small business active mass shooter training
(Justin Bedard/Market Mentors, LLC via AP)
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By Joyce M. Rosenberg

At a four-hour meeting last month, Michelle Abdow’s staffers got to experience some of the sights, sounds and even smells they could encounter if someone invaded their office and began shooting.

Security experts and local law enforcement officers gave Abdow’s 23 staffers active shooter training — explaining what could happen and what they could do to remain safe during a shooting at their company, public relations firm Market Mentors. The visitors acted out scenarios that helped staffers understand what a real shooting might be like.

“It was very intense, much more than most other training where people watch videos,” says Abdow, whose company is based in Springfield, Massachusetts. “But I surveyed everyone after, and there was not one negative comment. Everyone was grateful.”

The shootings in public places in recent years have made many small business owners and managers aware that they and their staffers need to be educated about workplace violence. They need to know not only how to improve their chances of survival but also how to recognize any warning signs, a possibility if the assailant is a current or former employee or is involved in a domestic dispute with an employee.

Security consultants and human resources providers say they’re getting more inquiries and requests for training sessions following this month’s shooting that killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart — than they did after previous mass shootings.

Engage PEO, a human resources provider, began getting more calls from small businesses after the February 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staffers and wounded 17 others.

“It went from almost nothing to a regular occurrence,” says Julie Cirillo, vice president of risk management at Hollywood, Florida-based Engage PEO. The inquiries range from asking about security cameras to a request for active shooter training for their staffs.

The shootings were on Abdow’s mind when she asked one of her clients, a company that provides active shooter training, to come to her company.

The training opened with staffers listening to a recording of a 911 call made by employees when a former co-worker entered their workplace and began shooting. The trainers explained what the caller did right, and wrong, in reporting the incident.

They talked about the mindset of a shooter during an attack, discussed ways of running and hiding, and gave tips like, silence your cellphone so the shooter can’t hear where you are. During the course of the session, they fired a gun so staffers would know how gunshots sound and smell.

The trainers also went over Abdow’s premises and pointed out hiding places. The local sheriff’s department, recognizing that the meeting was likely to be anxiety-provoking, brought a therapy dog to ease everyone’s stress.

Steven Grasso from Protective Advanced Safety Services (PASS) speaks during an active shooter training at the Market Mentors office in Springfield, Mass. (Justin Bedard/Market Mentors, LLC via AP)

Consultants like Cirillo advise business owners that the assessment of threats should begin internally — most workplace shooters are disgruntled current or former employees or someone in a turbulent relationship with an employee. Bosses and employees should all be on the lookout for signs of trouble. In 2016, there were 320 people intentionally shot to death in U.S. companies, according to Labor Department statistics. Relatives or domestic partners were responsible for 40% of the women killed in the workplace.

Engage PEO advises owners on what to look out for with troubled staffers, including those who are in difficult or violent domestic situations.

“We tell them to be aware of signs and symptoms of employees or spouses, even colleagues and co-workers, to be aware to take every complaint and issue seriously,” Cirillo says. For example, look for a change in a staffer’s behavior. Employees also need to learn that if a co-worker says they’re in a relationship that is or could turn violent, that the boss needs to know — even if the information was shared in confidence.

But many times, employees are afraid to speak up.

“There needs to be some sort of way for employees to anonymously raise a red flag,” says Heidi Wysocki, co-owner of First Defense Solutions, a security training firm based in Plano, Texas. While large companies have anonymous hotlines, smaller companies might want to use an anonymous texting program, she says.

Aurora Illinois Pratt Shooting
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Owners who learn that a staffer is struggling with personal issues should offer the company’s resources — for example, an Employee Assistance Program — or be able to assist the employee in getting help. If a staffer is difficult, becomes moody or distant and the owner has any reason to fear violence, they should consult with a human resources provider or employment attorney.

While owners can become unnerved by high-profile shootings and consider getting their companies prepared, many don’t follow through. Wysocki’s company has gotten more inquiries from small business owners since the Walmart shooting, but concern is often soon replaced by denial.

“We get a lot of, ‘I can’t believe it can happen here,'” Wysocki says. Concerns about workplace violence led Wysocki and business partner Ed Pietrowski to found their security training firm after 14 people were killed and 22 others were wounded by two shooters at a workplace holiday party in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015.

The July 28 shooting that killed three people at a festival in Gilroy, California, convinced Earl Jones that he needed to make his new office in Sunnyvale, California, as secure as possible. He’s planning to install a security system and get advice on how to make the insurance agency that bears his name safer.

Despite the randomness of mass shootings, Jones says he’s aware that many workplace attacks have been at the hands of disgruntled or unhappy workers or relatives of workers.

“That could have been my office. It could have been anybody,” he says.

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  1. I recently participated in such a training, led by career S.W.A.T. officers who do this on their off-duty time. Part of it was the usual run-hide-fight they try to drill into the public, but some of it was actual info for preventative measures.

    What irked me was the emphasis on running or hiding, and the discouragement of fighting or engaging an attacker. If you’re cornered and have no other choice, they said, pick up anything you find in your immediate space to use as a weapon or to throw at the shooter. You have to remember…this is Southern California.

    As I later relayed a summary of the course to my gun-friendly LEO friends back home, they snickered and said, “well, a gun qualifies as something that can be used as a weapon and throws something (really fast) at the shooter”.

    • Yeah, the courses usually say “remember, you have the right to protect and defend yourself.” Then they never mention weapons other than the copy machine, coffee mug, and a fire extinguisher. And then plaster “no weapons allowed in this building” on all the doors. No mention of body armor. So remember if a bad guy decides to start shooting up the office, you should get away and try not to die.

      Sure having a small pistol or any gun or knife may not save you. Even having a rifle in your cube, you be the first one offed. But having the option to fight back with lethal force would be nice. A decent number of killers have either killed themselves or fled as soon as their unopposed terror causing fantasy ended due to someone else returning fire at them.

      • I’m DoD Civilian and we get some active shooter training, not force-on force, but basic speak up if you see a potential threat, run hide fight. At a minimum I have a level 3A ballistic insert in my sling bag. I think it helps to have good relations with everyone in the building, it give a big picture of the current office atmosphere and you dont really have to be a profiler.

    • Securing the building and having a single entry point that has to be opened from the inside is a good start. If its a store front, there isn’t much to be done in this area except ensuring the employees know all the exits, the shooter still only has one entrance and can’t catch everyone if they scatter. It makes the shooter an easier target for anyone packing.

      Preventing someone from accessing the building in the first place is more desirable than dealing with them inside. In the least, CAC/Coded doors would slow down an attacker and limit the damage he can do. This would work for office settings.

      Having designated security with a CCL is a great option on front side (store front rather than back), monitor people coming in through the front door. Rotating the employee will help relieve the stress load from being alert all the time.

      Body armor isn’t much of an option here in Texas, unless you like slow cooking yourself or work in a building with super wonderful central air. In other states where its not so scorched earth, its worth using.

      Security costs money, cameras, drive way ringers, secured doors, but a gun is pretty inexpensive and effective for stopping spree killers.

    • Like allowing even certain approved and trained employees to be armed with concealed weapons?

      Nah. This is Massachushits. GUNS BAD!

  2. If they didn’t teach the difference between concealment and cover, or discuss the best ways to shoot back, it was just theater.

  3. The biggest issue is that Lawyers, Courts, and Insurance companies actively discourage any attempt by victims to meaningfully defend themselves. Most people are more afraid of those three entities than they are of an active shooter.

    • Actually Walmart was sued several years ago because they were stopping shoplifters. An enterprising lawyer call this “RACISM”. In order to save lawyer costs Walmart stop the practice of trying to stop shoplifters.

      They announced it the General Public. And since then shoplifting losses have skyrocketed.

      Most Walmarts by now have reinstituted the greeters in an effort to prevent shoplifting.

      • Since they started punishing people with a nickel fee for using a plastic bag everyone leaving looks like a shoplifter.

    • GunnyGene: “…actively discourage any attempt by victims to meaningfully defend themselves.”


      The Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro, NH just adopted a no guns policy for the museum. I wrote to the director. His answer was unsatisfactory. I cancelled my membership and support. What would a soldier out in a foxhole in France think about this misguided policy? Ugh.

    • That depends on the philosophy of the store’s owners and managers. Nebraska Furniture Mart is the biggest home furnishings retailer in the country. They have a very aggressive policy toward shoplifters. Their security people have chased shoplifters across the parking lot and taken them to the ground. If they have been prosecuted for using excessive force or sued, it hasn’t made the news. The local prosecutor supports self defense and the general public has little sympathy for criminals. NFM used to post “no guns” signs which have the force of law in Nebraska. A couple of years ago, they took them down.

  4. I am the Sheepdog at my workplace. And I have taken training from local gun instructors. And no one needs to know that I carry. I think it works better that way.

    • I’m the primary sheepdog where I work, too. They just don’t know it. But if the SHTF, they will be glad I’m here. Until then, I’m just the really, really enjoyable guy to be around.

    • Chris T in KY:

      I’m _the_ person in my synagogue. Some people know it and are glad. Officially, I don’t carry ’cause I just luv stupid rules. (Hee, hee, hee.)

    • I hope, for your sake and your family’s financial future, that you have signed up with one of the good self defense insurance providers.

      • I’m looking into to getting Self-Defense insurance. Copycats and Antifa are making it a requirement.
        I will just spend less $$$ on Hollywood anti-gun, anti-family propaganda films

        • ACLDN is a bargain for basic coverage. The only issue with them is that their war chest isn’t unlimited. CCW Safe claims not to have any limits on what they will spend on your defense. They also provide some useful, if not absolutely necessary, fringe benefits. However, they are much more expensive than ACLDN.

          Whichever one you go with, read the fine print very carefully. ACLDN won’t cover you if were carrying illegally even if it was legitimate self defense otherwise. If I read CCW Safe’s literature correctly, they won’t cover defense against domestic or romantic partners. That would make them of no value for a woman threatened by a former spouse or boyfriend.

  5. Ah, yes. Ways to anonymously report troubled coworkers. Tied into the Red Flag database no doubt.
    Stressed out? Passed up for promotion? Dog just died? Didn’t feel like singing “Happy Birthday” for Denise? Red Flag for you.

    • Can’t stand Denise, she’s always in everybody’s business. She’s almost as bad as Karen in HR.

      • Yes, but Karen has all the dirt on everyone in the office. I bring her bagels or donuts from time to time and tell her how well she did on picking out her new shoes. Keeps her smiling for a while.

  6. “Small Business Now Training Employees on Handling Active Shooter Situations”

    Here’s the problem with “training”, IF it’s not practiced all the time, ongoing and extensive, you never learn enough…physical hand-2-hand, CQB, shooting in general are all perishable skills…

    Training is a lifelong discipline, not some 3 day, 2 week, etc course one can take and be proficient…

    • Training is good. A trained defender is more likely to prevail than an untrained one. Ongoing training is better still. However, it needs to be acknowledged that absence of training doesn’t necessarily leave you helpless. Consider how many untrained people pull guns out of drawers, where they have lain untouched for years, and defend themselves successfully against home invaders.

      • Home invasion is a completely different topic from training in the workplace, which this article is all about…the two aren’t even comparable…

    • Without live sparing against resistant opposition any hand to hand training is just role playing while performing mental masturbation, at best.

  7. Many of these trainers lack experience have never been in a gun fight!

    Swat teams who have element of surprise and are calling the shots with tanks/armor and 20 machine-guns to swat a drunk is hardly good training on what a individual in a mass murder situation may face!

    If ur armed out in the open with ur family… running(with Family) to cover while shooting on the move is how u win fights unless its ur day to get shot 1st.

    Cover allows u to plan ur attack or escape with the family….

    Its not hard to learn how to shoot on the move or hit a moving target with practice.

    I imagine if caught in a grocery store Unarmed(why u not armed brah) the canned good section is the best place to hurl those big Dinty Moore Hearty Meal Beef Stew 20 oz Cans upside Attackers head 10-12 times might change things with ur best baseball pitch arm.

    Stay Armed Stay Safe its the only way to survive when police are too many minutes away!

    • A wine bottle applied vigorously and repeatedly to the back of the murderer’s head works well, too. Unless he had the foresight to wear electronic ear muffs, his first shots will have deafened him so he won’t hear you coming up behind him.

      Men usually are stronger than women. In the first photo, how well would the instructor’s defensive technique work if he and the female student exchanged roles?

      In a non-permissive environment, a defender will be limited to hand-to-hand techniques or improvised weapons. (In a non-permissive workplace, an employee who does anything but run or hide will probably be fired no matter how many lives he saves. It’s fighting back that they object to more than the method used.) A well sharpened pencil makes a pretty good dagger when rammed into a murderer’s throat or eye socket. If he has long enough hair, yanking his head back from behind with all your strength and weight, if it doesn’t break his neck, will cause major whiplash.

  8. What a fantasy article , what a laugh. Walmart is so damn cheep the only people I now see working there are retired people in their 70’s and 80’s willing to work part time for nothing. . I can just see these old people suddenly turning into the reincarnation of Bruce Lee or the hero cop from the movie “Walking Tall”.

    Perhaps a better plan would to put up machine gun nests in the stores with interlocking fields of fire along with trained customers who know to hit the dirt or take off running when they hear the Walmart door greeters yell, “INCOMING” meaning incoming fire from the local crazed maniac with an assault rifle. For the old people customers Walmart could take their present electric carts and armor plate them with 1/2 inch thick steel plating along with rocket powered emergency engines for get away mode.

    Store air ducts could be rigged up with smoke machines to flood the store with smoke so the shooter would have to fire blindly. Naahhh that would cost the cheap skate c.e.o’s to much money.

    • I had not really paid attention to who wrote this post until it was really getting stupid and then I zigged back to check. I should have known!!!!

  9. I dont know who this guy John Nettis is. But from the picture alone with no context. However many people were in front of that ARs muzzle. Most would have been shot.
    Smacking the side of the weapon holders head. Would reflexively get the person being smacked to pull the trigger. If some one could even get close enough to give them a head slap. I need more context then just that crappy picture.

  10. Most “defensive” courses like this are shit… they make us take one at work and it is total garbage.

  11. “…14 people were killed and 22 others were wounded by two shooters at a workplace holiday party in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015.”

    Is that the same as “some people did something”? So, “workplace violence” could mean a disgruntled ex-employee, an ex-intimate whatever or an Islamic terrorist attack, and there is only one response? Hide and wait for your turn to die, or arm yourself with a sharp pencil and volunteer to die first. How likely is it that an ex-whatever is going to show up with friends? How likely is it that an allah lover is going to be one of a group of jihadis?
    Julie and Ed are not so much “security trainers” as they are death councilors. As in, this is how you die for the cameras.
    One more thing, the “training” included a live fire demonstration so the local sheriffs office brought a therapy dog. Did the dog survive?

  12. “There needs to be some sort of way for employees to anonymously raise a red flag,”
    I am not in favor of anonymous call ins and reports. If it should be reported, back it up. I have seen too many office issues come up because somebody dropped something in a suggestion box anonymously. I have seen people pulled out of service and then found innocent, but there was nobody to track the complaint back to. When they were reinstated, they still had a cloud over their head. That’s a slippery slope.

    Overall the need for training is important, understanding what can happen, what has happened elsewhere and how to defend from it can benefit everyone.

  13. Possibly one of the most realistic benefits of active shooter training is that those people who will never carry or fight back may be more understanding of those who do, and may be less likely to “get in the way” during a real incident.
    By the way, in addition to small businesses, many church and other religious leaders are attending this kind of training, also.
    And please, help me push for restrictions on “gun-free” zones. They should not be allowed unless the business, gov’t site or other area has a written plan for protection of persons in the zone. Most decent plans should involve facility features, electronic features and SOME personnel who carry. I’m sad to say, even many “secure” gov’t sites are lacking this.

  14. In the grand scheme of things random shootings are a very rare occurrence. The overwhelming majority of people will never be caught up in such an event. MSM turns these rather infrequent events into an overblown spectacle Kabuki Theater to ginn up the willfully ignorant public into believing they need to surrender their liberties for the fantasy of worthless government safety. Situational awareness and ready access to a firearm are your best chances of surviving a lethal threat plain and simple. Ending gun free victim zones will do more than any worthless law or safety class will ever do. “Those who can’t be trusted with a firearm can’t be trusted without a keeper!” and “As long as a cop needs it SO DO I”

  15. My workplace (like most) is an adamantly “gun free zone.” Thus, the employees are considered expendable.

    I’m sure that the calculation has been made that it’s less expensive for such employers to pretend that they’re maintaining a “safe” workplace by declaring it a gun free zone — and so being able to claim that they’ve done “all they could” to insurance companies and ambulance chasing lawyers representing bystanders.

    I say bystanders because the employees themselves will probably be declared “workplace fatalities” (getting only that death benefit and their estates prohibited from suing the employer.

    Better multiple employees die from the perp’s gunfire than one gets hits by “friendly fire” by a coworker firing back — and who the employer “allowed” to carry on the premises.

    That’s the financial calculation. As said, the employees are considered expendable.

    Alas, I fear many more will have to die before employer attitudes change.

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