Unfortunately, we are surrounded every day with reports of violence and acts of terrorism that feel too close to home. Operating facilities which have the opportunity to serve thousands of people each day is an incredible opportunity, but also a great responsibility. If your facility becomes a target, how you have prepared your staff can have an effect on the outcome of the situation.
Training for the Worst to Perform the Best
Work with your local law enforcement and fire departments for determining the best course of action for different scenarios within your facility. Each facility has its own unique challenged and opportunities in regards to patron safety, which should be taken into account when developing threat-specific action plans. Above all, guest and staff safety are paramount, but how does that work when your staff are responsible for minors during swim lessons or day camp programming? Do they have a responsibility to usher the children to safety before protecting themselves or is that out the door once someone starts shooting? You will need to work with local law enforcement, decision-makers in your organization, and neighboring facilities to determine the right answers to those questions for your facility. Once your plans have been developed, practice them consistently with staff so in the event of an emergency, the process is second nature to them.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) worked with other partners to develop a short video outlining the choices when faced with an active shooter situation, which can be found here . While the video is extremely informative on your options and when to choose each option, it is mostly designed for those in an office building environment. Most of the time, these situations happen quickly and law enforcement do not arrive on scene until after the incident is over. How do we handle these situations when we have a small building, a large, open waterpark space, and 2,000 guests? Your local law enforcement will assist you in making that decision, but most typically say that it’s best to run and exit the park at any exit point. Make sure staff are aware of emergency exit gates, which should always remain unlocked during business hours. Staff who are stationed at the top of waterslides have the option to hit the emergency stop on the slide and hide in the flume towards the middle of the ride until it is safe to exit.
Other Types of Disruption
Perhaps there is a violent eruption, such as a fight or domestic disturbance in the facility which has a specific target in mind. Management who have established a presence on deck and staff who are consistently speaking with customers are more likely to spot these occurrences before they escalate. Even with the best managers, situations happen. Train staff for how to properly separate the individuals, take statements in an area where all parties are safe, and how to resume normal operations, relocating people as necessary to a different part of the facility.
The danger may not always be in your facility, but it can definitely affect your operations. Your slide towers are high points that are visible from far away. If there is a danger outside your facility, you may need to evacuate your slide towers to ensure staff and guests are safe. In these situations, it is not uncommon that you or your staff are the first to notice there is a need to lockdown your facility. Law enforcement are busy protecting the immediate scene of the danger and may not have time to pop in and warn you of impending danger. Make sure to close off any areas where someone may be in danger and move them to a part of the park where they will be safe. In recent news, there was a facility in Oregon where the lifeguards had prepared for an active shooter situation and implemented their training when a shooting happened at the adjacent park. Read more on the story here .
Prepare for After
One thing these all have in common is that at some point, they will end. Make sure you have a process for how you will ensure staff are safe and accounted for. Select a meeting place offsite for those who are able to flee the scene. You should prepare an emergency bag (or several) located at exits to the facility that someone (usually management) will grab on the way out. The bag should include staff names, emergency contact information, pictures of each staff member, and a current schedule. These tools will allow you to assess who is missing, who to contact in case they are injured, and a picture for law enforcement to help identify them if they are wounded or injured and still in the facility. Violent incidents will have psychological and emotional impacts on staff. Make sure you have a process set up to debrief after the incident with professional help present and determine when it is best to re-open the facility and allow those involved to return to work. Every situation will be different and require a different response, but putting the tools and training into place to effectively prepare staff for a violent incident will increase the probability that everyone will escape physically unharmed.