The New Emergency Response: ‘Run, Hide, Fight’

In warning students and customers about active shootings, organizations must walk a fine line between preparation and fear mongering

If tornadoes and floods are the “new normal” for cat risk, add one more type of disaster: gunfire in malls and schools.

Mass shootings in public places like a theatre in Colorado are up, and that’s made risk managers and insurers take a closer look at how to protect organizations from armed violence. And how to prepare staff better for if and when someone opens fire.

It’s the subject of our cover feature for the August issue of Canadian Insurance Top Broker.

The most recent response to the perceived threat of an active shooter was a research paper by Marsh Risk Consulting. The paper breaks down what any property owner or manager needs to do to prepare and how they should respond—including what kind of insurance policies they will need.

“We actually conducted a survey in that [retail and restaurant] space, and this was one of the top risks they wanted to focus on,” says Tracy Knippenburg Gillis, one of the report’s co-authors. In addition to the research paper, Marsh also co-hosted a webinar for almost 200 clients.

There’s been a drastic shift in how some institutions train their staff and other constituency groups. For decades, the standard advice, particularly in schools, was to stay put, take shelter and wait for the police. That changed in 2012, when American authorities revised the relevant emergency response guidelines.

The new mantra, spearheaded by the departments of education, homeland security, justice and other agencies, is “Run, Hide, Fight.” The guidelines acknowledge that the last piece “may be daunting and upsetting for some,” but said that staff “should know that they may be able to successfully take action to save lives.”

If the guidelines are jarring, two videos based on them are even more disturbing—to great effect.

Earlier this year, the University of Alberta released a video based on the “Run, Hide, Fight” principle, produced in conjunction with other colleges and universities across the province. The video has been in the works for two years, since the Campus Alberta Risk and Assurance Committee identified shootings as a top issue for its members.

“The likelihood of this type of event is extremely low,” says Stack, who also chairs the committee. “However, the consequences are extreme. We just felt that it was a missing piece of our toolbox.”

The video has been widely lauded since its release in May, says Stack. Police services are praising it while several institutions have asked to use it.

But preparation is only one part of the solution. For more on how to respond to a crisis—and how brokers and insurers can protect their clients against the fallout—pick up our August issue.

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