After there’s an incident, Scott Zimmerman usually sees a spike in calls.
Zimmerman is a Frederick resident and the founder and CEO of K17 Security in Rockville, which provides services including security awareness training, risk and vulnerability assessments, and active shooter response training.
Zimmerman said he saw a dramatic increase in calls after the shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, in which a gunman killed 17 students and staff, especially from private schools looking to update their security plans and communications systems.
He hasn’t seen a similar number of people checking on his services after a man killed five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis on June 28.
But June and July are always his slowest months, and companies may be hesitant to do new training during the summer, when people are traveling or out of the office more, he said.
According to the FBI, there were 250 active shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2017, killing 799 people and injuring 1,418.
The year with the highest number of incidents was 2017, with 30, followed by 2010 with 26 incidents.
Joseph LaSorsa, a former Secret Service agent who runs the security firm LaSorsa & Associates, said he also gets more calls after a shooting.
“There is an increase every time there is an incident,” he said.
LaSorsa said he works with clients on their hiring process, as well as prior incidents, past litigation, and people who may be looking to cause problems.
With many companies having restrictions on how much information they can release about past employees, it makes it more difficult for other companies to thoroughly check out a prospective employee.
“That’s only a piece of it. But it’s a strong piece of it,” he said.
The shootings and the media attention they create has led to more calls to law enforcement and to companies like Zimmerman’s to teach workforces and leaders how to respond in a crisis situation and how to make their buildings less vulnerable to them.
The Frederick Police Department offers crime prevention consultations and site surveys to provide recommendations for how to improve secure access to a building and other tips, said Lt. Paul Beliveau.
They also provide active shooter training, but they don’t have the manpower to do many classes, he said.
The department and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, along with Frederick County Fire and Rescue, the Frederick County Health Department, and the Frederick County Office of Emergency Preparedness, are looking at scheduling a training summit in September where companies and others can learn about many of the areas that they’re commonly asked about, including dealing with an active shooter situation, stopping bleeding by a victim, and dealing with opioid addiction, Beliveau said.
They hope to have the summits several times a year, in order to combine their resources to provide information to as many people as possible.
With active shooter incidents on the rise, everyone should have basic training that they can employ whether they’re at work, at home, or just out somewhere in public, Beliveau said.
Most offices don’t have a set of in-depth emergency response guidelines, and when they do, it’s often just a template that other offices in the company might use, rather than designed for their specific location, Zimmerman said.
People need to know what to do and what their role will be in a situation, he said.
When he first started doing response training in 2009, he often had to convince people that a shooting could happen in their workplace.
“That is not the case most times [now],” he said.
The move toward more open workspaces has made his job harder, with offices that have a lot of glass or a free-flowing design often offering little that would impede an attacker from moving around, Zimmerman said.
He and his clients also battle the difference between safety and the need to be open and available to customers and the public.
“It’s a constant issue,” Zimmerman said of how to be welcoming and inviting to the public while also remaining secure.
He said many consultants like a mix of visible and less obvious features that can help foil an attack.
Having a few visible security features can be a deterrent, but with many attacks pre-planned, you also need features that can’t necessarily be detected by someone scoping out a location in advance.
“Anything that is overt can be documented, and you can find a way to work around it,” Zimmerman said.
Hard security features can be a deterrence, but they can’t fully eliminate the threat, LaSorsa said.
Ultimately, preventing targeted violence can only go so far.
Security features may prevent a person from getting into an office, but it’s only prevented it at that location, LaSorsa said.
“It just depends on how badly I want to do it,” he said.
Someone planning an attack may visit the location to look at security, and things such as when employees usually go to lunch or when deliveries are made, Zimmerman said.
Less overt security features that can’t be spotted in advance may be more effective in actually stopping an attack once it’s begun, he said.
But creating a more secure environment includes numerous steps, from training employees in what to do in an emergency to physical changes to make an office or environment more secure.
“It’s a multi-pronged process,” Zimmerman said.