Now more than ever, the world has seen an increase in the number of threats to our schools, colleges and universities. One of the deadliest events in U.S. history occurred in April 2007, where 32 people were murdered on the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. More recently, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida had claimed national attention with the murder of 17 people. The increased prevalence of school shootings requires public risks managers to think more proactively about how to avoid risk, manage threats and adopt effective mitigation techniques for all threats.
During PRIMA’s 2018 Annual Conference, it was evident that risk managers across the globe have been thinking about this issue in a critical light. The 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.”
In addition to recognizing active shooter costs created by the potential loss of life, risk managers must be able to identify the effects of an active shooter from psychological, dental & medical costs, personnel disruption costs, business Interruption and countless others to appropriately address them. It was not until attending the annual conference that I realized risk managers not only play an essential role in reducing the likelihood of an active shooter event, but also in the stages throughout and after the event has already occurred.
One session that struck me was “Active Shooter/Workplace Violence Insurance and Risk Mitigation Consumers Buyer’s Guide” led by Paul Marshall from McGowan Active Shooter Programs and Diane Howard from the Palm Beach County School District. Marshall and Howard did an excellent job in framing the hidden costs posed by active shooters and workplace violence situations. For example, in San Bernardino, the families of the victims are seeking $58 Million in compensation. Another example would be the Virginia Tech shooting, where the courts had awarded families with an $11 Million settlement. The compensation claims from an active shooter event cover all the associated costs from applicable parties that can be somewhat costly to organizations. As a product of Palm Beach County Schools, I was pleased to know Howard and her team was thinking preemptively to address the collateral consequences of an active shooter situation through acquiring insurance coverage for their school systems—the first of its kind for Palm Beach School District.
It was an honor to be selected as a student scholar for PRIMA’s 2018 Annual Conference because I was able to understand the greater depth of public risk management that existed within my community as well as innovative approaches to addressing risk. As a young professional interested in working in the field, the benefit of being a part of an organization such as PRIMA is that it serves as an excellent resource for information and best practices. Moreover, I realize that for me to be a capable public risk manager, I must be able to think about risks holistically and laterally to address all the costs associated with any event.