Taking proactive measures to minimize an active shooter incident at a meeting or event has become a paramount concern for planners.

The “Duck! Duck … Goose! A Crisis Experience for Those With a Sense of Humor” educational session at MPI WEC 2019 featured an active shooter simulation that drove the issue home, albeit in a non-threatening way, as it featured a shooter armed with a Nerf Blaster gun pelting cowering attendees with foam darts.

The “Duck! Duck … Goose!” session at MPI WEC 2019 was led by:

  • meetings industry attorney Tyra Hilliard;
  • counterterrorism and security professional David Lau;
  • and featured meetings risk management educator Alan Kleinfeld.

The session provided succinct and solemn real-world scenarios and advice for planners.

The session also featured valuable collaboration from its audience of meeting planners, who provided their own advice and examples of security risks and strategies to keep attendees safe.

Watch the video below for the segment that featured a Nerf Blaster active shooter simulation and valuable tips to safeguard your meetings and events, and perhaps identify active shooters:

9 Tips to Guard Against Active Shooters at Meetings and Events

Following are nine tips and strategies for meeting planners to mitigate the threat of active shooters and other emergency situations:

  1. Know the venue: Identify two ways, if possible, to get out of the meeting room fast.
  2. Some doors need keycards to open, but that often can be overridden by pulling a fire alarm.
  3. Sometimes the only way to get out is the way you got in.
  4. Sometimes you may need to “make a door”: Because the interior of most buildings in the U.S. are made of sheetrock, you may be able to punch holes in it to make a “hasty breach,” or punch holes to create a “ladder” to climb up to a place you can exit or hide.
  5. Ask venues to send you an evacuation plan and information on all emergency exits, so you can make your own emergency exit plan.
  6. You are responsible for our own life, and your attendees are going to follow what you are doing.
  7. Add locating emergency exit locations to your site inspection checklist.
  8. If a venue won’t give you their entire emergency exit plan because of security reasons, ask for a scaled down version—something is better than nothing.
  9. If a venue won’t give you their entire emergency plan, ask them about specific scenarios: “If this event happens, what do I as a meeting planner do?”

[Meeting Today Podcast: Active Shooters – What Meeting Planners Must Know​]

“Do you have a plan for that, and can you walk me through it? What happens when there is a fire alarm that goes off? What happens if there is a weather event?

“What happens if the power goes out?”

Body Language That May Help You Identify an Active Shooter

Lau stressed that meeting planners should always maintain “situational awareness.”

“The mind navigates the body, and the body will never follow where the mind is not willing to lead,” said Lau, an Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran who was nearly killed by a combatant in a suicide vest. “If you know where to look, you can tell if someone’s under emotional distress and they’re trying to hide it.”

10 Tips for Identifying an Active Shooter

Lau’s tips for identifying potential active shooter threats include the following:

  1. Facial flushing: A potential active shooter’s face may go red as blood rushes to their head if they’re angry or getting amped up to begin shooting.
  2. A pale, pasty facial complexion: Alternatively, some people will look pale as the blood runs out of their face when under distress.
  3. Rapid blinking.
  4. Rapid breathing.
  5. Increased swallowing, because agitated people can sometimes get “cotton mouth.”
  6. Increased body grooming, such as their hands unconsciously going to where a pistol may be hidden. Because most people are right-handed, it’s likely the right hand will be doing the grooming or feeling for the hidden gun.
  7. “Checking their six”: Look for people who nervously look behind themselves rapidly.
  8. Pacifying behaviors, such as rubbing themselves to soothe their nerves.
  9. Nervous pacing.
  10. A fixed stare, known as the “predator stance.”

A Brief Tutorial on How to Use an AED

Many event venues—though not all of them—offer AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, that even untrained bystanders can use to assist a person who is suffering from a cardiac arrest or other emergency heart incident.

Most states in the U.S. have laws that protect untrained responders that are forced to use the equipment in an emergency, and the AED kits are equipped with very simple automatic audio instructions that instruct users how to use them on the spot.

The session at MPI WEC 2019 featured a brief familiarization of the devices, conducted by a staff member of the Metro Toronto Convention Center.

Watch the AED demonstration video below:

Another Resource for Meeting Planners

Risk management specialist and meeting planning veteran Brenda Rivers’ has penned a workbook, The Meeting & Event Risk Management Guide: How to Develop a Customized Risk Management Playbook, that provides a comprehensive set of checklists and scenarios to help meeting planners mitigate the threat of active shooters and other emergencies at events.

[Read This Next: NFPA 3000—A New Standard for Active Shooter Response]