Avoid, Deny, Defend – What is it?

Avoid, Deny, Defend is a program developed by the ALERRT Center at Texas State University for training people about what to do if they are involved in an active shooter incident (an individual is actively engaged in trying to kill other people).  According to an FBI study of such incidents, there were 160 from 2000 through 2013 and the rate at which they occurred steadily increased during that time period.  Recent events indicate that rise in the rate is still occurring.  The fact that slightly less than half of all such incidents took place in a commercial setting should be of concern to all business owners, including agency owners.  The “it can’t happen here” belief is refuted by the fact that such incidents occurred in 40 states and the District of Columbia during the study period.

That belief leaves most people unprepared when an active shooting occurs and leads to an increase in the death toll.  The Avoid, Deny, Defend program seeks to inform people what they should do in such situations to protect themselves.  As with many such programs, it seems to be mostly common sense when you think about it.  First, you should AVOID the shooter by seeking to get away from his or her location.  This requires a person to be aware of their surroundings and in particular, where the exits are.  If you can’t get away from the shooter’s location, DENY him or her an opportunity to shoot you by putting as many barriers (e.g., closed and preferably locked and barricaded doors) between you and the shooter as possible, turning off the lights, hiding from sight behind whatever large object (e.g., desk) you can find, and turning off your smart phone.  Only if you can’t avoid the shooter or deny him or her an opportunity to shoot you should you DEFEND.  In doing so, be aggressive and don’t fight fair.  This is about survival, so there are no rules.

The ALERRT Center website has a video that demonstrates the principles of the Avoid, Deny, Defend program.  The FBI website also has a video on this subject that can be downloaded.  It’s title is more direct, “Run, Hide, Fight.”  The Department of Homeland Security has an extensive resource page on this subject, that includes links to an online course for managers and employees and a 90 minute webinar on how to prepare for and respond to an active shooter situation.

Like life insurance or in my profession, Wills, this is a subject most people don’t want to think about, much less discuss.  While those two things are important, the failure to take action with respect to them is not life threatening.  Not knowing what to do if confronted with an active shooter situation can be fatal.  Offering information on this subject to your commercial lines customers can be another way to distinguish yourself from other agents and agencies.  It can be part of your discussion with such customers about their business risks and how best to insure and otherwise protect against them.  If done in partnership with your local police department or even on your own, a presentation on this subject can put you in front of potential new customers, for both commercial and personal lines policies.