Apr 07

Are New Yorkers Prepared For A Terrorist Attack?

Are New Yorkers Prepared For A Terrorist Attack?

Michael Goodwin is a respected Journalist and I am a fan of his articles. However, on March 29th, 2016 the NY Post published an article titled: “New Yorkers are Frighteningly Unprepared for a Terrorist Attack”. While the story raises some important issues some information provided by Mr. Goodwin is not accurate, and some information provided by the NYPD for the article may not be accurate.


New York City passed Local Law 5 in 1973. Local Law 5 requires high-rise buildings prepare and practice a fire safety plan. Part of Local Law 5 requires certain types of buildings install, maintain, and periodically test a centralized building wide public announcement (PA) system to communicate with all building occupants. This requirement was implemented initially to allow the lobby to communicate with tenants and staff in the event of a fire. As a result, the majority of buildings in New York City can only make a PA announcement from the lobby. In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, New York City passed Local Law 26 in 2006 which mandates that commercial high-rise buildings (1,800+) create and submit Emergency Action Plans that details the responses to be taken for non-fire emergencies. Part of this law addresses the need for alternate means of communication for non-fire incidents.

When Michael Goodwin states:

“…do workers on the 20th floor of a Midtown high-rise know what to do if terrorists take over the lobby? Is there a single communications system in the building to alert people in various companies? Is there a person in a secure location responsible for delivering potentially lifesaving instructions? The answer to these and other critical questions is “Sometimes.” Some buildings have emergency plans and practice using them.”

active shooter escapeIn November of 2015 New York City announced that responses to an active shooter incident are now required as part of each building’s combined Fire Safety / Emergency Action Plan (FS/EAP). Building personnel are currently being retrained on active shooter protocols and taught the basic responses to an active shooter incident. However, the issue of communication still remains and the nature of an active shooter incident requires a different approach to protecting tenants. Active Shooter incidents are the only building emergency that is decentralized by design.

If a shooter were on the 20th floor, building occupants on other floors and front desk security in the building lobby would likely have no idea until a 911 call was placed. If the Fire Safety / Emergency Action Plan Director did become aware of an active shooter there still would be no possibility of giving specific tenants the correct direction. At best, the lobby would be able to make a general announcement and building occupants would likely hear:

“May I have your attention please? May I have your attention? We have a report of an active shooter on the 20th floor. Immediately activate the A-B-C protocols”

Tenants have to make life-saving decisions, not the front desk or some other individual in a secure location monitoring the shooter. Once you understand the dynamics of an active shooter incident it becomes clear that no other option is viable.

When Michael Goodwin states:

…about active-shooter situations where three main scenarios are discussed: run, hide and fight

The terminology used in New York City’s active shooter training is: Avoid Barricade Confront.

We certainly don’t want personnel running towards the shooter. Avoid means run away from where the violence occurs when you can exit safely. The term hide is passive and likely increases the probability of becoming a victim. In New York City we teach the term barricade, which is not passive; it is a course of action designed to increase the likelihood of surviving an incident. Confronting an armed shooter is an option of last resort, only used when the previous two options have failed. In short, the way to best prepare for an active shooter incident is not to rely on direction from the FS/EAPD. Rather it is to ensure that every person in the building understands Avoid, Barricade and Confront – and how to decide which to implement.

When Michael Goodwin quotes John Miller, NYPD’s head of counter-terror:

“Most are over quickly, lasting only between four and nine minutes”

According to the most recent FBI statistics – see: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-incidents/active-shooter-study-quick-reference-guide – 69% of all incidents (when duration could be ascertained) were over in less than five minutes. Half of those were over in two minutes or less. The police are not going to respond in time to prevent an attack. In fact, 60% of all active shooter incidents are over before police even arrive. It is clear that individuals need to understand their options and how best to survive. They need to know how to decide which option to choose, how they can get out, where they can barricade themselves in, and how they can fight and prevail if they have no other choice. They need to understand what structures will provide protection against a bullet and which will not. They need to know where the safest point in a room is in the event that the shooter fires through the walls into their barricaded place of refuge. In short, they need to know how to make the split-second decisions of what to do in order to survive an active shooter attack.

Over the past few years, Global Security Group, Inc. (GSG) instructors have taught active shooter response to literally thousands of corporate employees. Our curriculum goes beyond what is required by the FDNY and NYPD and was developed by former tactical firearms instructors at the FBI / DEA Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The same instructors that taught police and SWAT teams how to engage an active shooter have put together a comprehensive and effective block of training for civilian and corporate clients. And while we have taught thousands of individuals across the country what to do in order to survive an active shooter incident literally millions more must be trained.

For information on active shooter training please visit http://globalsecuritygroup.com/training/active-shooter-training/ or call 212-285-2400