Former SWAT Leader Shares Insights on Active Shooter Preparation

David Trask| March 24, 2021

Captain Mike Bolender, founder of the Peaceful Warrior Group, is actively touring the nation helping facilities teams prepare for active threats. While he’s been personally involved in two active shooter events, Bolender stresses the need for a comprehensive approach to preparedness and response training that addresses multiple types of active threats.

We were fortunate to feature Captain Bolender in a recent webcast called, “Active Threats—A Universal Approach Preparedness and Response Training.” During the session, hosted by Facility Executive Magazine, Bolender reveals the strategies and tactics he uses as part of his three-pronged approach to training.

We encourage you to watch the webcast, but here are a few tips, strategies, and knowledge we took away from Bolender’s presentation:Emergency & Life Safety

The Importance of Time

According to Bolender, there are two types of clocks during an active threat.

  1. The Assailant/Threat Clock: how long it takes before the threat is neutralized.
  2. The Casualty/Victim Clock: how long it takes to treat victims.

Essentially, everything boils down to time. That is, you want to reduce the time it takes to eliminate the threat as well as the time it takes to treat victims. Bolender highlights how important it is for people to recognize a threat quickly and communicate the right message to the right people.

“Part of the reason I’m partnering with ARC [for this webcast] is because when you can save time and make things happen quicker, you’re going to save lives,” he said.

Think Active Threat, Not Just Shooter

As mentioned earlier, during his trainings Captain Bolender continuously emphasizes the importance of preparing for a multitude of threats, not just active shooters. These events could include:

  • Vehicle Ramming
  • Knife Attack
  • Explosive Threat/Attack
  • Terrorist Attack

In fact, Bolender recommends not restricting your training to just these events. As the name implies, “A Universal Approach,” applies to any event that’s a threat to safety.

The Three Most Common Gaps

Bolender cites gaps in prevention, response, and trauma care for bystanders as the most common issues he sees in facilities teams’ emergency plans.

In the webcast, Bolender outlines strategies to avoid common gaps in these three areas with a three pronged-approach. This approach includes strategies specific to prevention, response and first care.

A few strategies he mentioned (among others) were:

  1. Increasing the time it takes the shooter or threat to reach victims.
  2. Increasing the time that the shooter or threat is “problem-solving.” For example, trying to get through locked doors or other obstacles.
  3. Decreasing the time it takes to inform first responders about the situation.

Anticipate and Prevent Attacks

Bolender acknowledged the difficulty of prevention, noting the layered factors that contribute to the likelihood of an event. That said, he wasn’t without solutions. Here are four that he covered:

  1. Empower staff: Get everyone to recognize that prevention and preparedness is everyone’s job.
  2. Warning signs: These vary, but a few examples include personal vendettas, romantic failures, delusions, or perceived injustice.
  3. Reporting mechanisms: Many people know about an attack beforehand; you should have an anonymous and open line of communication with people in your organization.

Bolender made a point to warn us that identifying threats beforehand is very difficult. For example, while many active shooters have had a history of mental health issues, some of them didn’t. In other words, there’s no box you can check that indicates whether someone might launch an attack; it’s always a combination of factors.

Conclusion: The Peaceful Warrior’s Final Takeaway

When asked what his one takeaway for the presentation was, Mike Bolender pointed out the importance of having immediate access to floor plans and structural characteristics. He recounted the day that he served as Incident Commander during an active shooter event at a Sikh temple.

The building occupants on site were sketching out diagrams of the building because it was going to take too long to access the floor plans. He said, “When I saw this [ARC], it took me right back to that day, and how much I wish I would have had access to their solution.”

To see what Captain Mike Bolender wished he’d had during his last active shooter event, schedule a demo, or, watch the live demo at the end of the webcast.


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