CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The topic of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, has reemerged in the news recently. Looking back two years, it was at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, 2016 when a 29-year old state licensed security guard opened fire at the Pulse Nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. This incident ranked as the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBT community in the United States, and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. At the time of the incident, it was the deadliest mass shooting by a single subject in the U.S., but was surpassed in body count a short 16 months later by the Las Vegas shooter at the Mandalay Bay hotel.
We know the shooter declared allegiance to ISIS during 911 phone calls he made to police during the hostage portion of this incident in Orlando.
Now, two years later, there are some valuable lessons for personal safety that we've learned from this event. Let's look at this in three categories; the facility, the attendees and the police. As they say, hindsight is always 20/20, so nothing here is written as criticism, but simply an opportunity to share much needed safety and security considerations to those who may utilize them in the future.
Security of any facility begins not at the front door, but at the property line and works its way in. In recent documents filed in court regarding this fateful night, it seems that the off-duty police officer working security at the front of the building, was not located in the most effective position at the moment the shooter entered the nightclub. In the security business, it has long been known that no matter how good your security plan, the human factor is always the weakest link. I've seen this time and again, where a facility hires off-duty police officers and then does not hold them to the safety and security plan established for that location. For example, standing their post until properly relieved by a doorman, a security officer or whomever might be able to give a first alert of impending trouble. In this incident, according to reports, the off-duty police officer did engage the shooter, but the shooter was able to bypass the officer and access the facility.
There are reports that at least one door had to be unlocked by an employee that allowed at least 70 patrons to escape. In this day and age of unpredictable violence, business owners of any entertainment venues must now consider every option for egress should an attack like this occur in their facility. They must ask themselves if during these stressful situations, is their property designed to allow immediate escape in either daylight or darkness.
Every entertainment venue owner should commission a facility security survey to be conducted, both for their own liability and for the safety and security of their patrons.
The responsibility of safety does not only fall upon the business owner and the police. At the end of the day, it's the patron who is ultimately responsible for their own safety and security. If you frequent entertainment venues, you must be sure of where the exits are located (always find more than one), and ensure that those exits are accessible. I know we go to fun places to have fun. However, nothing is more important than your own personal safety. It may take a couple of minutes to locate the exits, but on a night like June 12th, 2016, I'm sure there are many who wished they had taken this additional precaution.
Another lesson learned during this incident, is that often, restrooms do not provide an adequate location to shelter in place. In this case, the restrooms simply provided a focal point for the shooter to find multiple patrons contained in a small area. Unfortunately, the shooter took direct advantage of this, firing multiple rounds into those gathered inside restrooms. It would seem like the escape option of continuing to move toward an exterior exit would have been appropriate in this case.
I would never try to second guess the actions of a police officer in the middle of a gunfight. But we know from numerous after-action reports from across the country, that specialized training in active shooter situations is still something that's greatly needed. Time, budget and manpower constraints all come in to play when it comes to receiving, and administering, training programs within law enforcement agencies, but time spent training is time spent learning how to save lives, and such training should receive a great deal of community support and government buy-in.
Every situation that occurs, is a learning experience for not just the police agencies involved, but through the sharing of information, multiple agencies across the country, and the world, can become better prepared to deal with the next incident that is already in the planning stages, by some nefarious character lurking in the background.