Soft Target Security

Blurred, defocusead background of public event exhibition hall. Business trade show or commercial activity concept

On August 27, 2018, the latest in a series of multiple fatality shootings in the United States occurred in Jacksonville, Florida. Participants attending a video gaming tournament had gathered at the Jacksonville Landing Complex, an open-air shopping mall with stores, bars and restaurants. David Katz, a 24-year-old gamer from Baltimore, Maryland, was in Jacksonville for the tournament. On Sunday, he brought a gun into the venue and opened fire, killing two people and injuring eleven more. Then he turned the gun on himself.

It is not clear to what extent the tournament organizers had included security planning in their preparations for the competition. We do not know whether a Risk Assessment had been carried out or what access control measures were used. It is also unknown as to what, if any, Crisis Management Planning was in place. Some victims accounts indicate that individuals ran from the scene while at least one hid in the bathroom. These reactions are in line with the Department of Homeland Security advice to: RUN. HIDE, FIGHT.

An active shooter scenario is defined as an individual, who is armed with a weapon who has entered a specific location such as a shopping mall or sports venue and has caused physical harm or threatened to cause physical harm to innocent occupants. An active shooter is not typically associated with an armed robbery, hostage taking, kidnapping, assassination, or other weapon related crimes. However, a terrorist incident is similar in nature. The motivation is different, but both should be managed similarly. The victims are usually random or targeted because of their workplace, school, physical location, or other commonalities. The scene is typically dynamic and fluid. Active shooter scenarios are typically handled by law enforcement, once on the scene. However, security guards should be trained and mentally prepared to provide an initial response. Their initial response and procedures will help to reduce loss of life and/or physical harm to employees and customers. As part of a Crisis Management Plan, a Crisis Management Team should be assembled and activated to handle internal and external ramifications from an incident of this nature.

Employers should have mitigation plans in place to prevent such incidents starting with a comprehensive Risk Assessment. Rigorous access control measures must be followed to allow entry only to eligible individuals (i.e. ticket holders) and to check for concealed weapons. The challenge for retail establishments is that customers have to be allowed access, however during certain types of events all patrons should have their bags checked for weapons. In these cases, metal detectors should be installed at entrances to sporting events, event staff should be properly trained on searches and response plans . A Crisis Management Team should be appointed to manage threats. Escape routes and potential safe havens should be identified and communicated to employees and regular drills carried out in rehearsal for a potential incident. Clearly, shoppers or sporting event spectators will not be around for rehearsals but should be guided by store security officers or event stewards when an incident occurs.

On occasion there will be a requirement for VIPs/Senior executives to attend sporting fixtures and other crowd relates events and where applicable they should be supported by a security team. A thorough risk assessment must be carried out prior to the event and measures to mitigate identified threats include:

  • Thorough reconnaissance of the venue and routes to and from
  • Identification of extraction routes within the venue
  • Liaison with venue management
  • Identification of nearby medical facilities
  • Liaison with local law enforcement
  • Positioning of vehicles for extraction of clients as close as possible to the venue for swift evacuation
  • Identification of safe havens adjacent to the venue in case complete evacuation is not possible from the immediate area.

Merletti Gonzales International Security Consulting have experienced, professional staff to advise on the most effective measures to protect your venues by:

  • Conducting thorough Risk Assessments
  • Advising on the most effective Access Control measures
  • Training your security teams
  • Audit of existing security measures
  • Advising on physical and electronic security matters

We can provide top of the range individuals or teams for comprehensive Executive Protection. Our personnel, many of whom have served on Presidential and Vice-Presidential Security teams are available to provide a superlative service in this field.