It is our hope that analyzing and understanding what happened will help us in preventing future calamities.
K-12 as Soft Targets
Areas where many unarmed individuals congregate and are not fortified have been targets of mass shootings, schools the most notable targets. The primary goals of these institutions are not security, so a shift in how they approach security is in order — starting with the mindset of leaders, which to date has not been encouraging. General responses by the top include helplessness, infallibility, or worse, the idea that their institution would never be targeted by a shooter.
There are no easy answers, as many variables lie outside an organization’s control of a possible mass shooting incident. The key is to maintain a vigilant mindset and understand this is the world we live in today.
Sadly, the rate of active shooter incidents is increasing around the globe. For example, in last year’s Santa Fe incident, the shooter attempted to place additional bombs in order be a “differentiator” and live on infamously via social media. The randomness of these violent acts plays an outsized role in today’s world.
It is because of these threats that Interfor remains ready to help mitigate exposure to such risks.