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Armed Intruder Response Protocols: Which One Is Right For You?

Unfortunately, no organization is immune from an armed intruder crisis. Within the last year there have been tragedies in schools, hospitals, offices, industrial facilities, libraries, malls, etc. Although these tragedies are becoming more frequent, it is actually the severity that should drive you to action as opposed to the frequency. But what action? What action should be at the core of our internal emergency response?

When it comes to training and being prepared for these emergencies, choosing the right protocol is an important first step. Unlike fire emergencies that have one basic protocol – exit the building – you do have choices to make with regard to which protocol is right for you, your team, and your facility.

Armed intruder events are very complicated and dynamic with no two events being alike. Therefore, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. From our experience working with organizations in many different imdustries, we offer up the following thoughts to help you sift through possibilities to the right solution for your team.
Initial Factors

First, there are a few factors to consider upfront.
  1. Age – What age group are you dealing with.  Certainly, the capabilities of a group of kindergarteners is vastly different than a group of adults in a work place.  For younger people, keeping procedures as simple as possible is critical.  But secondary school students as well as adults can absorb more training and are capable of more engagement to improve outcomes.  The more capable the people you are protecting, the more training is possible.
  2. Uniformity – Do you put a high value on having one protocol across all of your facilities and personnel or are you willing to entertain having 2 or more levels of protocol?  In schools, do you want to have one protocol for your elementary schools and another for your secondary facilities?  In businesses, do you have a more transient group of employees that you need to train to one level while manager level and above may require more advanced training?
  3. Training – The biggest difference between protocols has a lot to do with the level of training – not frequency of training.  The more sophisticated response protocols often require outside vendors to come in to train your staff.  Similarly, you could decide to designate an employee to go through “train-the-trainer” classes and keep that credential up-to-date so they can train the rest of your employees.  Will your organization be dedicated to sustaining that level of training for leaders and employees?  
General Protocols

Lock-Down – This is the simplest of all responses and still the most common. This protocol requires the least amount of training because it is the same every time and does not attempt to factor in any environmental factors and is the same every time. The training typically revolves around how to lock down properly – variations on lock the door to your room, turn off the lights, get out of site, and wait for the all clear. Although other protocols are finding increasing favor, this is still a very valid response. Advocates point to the simplicity of training, and the results – if you are behind a locked door, in a dark room, out of sight, it is extremely unlikely that you will be in the line of fire. With a group that has lesser capabilities, like young children, this is clearly the best option.
Pros: Simple, effective, least training
Cons: Takes into account no situational cues, the idea of potentially being “sitting ducks”

Run, Hide, Fight – This is the response protocol widely supported and encouraged by US governmental agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and most police organizations. This protocol strikes a balance between simplicity and reacting to situational cues. Certainly, this protocol requires more training – when and how to run, when and how to hide, and what happens when you have to fight – but also equips your employees with more “tools in their belt” for a smarter response. This protocol also factors in how each person is wired differently: some will naturally be inclined to run and some will hide and some will fight. The trouble is most people will not know what their natural reaction will be until they are in the moment. So, the training for this protocol builds on the intuitive reactions people will already have and equips them to respond more effectively.
Pros: Intuitive options, not “one-size-fits-all”, people more engaged.
Cons: More individual decision making required, more training required

Advanced – Advanced protocols are those that provide even more options and require the highest level of training. Although there are several programs available, an example of an advanced protocol is ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate). These protocols are generally very sound and based on great research on response techniques and situational responses. Because of how dynamic an intruder event can be, there is a great deal of nuance to an effective response and that is where the training focuses. This level of training does not happen overnight, and, for most organizations, your employees will not be proficient after a single training. A healthy expectation is that your team will improve in their advanced response protocols over time – years likely – as they take in the training and get exposed to it several times. Patience and the perspective of a long-term investment are required. We have also seen that these higher levels of training are received differently by people: some thrive in it and some are overwhelmed or frustrated by it. Advanced training is right for some organizations but not all.
Pros: Great preparation for a crisis, active and frequent engagement in planning
Cons: Cost / time for training, potentially overwhelming to staff

Every organization has its unique character and needs. Finding the protocol that best fits those requirements takes investigation and research as well as buy-in from facility leaders. Let us know if we can be of further help in answering questions or giving more insights into response protocols.

No matter what your protocol, BluePoint’s solution has the technology to improve both your internal response as well as police response.  Our solution automates all of the steps for the fastest response possible both internally with your people and externally from police.  We equip people to start their Lockdown as well as provide simple, silent 2-way communication during the crisis and during reunification.  We inform people when and where to Run or when to Hide.  We provide the tools not only to Alert but to Inform and Evacuate efficiently and effectively.  To schedule a demonstration of the power of our solution to enhance your response protocols, please contact us here.

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