Are You Ready For the Next Shooting?

               Military leaders are often accused of preparing the army to fight and win the last war instead of preparing for the next one. It sounds like an obvious mistake, but it is hard to ignore what you know and what you experienced and instead try to analyze or anticipate the unseen challenges ahead.

            Security is no different. Following the latest crime trend or horrific shooting, law enforcement and security professionals figure out what went wrong that time and immediately react by building training and response plans on that event. It is very easy to allow that tunnel vision to keep our focus on the last crime instead of being prepared for different variations. (Read more on crime trends and fads)

            The recent school shooting in Marysville, Washington is a reminder. Many recent school shootings have involved a crazed student or outsider, targeting students for no particular reason. School shooter training has often focused on the response once the first shots have been fired and how to lockdown and secure students in the classroom.

            It is important to remember that these types of active shooters are still relatively rare. Workplace violence, including school shootings, comes in many different forms and often involves disgruntled employees as well as unhappy customers. In fact, while researching my latest book, Workplace Security Essentials, I was somewhat surprised to find that violence at work is almost equally caused by co-workers and customers.

            Another common motive is revenge for domestic situations. The spurned lover seeking revenge. That seems to be the motive behind the shooting in Marysville. A 15-year old student was ‘heartbroken’ after a break-up with his girlfriend. He posted various comments on social media about how devastated he was and that he didn’t know how he could go on without her. For reasons still unclear, he lured his victims, but not the former girlfriend, to meet him in the school cafeteria where he shot them without warning, killing one on the spot and another who died later in the hospital. He then shot himself as a school faculty member rushed him. 

            So what are the lessons? This shooting caught everyone who knew Jaylen off guard and was not expected at all. Some of the traditional threat assessment models taught to schools would not have necessarily alerted anyone to the threat. Most of us probably shake our heads and wonder why a 15-year old could get so upset over a relationship at that age. And yet, we accept, at least on some level, that domestic violence and revenge does happen between adults. Thinking more about it, it only seems odd that we would not ask ourselves why we would expect teenagers to handle highly emotional relationships better than some adults do. 

            Clearly, if school faculty becomes aware of a student upset or troubled about a relationship gone wrong, it is a good idea to pay attention to the situation. Domestic relationships might not be our first thought when thinking about motives of school shootings, but shouldn’t be overlooked either. 

            Remember that violence is caused by different things for different people. What may not bother one person, could greatly trouble another and even incite them to rage. Schools and businesses need to keep that in mind and take any situation with elevated emotions seriously.

            It is impossible to say how every potentially violent individual may or may not tip their hand in advance. Continue to focus on both the recognition of warning signs as well as the actual response when shots are fired. There is no simple, easy answer for every possibility, but avoid tunnel vision and avoid focusing on what happened in the last shooting.

Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate

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