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Mass Casualty Series Could Help Businesses Face the Horror

A nine-session series on how businesses can effectively mitigate, respond to and recover from an active shooter or other mass casualty event could make a big difference in an emergency.

Active shooter training
Independence police held an active shooter training session for staff of Pioneer Ridge Middle School on Tuesday. Feb. 17, 2015, at the school in Independence, Mo.
(Keith Myers/Kansas City Star/TNS)
A nine-session series on how businesses can effectively mitigate, respond to and recover from an active shooter or other mass-casualty event could make a big difference for those who participate.

For businesses unfortunate enough to be confronted with an active shooter or mass casualty event, there are a host of difficult issues to be dealt with in the immediate aftermath, and recovery is anything but certain. This series aims to help.

There is no magic formula for recovery and many businesses fail to reopen after such a disaster. But preparedness can help and that’s the purpose behind a seminar series called “Mass Casualty Impact and Recovery,” developed by Private Sector Preparedness Response and Recovery (PSPR2).

It’s a free series of nine 90-minute seminars on the third Thursday of the month (the first was held last week) for the private sector or anyone interested in learning how businesses can better prepare, respond to and recover from active shooter and other mass casualty events.

The series incorporates best practices and lessons learned from folks in the private sector who have lived through such an experience.

“We aim to provide critical infrastructure best practices, at the owner and operator level, on recovery and continuity resulting from mass casualty or active shooter events,” said Sonya McCormick, Public-Private Partnerships program manager for PSPR2.

“Our goal is to present and discuss best practices on phases of mass casualty event recovery with the short-, medium- and long-term effects.”

Businesses hit with such a hardship have to deal with issues ranging from cleaning up the biohazard left behind to reuniting employees with family, reuniting customers with family, and getting them the assistance they need for recovery to trying to reopen the business, sometimes in the face of community opposition.

“Oftentimes government approaches these things in silos,” said Jon Hanian, Public-Private Partnerships program manager for the Idaho Office of Emergency Management. “We have the response piece, the mitigation piece that happens before the incident and then we have the recovery piece, but businesses have to deal with it all at once.”

Hanian, who was approached by the Albertsons grocery chain about what tools are available to help the private sector, said that the series follows a continuum that offers lessons learned and best practices from before the event to during the event and then the aftermath.

“We had our introductory session, the next one is a crime scene focusing on what are all the things that you have to do when you have a crime scene in your place of business,” he said. “It’s yours and yet it’s not yours.”

The series continues through Nov. 16 with sessions that include crisis communications for media response, how best to keep the public and media informed, providing crisis support for staff, mental health support, reunification and resuming operations, if possible.

“You have to weigh how quickly do we turn this around and reopen and be sensitive to the community,” Hanian said. Sometimes community members are against reopening because of the awful reminders. “But you’re a place of business and it’s really a delicate dance that some of these businesses have to do once they’ve gone through these things.”

The first session resulted in 1,300 people from 49 states and 29 countries registering for the event, McCormick said.

“Our businesses are the heartbeat of our communities and it’s critical that they get back into business,” McCormick said. “Awareness is one of the keys. Even sitting in for a few minutes to gather information that ‘Oh, this can happen to me so I’m going to put together a basic memo of continuity of operations.’ Even one step is a step in the right direction.”