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Active shooter risks are real — and in the news

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GRAPEVINE, Texas — The morning after an intoxicated, belligerent man opened fire in a packed bar in Kansas, killing one person and injuring two, risk management experts told a packed house of restaurant and retail risk managers that active shooter risk is something businesses cannot ignore. 

Lance Ewing, executive vice president for global risk management and client services at Katy, Texas-based Cotton Holdings Inc., pointed out the coincidental timing of his scheduled talk Thursday at the CLM & Business Insurance Retail, Restaurant, and Hospitality Conference in Grapevine, Texas, happening the day after the headline-grabbing incident at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. 

“You need to know what your plan A and plan B are … you need to practice this with your employees,” he said. “Your best option is to run, hide, or fight … but the best plan is to be prepared.”

As part of his presentation, Mr. Ewing highlighted a number of active shooter incidents, using Bureau of Labor Statistics data to map out where events are happening; the map and headlines show no locality or business is immune, he said — even in a large conference room in a large hotel, he added to the conference attendees sitting in such a space.

He also cited data that shows a lion’s share of active shooter incidents typically occurring in public establishments where people are having a meal or spending their vacation: 27 % of active shooter incidents occurred in retail establishments and 15% in hotels in 2015. 

Meanwhile, other data shows a high turnover rate of employees in such industries — upward of 80% for restaurants — making it imperative for employers to constantly reinforce their emergency plan for employees in those industries who come and go. 

A new front in preparing for such a tragedy is “vulnerability testing,” Mr. Ewing said. “We do it for cyber, why not this? … Can somebody walk into your business, pull out a weapon and begin shooting?... Know your situation.”

Because of greater awareness and the risk of active shooters — a catchphrase that lends itself to any time a person aims to attack people in an establishment by surprise — the insurance industry is now providing more products that help businesses grapple with such events, according to Jeffrey Mahon, Dallas-based claim executive for American International Group Inc.

Some products include money for funerals and counseling, training for employees, money to bring in outside experts to help workers understand what to do in the event of an attack, he said. 
“Insurance will not stop an active shooter situation; all it will do (is help) with your post-incident,” he added.  

Panelist Marsha Bonner, Irving, Texas-based vice president of risk management at FelCor Lodging Trust Inc., gave attendees insight on another active-shooter possibility: armed customers who are allowed, by law, to open carry weapons.

She encouraged businesses to create policies on how establishments address open carry — many in restaurants and hospitality cater to friendlier clientele with children, and opt to tell customers that they cannot have their weapon out in the open, she said. 

“One chain restaurant has jackets and sweaters for people who open carry; that’s one practice,” she said. 

“You want to educate your employees; you also want them to know how to respond,” she added. “What is our policy? Who’s going to do what and when?”