A Rude Awakening

The recent events in Ottawa and Quebec that resulted in the death of two members of our armed forces certainly woke us up. It is still to be seen how the security landscape will change based on these events in the long term. Although many sources called them terrorist attacks and some comparisons were made with 9-11, I do not believe this is accurate. Terrorist attacks are meant to create fear by conducting gruesome deeds and taking as many people down as possible. Terrorists take time to plan and coordinate an attack and have a certain level of sophistication. The events here in Canada didn’t have a long planning cycle and were not sophisticated. These attacks were inspired by terrorism, but seem to be the acts of mentally disturbed lonely people acting on their own. They were susceptible, due to their mental state, to the ideas of radicalism as preached by ISIL.

In the short term, the events have resulted in increased security around official celebrations as experienced during Remembrance Day. Also the government is expediting the plans to give the country’s security forces greater powers in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest. In the private security world it has also lead to some changed policies in malls and around events. Increased security measures may not be kept in place over time, as these horrible events prove to be isolated incidents.

What is still a concern is the response, or lack thereof, to a shooter incident. There was panic and a general sense of not knowing what to do among the public and security personnel. Members of the public were confused and started to run either towards the gunshots, away from them or decided to stay put. It is essential that security personnel are being trained on how to deal with an active shooter. They need to direct the public, give correct advice when being asked and lead by example. This may result in the right approach if an incident should happen. There is no time to think in the moment and security guards should be able to fall back on their training and act accordingly. Some companies have decided to train their guard force more thoroughly to mitigate some of the risks surrounding a shooter incident. Malls are particularly vulnerable since easy access is essential to their operations. Hence the decision of many retailers and property management companies to train their employees. Mall and in store security personnel have an important role to play. They can prevent a panic response and lead the members of the public by giving direction and showing them what to do. Unfortunately the question is not if an active shooter incident will take place, but when. The preparedness of all involved will have an influence on the outcome. A rude awakening may lead to some measures that will result in a better response to violent events in an increasingly violent society.

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