Hugh O'Rourke








As we continue our blog series focusing on three primary threats facing security professionals in the year ahead, we cannot ignore the rising statistics surrounding active shooter incidents. The FBI reports that the number of incidents in 2021 represents a 52.5% increase over the prior year and a 96.8% increase from 2017. Of the 61 incidents, more than half occurred in areas of commerce, although incidents in open areas, educational institutions and business facilities were among the top five in number of casualties.  

The average time between the initiation of an active shooter event and the arrival of law enforcement is 15 minutes. Given the extent of loss that can occur within this window, it is essential that organizations of every size commit to proven mitigation solutions. For this blog, MSA Security® thought leader and Vice President of Operations Justin Kelley shares his leading considerations.  

Current Threat Assessment | Regardless of the organization or type of environment, it is imperative that security professionals understand existing vulnerabilities – and they may be different today than they were last year, or even a few months ago. So, it is also important to consider the frequency of assessments. An independent and comprehensive threat assessment will identify security gaps and provide a foundation from which to develop or adjust a robust active shooter response plan. Depending on the organization, consider involving various internal stakeholders in the process who can represent different perspectives in shaping and defining the process.  

Real-time Intelligence | More informed decision making is always rooted in real-time intelligence. This meaningful data can be derived in a variety of ways depending on the organization. For houses of worship and educational institutions, it is essential to build working partnerships with local law enforcement and community leaders where the sharing of information can allow for a greater understanding of risk.  For larger enterprise, engaging an experienced security partner to comb and monitor online data sources is likely important. This intelligence can support stronger employee vetting and prevent hiring an individual with questionable integrity. Additionally, greater awareness of emerging threat trends or of the potential to become a target can assist an organization in proactively averting an attack.

Firearms Detection Canines | In a wide variety of environments, firearms detection canines provide an efficient and proven solution to the active shooter threat. In high-trafficked, high-profile deployments, such as landmarks, transit hubs, retail malls and office campuses, canines provide a less-invasive, speedy screening option without disrupting patron flow, throughput or operational efficiencies. Canines are trained with specificity to identify the presence of firearms and explosives, offering speed, versatility and mobility even in crowded areas. Their very presence serves as a strong visual deterrent.

Trained On-site Personnel | Bad actors intent on causing mass casualty are generally not deterred by recognizable security, choosing to neutralize or eliminate these obstacles. We see this time and again, particularly in school settings. Well-trained and covert on-site personnel, such as plain-clothes guards not immediately distinguishable as security, can provide a heightened security posture. In its 2021 Active Shooter Report, the FBI notes that the shootings at businesses closed to the public were committed by employees or former employees. This statistic makes a further case for on-site operatives who can discretely blend in with the operational environment, while serving in a surveillance role. They are in a unique position to regularly assess and collaborate with enterprise stakeholders to provide full and emerging intel on the threat landscape.


To learn more about how to identify and mitigate the active shooter threat that may pose a liability for your organization, schedule a consultation with one of our subject matter experts by emailing

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series focusing on the top three threats to watch in 2023. To never miss timely content from MSA’s subject matter experts, be sure to subscribe to our blog.


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