Safety and security risks are everywhere — at our places of work, schools, sporting events, concerts, shopping malls, government buildings and even hospitals. However, the security personnel tasked with protecting us can’t be everywhere at all times and often don’t have the information they need to prevent a potential incident.
As members of our communities, we know what normal looks like. We know when something appears dangerous, when a person is acting suspicious, or when a friend or colleague is in crisis. We see, hear and learn things every day that could help prevent a safety or security incident from happening. In fact, according to the U.S. Secret Service 79 percent of targeted acts of violence involve early-warning threat indicators that are observable and can help prevent those incidents from happening.
Unfortunately, the thinking of many safety and security professionals remains mired in post-incident emergency response — right of boom. Companies and school districts spend millions of dollars to harden their facilities with automatic locking doors, security cameras, fencing, high-tech emergency communications systems, massive architectural design changes, gunshot detection systems, and many other physical safety and security protections. While all of these things may be necessary, none of them have contributed to a significant reduction in costly safety and security incidents.
If known or unknown risks are able to develop into emergency incidents, it is most likely because your intelligence process failed to pick up on the early warning threat indicators that are present in the days, weeks or months leading up to most types of incidents. And the best sources of information on potential risks in your organization or school are the members of your community.
Community reporting of potential risks is the cornerstone of any safety and security risk management program. Reporting must be easy and intuitive, and should leverage technology that is readily available to our employees, students and parents. And reporting must be discreet, allowing for community members to share their concerns anonymously. Reporting of early-warning threat indicators makes our workplaces, public spaces, and schools safer.
Whatever your role, you will observe things that others won’t notice. It’s a matter of being intentional about what you observe and knowing when and how to share it. It’s a matter of mindset: everyone should be an observant bystander. Having better situational awareness—and knowing who to talk to about things we observe—is crucial to our collective security. Prevention is not a pipe dream.
When it comes to emergency planning, every business and every school does something different. It defies logic to ask them all to have the same prevention or response plan. But it’s entirely reasonable to expect them to have the same fundamental goal: Prevention. The only one-size-fits-all approach to safety is to focus relentlessly on prevention.
Let that begin anew today.