Keenan Blog

How Can You Stop an Active Killer?

March 06, 2018

In the wake of the deadly Parkland, Florida school assault, you may have many questions running through your mind. How can we protect our kids and our staff? What would we have done differently if this happened to us? Is there really anything we can do to stop an irrational killer?

The prospects are frightening, but no school or civic leader can afford to think there’s nothing they can do, or to believe that “it can’t happen here.” The list of these tragic events – from Columbine and Sandy Hook to Las Vegas and Stoneman Douglas – demonstrates any community is vulnerable. But this doesn’t mean we are helpless, and you can be better prepared to prevent or contain an active killer situation.

Keenan has worked with many school districts and other organizations in conducting active killer training and we have emphasized people taking preventive action. The human element is the most effective factor in preventing a devastating incident. Here are important takeaways to promote the human element and increase safety for schools and the public:

  1. Situational Awareness – Staff, students and the community can be trained to recognize people and things that don’t belong. In previous incidents, observant citizens have noticed someone acting nervously and suspiciously, trying to enter through an unusual route, wearing clothing inconsistent with the weather conditions, or see an unexplained package abandoned.
  2. See Something, Say Something – With situational awareness comes the need to report the out-of-place occurrence for law enforcement to investigate. Don’t let your fear of being wrong stop you from trusting your instinct that something’s not right. Educate your community how and where to report any suspicious activity they observe.
  3. Visual Weapons Screening – Provide your staff with training to help them identify individuals who may be bringing a weapon into a facility. Learn how to recognize unusually bulky attire, bulges in clothing or backpacks, or movements indicating someone is encumbered and concealing something. Contact police immediately if such things are observed.
  4. Red Flag Indicators – In nearly every mass casualty incident, the attacker made statements or acted in ways that telegraphed his/her intentions. From outright threats spoken aloud or posted on social media, to personality and behavior changes that may signal aggression, attackers frequently send up red flags that can be acted upon to proactively stop a massacre.

We’ve learned valuable lessons studying the aftermath of too many mass casualty attacks in schools and other public places. The human element can be the difference between life and death. You, your team, and your community can make that difference.

For more information, Keenan has provided a variety of free resources for schools and municipalities through the School Safety Center.

About Eric Preston
Eric Preston is Vice President, Loss Control Services at Keenan. He leads a statewide team of specialists assisting clients with services to reduce hazards, and improve property & casualty loss experience.