Active Shooter a Microcosm of Our Society Impacting Workplace Safety and Security

Posted on: January 25th, 2017

Intro by Felix Nater…

In this article my Special Guest Blogger, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood, author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, and I collaborate to draw correlations between the threat of workplace homicides and the societal impact the active shooter and mass shooter has on everyone  no matter where we might find  ourselves.


Since we spend as much time at work as we do away from home, we believe whatever violence response training workplaces can provide must be as comprehensive and realistic as possible.

When workplaces make decisions to train on “Run, Hide and Fight” employers must understand that policies plans and procedures must be aligned. Can you tell an employee to fight as a measure of last resort when your workplace violence prevention policy says fighting or acts of aggression are against the policy?  This contradiction might freeze decisions and appropriate responses. Just saying!


When we tell the employee to run without proper training the employee might run into the shooter or while running away might be shot. Is there the possibility of creating unintentional civil liability consequences, which a skillful attorney might exploit during a civil lawsuit emanating from a serious injury or wrongful death allegation? I don’t know! What do you think?


It’s like “Zero Tolerance”–a well-intended policy but maybe too rigid and too structured. The employee who notices a co-worker exhibiting warning signs rationalizes his observations before reporting a co-worker knowing that his co-worker can be disciplined and even fired.


I do not encourage that workplaces undertake a frequency of an impractical training schedule on active shooter drills just because it is the right way to train. My point is that current training may not be addressing the workplace responsibilities or properly addressing the tactical common sense decisions needed to be taken.


What I do encourage is thoughtful training that realistically connects employee and management responsibilities and expectations. Training which fails to articulate what occurs in a real world shooting incident, and which only pushes out information, will assuredly produce more conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding, and increase risk for those involved.

Mike and I served in the military, where vital survival skills were reinforced through intensive,  repetitive training in order to make them more reflexive.  We understand that employers lack the time and resources to train to this standard, and it’s not realistic to expect that a workplace training program will build ” muscle memory” that makes responses automatic.

My law enforcement career as a United States Postal Inspector / Firearms Instructor and Threat Management Coordinator exposed me to realities typically encountered in the law enforcement community associated with serving search warrants, making arrests, car stops and training law enforcement personnel in scenarios they are most likely to encounter. Inherent in these scenarios are behaviors that must be understood and multiple simultaneous actions that must take place.


Well the same thing happens to employees or shoppers during a shooting incident. The “brain freezes” not intentionally but because there’s no stored information that the reflexes can draw upon. Fear overcomes the moment. There are tactics one can take to manage the moment that are not difficult to train to but can help the recovery process during the initial sounds of hysteria. When I audit this training I cringe at the lack of substance and correlation.


Suffice to say that we have expertise and specialized skills unlikely to be found in most workplaces. As such, training “employees” needs to create a training objective that allows employees to understand their actions, how to act out independently or in concert during the escape, evasion, evacuation procedures.


Because time, money and resources are limitations, training must bring clarity to what it is participants are most likely to encounter, what they need to “Know, Do and Why”. Absent clarity in the content presented will not improve survival and only add to the confusion.  There are tactics employees can take before encountering the shooter and encountering the police.


I am saying that training in active shooter / hostile intruder should be informative, enlightening, educational and realistic. To have real world value such training must empower the employee to know what to do and why, no matter where they may find themselves during an active shooting or mass shooting incident. If you are in a movie theater you know how to minimize risk. When caught in a mall or department store or open area know how to make better decisions.


* * * * *

Thoughts by Mike Wood…

The New Year had hardly begun when a terrorist killed scores in a shooting attack on an Istanbul nightclub, and we hadn’t even completed the first full month of 2017 when another shooter killed five and wounded more here in our own country, at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


While both of these attacks were horrific, neither was completely unexpected by those who were paying attention to the world around them.  We didn’t know the specifics of when and where the next “active shooter” attacks would take place, but we could be confident that they were on the way, in the same manner that we can predict there will be more to come.


We live in a world where the threats of attacks like these are ever-present.  Here in America, we have an increasingly violent criminal class which has become emboldened by failed public policies and the virulent anti-law enforcement culture which has taken hold in some communities.  Our mental healthcare system is broken, leaving untold numbers of emotionally disturbed persons, including many with violent tendencies, without access to proper care and supervision.  Additionally, there are a burgeoning number of foreign and domestic terrorists who would use violence to advance their political and cultural aims. In fact, our intelligence agencies have warned us that small-scale, asymmetric attacks like the Istanbul or Fort Lauderdale ones, are a preferred method of our enemy because they have a large impact while demanding very little in the way of resources or planning.


With all of these potential actors in play, it takes no imagination whatsoever to forecast that more attacks are coming.


So, what should you do about it?


The most important thing is to get your mind right. Accept the fact that it can happen to you. Doing so will help you to avoid the paralyzing effects of denial, and free your mind to solve important problems, should you find yourself subject to attack. Would you rather stand frozen in shock in the wake of an attack, or take immediate action to save yourself and others? The choice is yours to make, and it begins now with an acceptance of reality, and the appropriate programming of the mind.


Accepting that you could be the target of attack will allow you to change your behaviors in a positive and proactive way.  If you’re conscious of risk, then you’ll become more aware of your environment, and will do a better job of detecting and avoiding potential trouble. You’ll see the threats and indicators that people who walk around with their noses stuck to smart phone screens won’t, and you’ll have the time to avoid them. You’ll also do a better job of weighing costs and benefits, allowing you to avoid some unnecessary risks entirely, by opting out of the activities that would needlessly subject you to them.


Despite our best efforts to detect and avoid problems, trouble still has a way of finding us at times. In those cases, the more prepared we are to deal with trouble, the better off we will be.


From the perspective of mindset, we need to train ourselves that in an emergency (whether it’s a fire, a medical situation, or an attack), we will be active participants in our own rescue. If we are in danger, we must immediately take action to either remove ourselves from the threat, or terminate the threat, as conditions warrant. It would be nice to have help with this, but we cannot count on it, and we cannot delay our response until we receive it.  There is nobody who is more responsible for your personal safety than you, so you must take the lead role in rescuing yourself from danger.


Make that commitment now.  Train yourself to look for avenues of escape when you enter a room. Refresh yourself with the locations of alarms or emergency equipment in your workplace. Make mental notes of the things in your environment that could serve as cover, concealment, or makeshift weapons. Give yourself the permission to use righteous force in the defense of yourself or others. Mentally rehearse your response to an active threat. Take classes to educate yourself in first aid and self-defense, and ensure you have access to lifesaving equipment.


Do these things now, while you have the time and resources.  We know that more trouble is on the way, so the only question is whether or not you’ll be a victor or a victim when it comes.




Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is an NRA Law Enforcement Division certified firearms instructor, the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, and a columnist at See his website at for more information.

13 Responses

  1. Bishop Gregory Bowden,Sr. says:

    What a timely and relevant article! The issues raised here were thought provoking and extremely informative. I can’t say enough about the excellent points made about legalities in responds to workplace violence, and the need to prepare for potential violence wherever or whenever, and to take a personal responsibility for ones own safety. Being a pastor, I realize that the church is not exempt from potential violence between parishioners or “active shooters” as we’ve witnessed. Consequently, I will endeavor to be more vigilant and remind others also. Thank you, Felix Nater.

    • Felix says:

      Thank you for taking the time to offer your comments Bishop Gregory Bowden. It is apparent that your care and concern shines through with such clarity. It has been my good fortune to have discovered long ago that achieving any level of commitment (OSHA) requires a shared responsibility. Advising and consulting on the topic did not need me to tell you what you needed but asked you about your concerns and then how could we collaboratively get you to an appropriate first step. Taking a page out of Jay Abraham’s Strategy of Pre-eminence, I rolled my sleeves up and worked through the issues together. I liked your thoughtful analysis it was our intent to create thought leaders who would have a clearer perspective of what I mean by taking a common sense approach to a complex issue / discussion. Suffice to say that you nailed the key objectives of informing & educating.

      We wanted the content to reverberate because we’re at a time and point where we’ve commoditized workplace violence prevention by selling myths that are sold as strategies in civilian market places that really need common sense approaches. We wanted it to be relevant because the impressions created by training involving Run, Hide & Fight leave serious gaps. The issues raised were intended to be thought provoking because we have to stop narrow minded thinking in favor of adult thinking. A paradigm shift is more like what we’re suggesting in how workplaces approach violence prevention. There are both management & employee responsibilities never discussed. As you imply the Pastoral approach must be predicated on a host of factors that must first address the Why before the How. You are not exempt but there’s an approach to creating leadership interest to evoke personal responsibility. Thank you Bishop!

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      Thanks for visiting the Blog site and posting your comments Aisha. What attracted interest in the Blog? Can you explain the role your cousin might have played in your interest?

  4. Randy says:

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    • Felix says:

      I am thrilled the article had some redeeming value Randy. As you can see, I am passionate about my work and take the position around creating conversations and change as my contribution to Workplace & Educational Institution Violence Prevention. I am also happy that I was able to support your co-worker’s homework on this issue. This is the greatest compliment ever! Glad to be of Service.?

  5. Scott Nottmeier says:

    I want to bring up something that I haven’t seen in hostage and lockdown situations. It is the use of non-lethal weapons (rubber bullets, bean bag shot, shotgun Taser rounds,…)that would take down the assailant/terrorist and would protect innocent hostages, by-standers,… from being killed accidentally. Non-lethal weapons do incapacitate and give enough time to arrest. This would save lives and reduce law suits against police and municipalities. It would also ensure we would get needed useful information from assailants / terrorizers. I suggest a tiered tactical response using lethal when necessary and clean shots need to be taken. I am not in law enforcement, but I was on the victim side in a 3 1/2 hour lockdown so I have some real life experience, as well as, spent 7+ years in commercial security. What are your thoughts:is this plausible and reasonable means to incapacitate ? Would it save lives and lawsuits ? Can or would it be considered for implementation ?

    • Felix says:

      WOW! Scott Nottmerier, thank you for your interesting observations, recommendations & experiences relative to your own experiences with a workplace lockdown & active shooter incident last year and your concerns about the use of rubber & bean bag bullets/projectiles. Because you raise so many valid points of view, I hope the audience participation sees the discussion relevant and ripe for their technical expertise & comments. I intend to separate the components of your viable comments expressly to attract a varied input and audience.

      Here’s my take on the rubber bullets/projectiles based on my limited expertise common sense perspectives. I like the idea of minimizing unintended injury or death attributed to accidental police shootings. I would be in favor of any tool that helps police do their jobs because their jobs are already difficult and challenging. Two, arresting active shooters, domestic violence shooter might offer real insight into the why and the how. So, I hope you can see where my inclination lies.

      There are post shooting incident intelligence value to be derived from cooperating shooters who would (hopefully) survive by the use of rubber/bean bag projectile rounds. To your rationale, there appears to be justification of their use when subduing a potentially violent suspect from a safe distance, and when the officer has time to retrieve a specialized weapon out of the trunk. So cause and effect may have value in this discussion. However, the flip side of the coin brings the reality of severe, blunt pain rather than serious injury or death from a normal round. While there is potential value there are operational considerations that conceivably will place police officers at risk. I recognize the appeal of the projectile’s soft, wide surface of impact and the limits of the projectiles to pierce through skin or injure internal organs. And while they may save perpetrator lives and reduce stray bullet fatalities, there potential downsides exist. The projectile may only be useful at long range and are apt to cause serious or deadly injury if fired at the head, neck, or chest say the detractors. Any critical thinker would see the value of your thoughtful observations and recommendations.Thank you, Scott.

  6. Bowman Olds says:

    Absolutely outstanding article hitting on the key points we all need to internalize: “train ourselves that in an emergency . . . we will be active participants in our own rescue . . . we must immediately take action to either remove ourselves from the threat, or terminate the threat . . . There is nobody who is more responsible for your personal safety than you, so you must take the lead role in rescuing yourself from danger . . . Make that commitment now. Train yourself to look for avenues of escape . . . Give yourself the permission to use righteous force in the defense of yourself or others. Mentally rehearse your response to an active threat.” No better words spoken.

    • Felix says:

      Your thinking on the topic is spot on Mr. Bowman Olds. What often gets omitted in workplace training sessions on the topic is the opportunity to create engaging dialogue where the workforce interacts amongst themselves for the benefit of sharing experiences. As a result, opportunity is missed that allows the interactions to reinforce their store knowledge and awareness in responding to at risk situations. Since the response is based on an emotional response to a threat, adults store more information than they give themselves credit for. Worst is that the trainer’s lack of awareness, knowledge and expertise in deep instructional knowledge limits the content to the silly information on their PowerPoint slides which, you know is designed to lecture and not engage. So, whether you intentionally set out to compliment me on the article, I humbly accept it simply because I am a student of language in conveying difficult content. Thank you, Bowman Olds.

  7. Judy Barr says:

    We cannot live in fear. However, we can live prepared. We all have basic instincts.
    Look around a room. Size up people. Listen to your own heart and head. When your flags are do not bring them down and pack them away. They wave to remind you who we are and what we stand for.
    Life,Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    These intruders wielding violence must be-stopped!. There is safety in numbers. Travel in numbers! Buddy system too. These are old fashioned methods, however, thy do work. Safe travels all.
    Judy Barr

What are your thoughts?