The Australian-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee recently
released guidelines for planning and responding to a situation
where a person uses a gun to threaten others at a transport hub,
office building, shopping centre or other place where people gather
in large numbers.
The Active Shooter Guidelines for Places of Mass
Gathering (the Guidelines) provide a useful
risk management tool of which property owners and managers should
be aware, and which could potentially form part of their risk
Why have a plan for mass shootings?
In September, the world was shocked by images from the Westgate
shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where attackers killed 61
civilians and security personnel during a four-day siege. While we
hope not to see such events repeated, the enormity of the crime in
Kenya makes it easy to overlook how frequently mass shootings
occur, even in more developed nations.
In the United States of America alone, in the short time since
the Westgate Mall siege there have been more than 30 reported mass
shootings in which four or more people have been wounded or killed.
Most readers would expect that for cultural, political and
historical reasons, the prevalence of mass shootings in that
country would be greater than in Australia. However Australians
should not be too complacent about the potential for an armed
individual or individuals to cause havoc at a venue where there is
a large concentration of workers, shoppers or leisure-seekers.
What are the key messages in the Guidelines?
The Guidelines are categorised in accordance with
Australia's strategic approach to counter-terrorism, which
encourages stakeholders to Prevent, Prepare, Respond and
'Active shooter' incidents cannot always be prevented,
so 'prevention' here includes reducing the severity or
impact of an event by developing strategies that gather
intelligence and identify vulnerabilities in order to reduce the
impact on life and property.
Deter, detect and delay intrusions by using physical and
electronic security measures.
Ensure protective measures are proportional to the level of
Coordinate a plan for 'active shooter' incidents within
existing emergency response plans.
Assess the local characteristics of the venue and identify
particular targets for shooting incidents.
Have a flexible response plan that focuses on protecting lives,
facilitating evacuation, containing the threat and supporting
In the initial stage of an event, evacuate occupants where safe
to do so, hide occupants securely where evacuation is not possible,
and consider whether taking aggressive action is necessary to
Consult with local law enforcement agencies when developing
Know how you will be expected to assist emergency responders
when they arrive to assume responsibility for the situation.
Consider how information will be disseminated to the public and
how community confidence will be restored.
Recognise the importance of preserving the scene of the crime
and assisting with investigation activities after the event.
Ensure that business continuity plans accurately reflect the
need to allow police and investigators to complete their work.
The Guidelines include checklists which are valuable reading for
all landlords and property managers, especially for venues where
people gather in large numbers and where attackers can threaten or
cause significant harm to persons and property before emergency
services have time to respond. The Guidelines identify separate
response priorities for managers responsible for these venues and
also for individuals who may become caught up in such an
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