Can you prevent random acts of Mother Nature? No.
Can you prevent random acts of Humans? YES!
Over 30 years ago, I started working for a large data processing organization and we processed data for nearly 400 banks. One of my job responsibilities was to be part of the Disaster Recovery Team – yes that is what it was called back then. Our goal was to be prepared to react to different types of disasters and make sure our clients (nearly 400 banks) were still delivering their services to their customers.
Now days most organizations have renamed their Disaster Recovery department/team to Business Continuity, Emergency Response, Crisis Management, Business Interruption and others. Even though the department/team names have changed their focus on being prepared to react to a disaster, emergency, crisis and other random acts has not changed all that much.
ATTENTION Business Leaders, Government Leaders, Educational Leaders and others…lessons learned clearly expose it is time for real changes…not just name changes!
Lessons learned and evidence from way too many expensive, embarrassing and tragic incidents reveal that random acts of Humans – targeted shooters, sex abuse, child abuse, bullying, harassment, intimidation, human trafficking, suicides and others – could have and should have been PREVENTED.
Unfortunately too many organizations are treating random acts of Mother Nature and random acts of Humans the same. Too many organizations are in “Disaster Recovery and Emergency Response” mode (Reactive) only…when it is clear that organizations must be prepared and equipped for Reactive mode for random acts by Mother Nature and Proactive Prevention mode for random acts by Humans.
Don’t be too quick to assume your organization has everything under control. For example:
Innovator organizations across the United States are providing some very impressive success stories on how Proactive Prevention and Prevention Platforms are equipping them to prevent expensive, embarrassing and tragic incidents BEFORE they happen.
Preventing preventable random acts of humans is much less expensive, less stressful, less damaging in the media and more effective than REACTING to incidents and tragedies.
Don’t wait to REACT…take action immediately with PROACTIVE PREVENTION …you and everyone in your organization will be glad you did!
The title of a recent article caught my attention – “Last Line of Defense”
The article talks about how a higher education institution has spent $60,000 on whiteboards that can be utilized by teachers as bulletproof shields.
The president of the institution said: “We are not really doing this in response to a specific event; I see it more as an opportunity to be prepared and to be proactive in our approach to safety on campus,” Bell said. “We think that it’s worthwhile.”
This comment highlights a very serious and very dangerous awareness gap with many school and college administrators. REACTING to a threat that is in your classroom is not a proactive approach to safety, but yet another REACTIVE security approach that offers little to no protection the entire classroom.
Medieval shields were used to protect a soldier or knight from direct blows from the weapons of their enemies and these types of shields were used from 800 to 1500 A.D.
Innovator colleges (and schools) like these are spending far less money on a new proactive prevention platform that equips everyone with the right tools to proactively prevent expensive, embarrassing and tragic incidents. Proactive prevention is the real key to School and Student Safety…which is much different than School/Student Security (see previous blog here).
Evidence from nearly every targeted shooting clearly reveals the tragic incident was preventable if the organization (school, college, business, military base, etc.) would have had a central prevention platform to connect all the right dots so the at-risk individual(s) could have been identified and intervention could have taken place before their aggression level escalated to a place where the last line of defense (shields, locks, cameras, armed guards, etc.) is never enough to stop them from causing expensive and tragic incidents.
Did you see the recent report from the Center for American Progress? The report estimates that the Virginia Tech tragedy cost the university and taxpayers $ 48.2 million. And this cost does not include the “costs” associated with the loss of lives and lives that were changed forever.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I hope all school and university administrators are paying close attention to this wisdom and this new report.
According to the report, the university was responsible for most of the costs – $ 38.77 million – and the state of Virginia paid around $ 8.87 million and rest was covered by local government and the federal government in the form of grants.
How the $48.2 million breaks down is shown in this Campus Safety article.
Today is the 5th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre that resulted in 32 deaths and another 25 wounded. According to the Virginia Tech Review Panel report (which cost $ 465,000), this tragedy could have been prevented and the report provided nearly 100 recommendations for university leaders to implement.
So why do we continue to see incidents, headlines and tragedies in schools and universities?
The facts are pretty clear that most schools and universities are still very “reaction focused”. Most schools and universities have Crisis Plans and Emergency Response Plans, but few have a Prevention Plan. Most schools and universities rushed out to purchase Mass Notification Systems after the VT tragedy, but few schools and universities invested in Prevention platforms to equip their students, faculty, staff, Safety Teams, law enforcement, legal, compliance and community resources with tools to “connect-the-dots, silos, red flags and suspicious actions” or the tools to get the right information to the right people in the right place at the right time so the right people can do the right things, which is the most efficient and cost effective way to intervene and prevent expensive and embarrassing tragedies.
To learn more about Awareity’s innovative and proven Prevention platforms and tools, click here.
Virginia Tech was fined the maximum fine allowed under the Clery Act of $55,000 for waiting almost two hours before warning students, faculty and staff of an active shooter on campus.
Lessons Learned: Colleges and Universities must develop, implement and follow clearly defined policies and procedures for notifying students and staff in emergency situations. School Administrators may want to create customizable, organizational and situational specific templates prior to an incident so the warning messages are already defined and the appropriate processes are understood by all appropriate personnel. Organizations must also have customized emergency and crisis management plans and ensure all individuals (students, faculty, staff, administration, law enforcement, etc.) understand their roles and responsibilities before, during and after an incident occurs. Lastly, lessons learned clearly teach schools that proactive and prepared prevention efforts are much less expensive than the incidents, fines, lawsuits and reputational damages.
The U.S. Department of Education released the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting providing step-by-step procedures, examples, and references for higher education institutions to follow in meeting campus safety and security requirements.
Lessons Learned: College and University administrators are overwhelmed with responsibilities for HEOA, FERPA, HIPAA, Clery Act, OCR ‘Dear Colleague’ Letters, and much more and therefore guidance from the Federal Government can be helpful. It is critical for School Administrators to utilize resources and develop comprehensive campus safety programs and create a culture of compliance and preparedness that is ongoing. Traditional methodologies are clearly not working based on new handbooks, new regulations and mounting obligations and traditional tools are not capable of keeping up with all the new changes, so School Administrators must be open to new tools and new ideas to ensure better safety in schools.
The Brazilian whose shooting spree left 12 school children dead was a loner who spent his days surfing the Web, and had been victim of schoolyard bullying and taunts. His classmates and former teachers said he was routinely bullied at school, rejected and taunted by girls in class, and forced to endure “constant humiliation”.
Lessons Learned: There are several lessons learned from this tragedy. Number One: Bullying can have a devastating effect on a child and can lead to severe violence. Number Two: Multiple red flags were given prior to this attack: recent clothing changes, change in mental state, researching weapons online, withdrawing from society, removal from family, losing job, etc. Number Three: It is critical that people are aware of tools to anonymously and non-anonymously report suspicious incidents or aggressive behaviors.
Eastern Kentucky University has implemented the Campus Aggression Prevention System (CAPS) in order to track both primal and cognitive aggression, identify acts of emerging aggression based on an objective scale and then record those acts in a software-based tracking system. Responders are trained to intervene appropriately to stop the aggressor before serious harm can be done.
Lessons Learned: In response to recent tragedies, many schools and colleges nation-wide are reviewing their programs for identifying, assessing, and intervening with students who show signs of distress and evaluating their policies and procedures for reporting red flags, suspicious or aggressive behaviors, violence, risks, etc. Lessons learned have clearly revealed that school/college leaders must let go of status quo approaches and look at new ways for improving situational awareness and connecting the dots to identify red flags, improve prevention, protect communities and save lives. One of the most concerning things is that students are not reporting acts of violence, bullying, harassment, etc. It is critical for schools to implement safe and non-retaliatory reporting procedures, policies, plans, and training for faculty to identity warning signs of violence.
If you followed the headlines last week, we saw multiple tragedies at schools and colleges around the globe. However, one high school in Missouri was able to prevent what could have been a potentially devastating attack.
An 18 year old student was arrested with conspiring to shoot other students at his school. There were multiple warning signs identified and fortunately two brave students came forward with information prior to his attack.
The student revealed several red flags during his planning phase:
A second student was arrested the next day after posting a Facebook message, claiming “he wasn’t going to kill anybody because he’d told police about his plan and couldn’t pull it off now.”
It is critical for schools to look for new and innovative methods for identifying red flags and warning signs so they can prevent incidents like the tragedies above. If those students had not come forward, the attacker’s plan may have been executed.
The Department of Education and Secret Service School Safety report revealed that at least one other person had some type of knowledge of the attacker’s plan in 81% of school shooting incidents.
However, one of the most concerning things is that students are not reporting suspicious comments, acts of violence, bullying, harassment, etc. out of fear of peer abuse or retaliation, they don’t feel their reports will be kept anonymous or they don’t trust the administration to act on their reports.
It is critical for schools to implement safe, anonymous and non-retaliatory reporting procedures, policies, plans, and training for students and faculty to identity warning signs of violence. At the recent White House Conference on Bullying, experts agreed listening to students is critical and it is important to develop simple and effective incident reporting processes.
How are your schools working to improve prevention, encourage students to come forward with information, protect communities and save lives?
Tips prevent a lot of bad things from happening within organizations, but tips alone are not the answer based on recent lessons learned. The Christmas Day Bomber attack was prevented and lives saved thanks to tips, but also thanks to the FBI’s proactive efforts in confidentially sharing information with other key players, such as law enforcement and local government.
An anonymous tip from Saudi Arabian intelligence helped to locate package bombs that were sent from Yemen. No doubt these package bombs could have caused a lot of damage and loss of lives, had specialized prevention teams not taken proactive actions to locate and confiscate the packages before they arrived at their destinations.
Tips play a critical role in global security, as well as our communities. But just having the tips is not going to prevent unwanted incidents from happening. People – specialized teams with situational awareness, accountability, secure information sharing tools and the ability to connect the dots – are clearly the most effective way to proactively prevent unwanted incidents in schools, communities, private organizations, governments and where ever else bullies and terrorists may target.
While I am very thankful that the Christmas Day Bomber and the package bombs were prevented, every day I see or hear about stories involving bullying or terrorism or ethics or safety where red flags existed, but organizations did not take appropriate actions.
I hope organizational leaders realize it is their responsibility and obligation to take proactive steps in understanding how their organization receives tips, how their teams share information, how teams respond to tips and if their traditional tips system (see previous blog) is empowering their security and prevention teams to proactively prevent incidents.
Feel free to share these lessons learned, because they help organizations and their leaders understand the need to replace status quo solutions sooner than later to meet safety obligations and escalating risks.
All of this TSA stuff on the news is getting a little crazy…it almost seems like the media is looking for passengers who are looking for attention.
But once again the lessons learned are clear…at least if we all agree on the primary goal.
Hopefully everyone agrees that our main goal is safety and national security, because I don’t know about you, but when I am flying through the clouds at 35,000 feet I do not want the plane to blow up.
So if we are all in agreement, then it comes down to human beings – pilots, passengers and security personnel – having situational awareness and accountability.
Pilots – We need to trust that the airline has tested the pilots to ensure they have situational awareness on how to fly the plane safely and deliver passengers from point A to point B. We also need to trust the airline’s pilots are accountable and they are not terrorists.
Passengers – We need passengers with situational awareness and accountability to understand that national security and airline security requires all passengers to be cleared as a safe passenger. No matter what religion, what clothes, what sex, what nationality or what other excuses a passenger comes up with, all passengers need to understand and be held accountable for airline safety and security rules…period. If a passenger does not like the rules they have the option to take a car, take a bus, take a train, take a ship or take a hike.
Security Personnel – We need security personnel and management of security personnel to be prepared with situational awareness and accountability. Simply put, if passengers trusted that TSA management and TSA personnel were not going to put our naked pictures online, then passengers would go through the x-ray scanner and be on their way. Unfortunately many passengers do not trust TSA management or TSA personnel. Why…because TSA management and TSA personnel have repeatedly revealed their lack of situational awareness and lack of accountability to those of us who spend much time in airports. This disconnect could very easily addressed and eliminated if TSA management was serious about ensuring ongoing preparedness, situational awareness and accountability at the individual level.
For those passengers who fail the x-ray scanner test, passengers and security personnel need situational awareness and accountability so the suspicious scan test can be addressed with additional questioning or with a body pat down or to take the suspicious passenger or terrorist off the flight.
Lessons learned are right in front of our eyes, but will TSA management, TSA personnel and passengers learn?