Some travelers leaving AB Show this past November faced a small hiccup while trying to depart Orlando International Airport. An exploding camera battery put security on high alert, and the entire airport had to be evacuated. Transportation Security Administration officials on the scene told people waiting in security lines to drop their bags and run, while others were sequestered within jet bridges. It was a reminder of the unpredictable times in which we live.
"We have a saying: anywhere, anytime and for any reason." Those are the words of Greg Crane, founder and CEO of ALICE, a company that offers active-shooter training for organizations and individuals. The saying denotes the most effective way to think about the possibility of an active-shooter event. "When I started doing this 17 years ago, the most common thing I heard was, 'Yeah, but that will never happen to us,' " Crane says. "I think the pendulum is swinging from 'it will never happen to us,' to 'it could happen to us,' which has always been the reality, in my opinion."
Crane talks in acronyms and mnemonic devices that are a part of training someone to act in high-stress, life-or-death situations. The company's name, ALICE, stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. "We teach noise, movement, distance and distractions," Crane says, explaining how one should go about reacting to a shooter. From an individual standpoint, he promotes the idea that in most cases, the assailant is a lone gunman, attacking a large, captive crowd. Laying down in an unsecured area, he says, is not always the best idea.
"It's just a shooting gallery at that point," Crane says, pivoting to a spectator sports example. "If there's a lunatic with a handgun in my section of the north end zone, they're limited to about six to 10 bullets. He's going to run out of bullets in about three seconds. It's probably going to take us about three seconds to figure out what's going on, and those of us that are still able need to end it. You can't let that person reload."
Much of ALICE's clientele include establishments such as schools, churches, healthcare facilities and office buildings. When asked about the challenges inherent to securing sports stadiums, Crane admits that there's only so much a stadium or arena operator can do. Employee training and a good communications protocol are key to mitigating casualties. "For a large venue, the thing as an organization that we need to figure out is how will we effectively communicate about a danger in our facility to the masses as quickly as possible," he says. "That's the standard by which an organization that runs a large venue has to be judged: How did you inform those fans? And did you inform them in a timely manner?"
Crane also stresses the importance of internal communications: "How are staff going to relate what's going on? How are you going to coordinate your efforts?"
Rian Shea, a lieutenant with the Polk County Sherriff's Department in Florida, conducted a seminar at AB Show 2017 on how to prepare for an active-shooter event. He's reluctant to say people are "prepared" for what can only be described as chaos. "I don't know that they're necessarily prepared. I think that most of the large venues are taking the necessary steps to make preparations," Shea says. "I think everyone is in that process to be the best-prepared that they can be. A lot of people are doing site assessments and security assessments to see where their vulnerabilities are and then making recommendations to fix those vulnerabilities."
Shea says that money is indeed an object, even when it comes to keeping people safe. Like Crane, he admits that there's no such thing as a completely secure venue. "Target-hardening every outside venue is probably not feasible, so having other options at play is the next best thing."
Unfortunately, "other options" in part means admitting that the worst is possible — as we've seen again and again in places like Aurora, Newtown and Las Vegas, among so many others — and preparing for it. That average citizens are being called upon to react to the unthinkable during what should otherwise be a relaxing day at the ball park is a grim reality with which we all must come to terms. That said, the United States has yet to see an active-shooter situation at a major stadium or arena during a sporting event. We can only hope that through preparedness by facilities operators, as well as increased vigilance on the part of patrons, the next tragedy can be stopped before anyone gets hurt.
NCS4 Best Practices for Active-Shooter Preparedness:
• Develop and practice a plan with local law enforcement to deal with an active shooter.
• Establish observation and surveillance (a combination of human and video) around the venue.
• Pre-position response teams.
• Collaborate with all surrounding agencies that may potentially respond.
Note that the FBI and DHS offer programs to help schools develop plans.
This article originally appeared in the January|February 2018 issue of Athletic Business with the title "New Reality: Anywhere, anytime for any reason." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.