Suppressors and Workplace Violence

Of the 28 “mass attacks” the Secret Service recorded in 2018, 20 of them occurred in places of business. Following the mass shooting at Virginia Beach that killed 12 people, media reports postulated that firearm “silencers,” or, more accurately, suppressors, could radically alter mass attacks, as they make it harder for people to hear the gunshots. To learn what steps businesses should take to prepare for such mass attacks, RANE spoke with Aric Mutchnick, creator of the Red Ball Drills®.

Mutchnick claims that the potential use of firearm suppressors should not actually impact active shooter policies much. He says that current policies for when an active shooter is already in the building do not rely on the sound of the gun.

  • The current main policy for an active shooter, says Mutchnick, is based on the initial realization that a shooter is in the building and reacting by spreading the information.
  • Buildings that are equipped with shot detection systems largely do not rely on the sound of the gun. Instead, they rely on systems that would identify when a gun is fired, and alert personnel regardless of the use of a suppressor.
  • In both buildings with and without such systems, identification also occurs by employees realizing a shooter is present. Mutchnick asserts that most people do not recognize the sound of a gunshot, so a system based on employee aural detection is unreliable at best, limiting the impact of a suppressor.

Mutchnick argues that suppressors will not ultimately have much of an impact on workplace violence policies because those policies are heavily flawed to begin with. These policies, he claims, are largely reactive and rely on the employees facing the shooter to make correct decisions.

  • Most corporate active shooter policies rely on the “run, hide, fight” model, or some variation of this model, says Mutchnick. This encourages the employees facing an active shooter to run if they can, hide if they can’t, and fight if they must.
  • Mutchnick claims that corporate active shooter programs based on this model “are not policies, they are responses.” They rely on the first person aware of the active shooter to inform others, thus relying on individual responses to what is a corporate crisis.

Source - Location of Mass Attacks in 2018, Secret Service

Instead of relying on individual responses, Mutchnick urges companies to adopt specific frameworks that examine how the company and its assets could best be used to prevent or slow an active shooter by envisioning the process of what happens during an active shooter situation. Corporate planners should take three aspects of the active shooter situation into account when planning and training their employees, says Mutchnick: safety, communication, and control.

  • Safety involves the immediate employee reaction to the shooter. All employees should move as far away from the shooter as is possible and safe.
  • Communication involves letting as many people in the building know about the situation as quickly as possible. Mutchnick points out that traditional systems of communication can be heavily flawed. For example, using codes over a PA system is not effective, as most employees will not remember what the code means and non-employees such as visitors will have no way of knowing what the code means.
  • Control involves finding mechanisms within the building that can stop or slow an active shooter. Mutchnick asserts that buildings normally have multiple ways to slow an attacker, if security personnel have thought about it ahead of time and are prepared to use them. For example, elevators can be disabled and industrial doors can be closed and locked.

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