Safety and OSHA News

How Best Buy prepares its employees for active shooter incidents

The FBI recently stated in a report, “We now live in the age of public shootings.” Here’s the training program Best Buy developed to defend against this growing safety threat. 

The annual number of “active shooter” incidents has continued to rise since 2000, according to the FBI. There was one incident in 2000 and the FBI recorded 20 incidents in its database in 2015.

What exactly is an active shooter incident?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as:

“An individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Most incidents occur at locations in which the killers find little impediment in pressing their attack. Locations are generally described as soft targets, that is, they carry limited security measures to protect members of the public. In most instances, shooters commit suicide, are shot by police, or surrender when confrontation with responding law enforcement becomes unavoidable.”

Missy Bertrand, Senior Manager of Enterprise Safety, Best Buy, in Richfield, MN, described how the major retailer developed an active shooter training program at the recent ASSE Safety 2017 conference in Denver.

Best Buy’s training approach

Bertrand went to senior leadership with facts on the threat of mass shootings to the retailer, including:

  • there were 12 active shooter incidents within two miles of Best Buy locations within a three-month span
  • the workplace is the No. 1 location for an active shooter event
  • Best Buy employees requested training, and
  • there’s been civil unrest throughout the country.

Best Buy has retail space and large warehouses, so it evaluated the needed training based on each location.

The company has 1,400 retail locations nationwide, and it created online training with a video showing the Run-Hide-Fight methodology. The video targets all employees, is required annually and is then reinforced with store drills.

The company also has 35 warehouse facilities in remote locations. Best Buy worked with local police departments and created Run-Hide-Fight training for leadership in each location.

The training is in a classroom setting, and the police aren’t present. Bertrand said a police presence during the training was deemed too intimidating for employees.

Warehouse leadership also gave police a tour of their locations.

Lessons learned

As Best Buy went through the process, Bertrand said these were the lessons learned:

  • Hold training during non-peak hours, so you don’t scare workers or start rumors when the police arrive. Always communicate the reason in advance for the police presence.
  • Communicate to workers that the training is not in response to a threat.
  • Consider rally points during drills so you can get a head count. Some police departments recommend this, while others don’t. The advantage is that an employee head count can be taken; the disadvantage is if a current or ex-employee is the perpetrator, they’ll know the location.
  • Provide a blueprint of the building to the police. Most departments can download the document and, if a call comes, responders will be better prepared.
  • Have an Active Shooter code. Best Buy had codes for fire alarms and severe weather to announce over radios and the intercom, but realized it didn’t have one for shooters.
  • Don’t pull the fire alarm in a shooter event. You may send employees directly into the line of fire.
  • Ensure phones are available to call 911. Most Best Buy employees aren’t allowed cellphones on the floor, so how could they call 911? The company placed landline phones throughout the locations.
  • If an incident occurs, it’s better if more people call 911. Responders can then gather the facts from several people.
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  1. A few thing which concern me on their “plan”… While it speaks of valid options like rally points and codes, it says nothing of run, hide/barricade, fight. For extreme situations such as an active shooter event, it is very important people have an easy plan to remember and execute (like ride/hid/fight). I also don’t like the emphasis in the plan on ensuring everyone has phones with another measure to maximize the number of calls to 911. I would rather have people thinking first to run, hide, fight. Calling 911 can come after they’ve escaped or they’ve finished the fight. I would not recommend calling while hiding unless they are absolutely sure they can do it safely. I certainly would not want them thinking first to call 911 when they should be getting the hell out of the way.

    In 2012 nine Air Force Advisers were killed in an active shooter event in Kabul, Afghanisan at a Dining Hall from a green on blue incident (Afghan gone bad against US/coalition forces). One of the lessons learned there came from the fact that one female adviser was shot and killed while holding her phone attempting to call security forces. Instead of going for the M-9 on her hip, she chose to call for help, exposing herself to the shooter. Since then Adviser training has changed dramatically. This isn’t to say Best Buy employees need to bring their guns to work and be prepared to fire back. The point is keep the instructions simple and designed to ensure the safety of the individual first before they attempt to report the event. Run/hide/fight… Then call.

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