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Active Assailant Capable Guardian: Instruct, Evacuate, Shelter, Defend


During an active shooter/active assailant event, law enforcement officers are taught to “run to the gun.” Likewise, civilians are taught to run first, using the Department of Homeland Security’s “Run, Hide, Fight” mantra. However, between those who run to the gun and those that run from the gun, there exists a large percentage of people who have an obligation to the safety and security of others first. In this large grey area, organizations have had a difficult time trying to explain when people should run and when they should stay to protect others.

After training more than 100,000 people on active shooter response, Threat Suppression found that this chasm of uncertainty is creating a significant problem for both individuals and organizations. Left with uncertainty, employees are given either inaccurate information (we would never expect a kindergarten teacher to run and leave the students) or given information so vague (do what you think is best) that employees are uncertain what to do. To combat this, Threat Suppression developed the program “Capable Guardian: Instruct, Evacuate, Shelter, Defend™.”

Capable guardians are people within organizations to which others would immediately look to for guidance during an active shooter event. The 2010 Kraft-Nabisco shooting in Philadelphia showed the court’s expectations for capable guardians. In this case, two unarmed security guards saw a man with a gun entering the plant and ran as instructed. Two women were killed in the plant. The jury awarded the families $38.5 million in punitive damages against the security guards. The guards were found liable for the deaths of deaths of two people and the critical injuries suffered by another. The court stated the guards had an expectation to notify and assist people in the plant with running, hiding, or fighting.

This jury judgement in the Nabisco case set a precedence that people in “capable guardian” positions must focus first on the safety of those around them. Just as no one would expect a kindergarten teacher to run from her students during an active shooter event, the same expectation is true for other capable guardians. A capable guardian is anyone that that the public would have reasonable expectations that this person would provide guidance and instructions during a crisis. This term applies to teachers, hospital staff, business supervisors, security guards, and more.

In 2017, the Transportation Security Administration came under intense media scrutiny when TSA officers were the first to run during the Hollywood International Airport shooting. The TSA officers were all performing as instructed. The two-minute TSA active shooter instructional video stated that all TSA employees were to run first in an active shooter event. This resulted in many civilians unsure of where to run or what to do, as all of the security personnel quickly evacuated first.

This presentation focuses on many important components of the capable guardian concept. To understand how to manage people during times of duress, the participants are taught about the concepts of mass hysteria and crowd contagion. The participants are also taught about research-based findings of human behavior during times of crises. The behavior is often dependent on several factors. One mitigating factor is the presence of a competent, identified, capable guardian.

Participants will also learn about several theories of crisis, including the Chaos Theory, the Theory of Strange Attractors, the Butterfly Effect, the Feedback Effect, the Cumulative Act Effect, and the Swiss Cheese Effect. Dipping into quantum mathematics, participants will learn how Einstein’s Theory of Relativity plays an integral role in how crises form and behave. Each one of these theories helps to explain how crisis events follow predictable paths. By understanding the theories, the capable guardian can work to “push” the event down a terminal path.

Participants will also learn about employee active shooter/active assailant training, and some of the many common pitfalls that result in ineffective training. Participants will learn that many of the most significant man-made disasters in history were the result of faulty organizational culture. Participants will learn what do as a capable guardian during the attack and after the attack. Participants will also learn about the legality of requiring adults to follow emergency directions during times of crisis.

This presentation teaches the concepts of the capable guardian and the steps of “Instruct, Evacuate, Shelter, Defend™”. This is an essential course for any workplace that has employees that are considered guardians of the employees, students, patients, staff, and visitors. This course teaches employees how to respond during an event to minimize loss of life and prevent harm to the public. This course can also be held as a train-the-trainer course. 

Participants of this course will also examine multiple case disaster and crisis case studies. Research shows that most crises occur because of deeply rooted problems with organizational culture. In many major man-made disasters around the world, officials were convinced that engineering design and human behavior would prevent the disaster from occurring. However, in every case, multiple failures occurred that resulted in catastrophic disasters.

On March 8, 2019, Threat Suppression staff presented this course to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. On March 16, 2019, the University experienced their first reported active shooter event on the campus. On March 22, 2019, the University of Michigan announced that they were adopting the Capable Guardian training course and would offer the training to 18,000 university employees as well as students.

To download a PDF copy of this course, please click here. If you would like more information on booking this course, please email, or call 1-800-231-9106.


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