Emergency Preparedness

The Role of Unarmed Security Officers in Mass Attacks

Security officers who are not armed may be called upon to demonstrate heroic measures in those rare but devastating incidents where an attacker armed with a gun, knife, or even using a car, truck, or van, attempts to kill many employees or bystanders. Although they may not have a weapon, they still may be able to stop the attacker and save lives.

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Police work is often described as “hours of boredom followed by moments of terror.” At least armed police officers can protect themselves and others with their duty guns should the need arise. Security officers may face the same occasional spells of boring work as they complete their shifts, but if they don’t have the protection a firearm can offer them in a workplace violence situation, they may be forced to use other methods to protect themselves and others from an attacker bent on creating mass casualties.

These efforts can include the following:

  • Remind all employees about the run-hide-fight protocol for mass attackers and their collective need to run and hide during an attack so that they can all be in a better position to fight back together if confronted by the attacker.
  • Help employees escape, barricade, protect themselves inside the barricaded safe room, and join them in fighting back against the attacker should he or she make entry into the room.
  • Use extra vigilance in patrolling the parking lots and perimeters of the buildings, looking for surveillance, preattack preparations, or trespassing activities from potential attackers. This may be especially useful in this time of perpetrators using vehicles to run over people in common areas near the building. Security officers must add this concept of paying attention to parked but occupied trucks, vans, or cars that don’t seem to fit the environment. This new emphasis on vehicle-borne attacks must be interrupted by physical barriers, but the prevention starts at the vigilance stage, as employees and security officers see occupied, idling vehicles they don’t recognize in or around their facilities and report them to the company’s safety and security stakeholders or the police.
  • Listen for targeted threat “leakage” from a current or former employee, visitor, customers, or vendor who foreshadows a possible attack.
  • Know how and when to notify his or her supervisor or the client organization if the officers hears of potential domestic violence-related threats involving the spouse or partner of a current employee.
  • Be ready to activate any panic alarms in the building, to be able to notify law enforcement in a surreptitious way that an attack may be imminent.
  • Keep employees, visitors, and vendors out of the path of the attacker.
  • Distract the attacker by shouting, honking the horn from inside a patrol vehicle, or otherwise trying to divert the attacker’s attention (ideally from a safe position from behind bullet-stopping cover) which could allow employees time to flee the building or shelter in place.
  • Be a professional witness for the 911 dispatchers and the responding police as to the attacker’s description, location, path of travel in or around the building, and types of weapons, companions, or vehicle.

Although a security officer may not be armed with a firearm, he or she may be able to use OC pepper spray, a baton, or a Taser-type device on the attacker. The security officer may be able to use handcuffs to subdue an attacker that a brave group of employees has tackled or held down for the arrival of the police.