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How Grocers Can Be Prepared For Active Shooters

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by Jim Dudlicek / NGA Director, Communications and External Affairs

The recent tragedy at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, is a grim reminder that active shooters could appear anywhere, making it important for grocers to be aware of what they can do to minimize the impact of such attacks on associates and customers.

NGA hosted a recent webinar in which FBI Special Agent Michael Vuong offered guidance on how independent community grocers should prepare their teams in the event of this worst-case scenario.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Have a plan. It’s better to have procedures in place rather than trying to figure out how to react if and when it happens. “Try to prepare now – have a plan and practice it,” Vuong advised. Grocers should coordinate with local law enforcement on a shooter response plan based on their specific location.

Your first response should be to run. If you can, get out of the store and as far away from the shooter as possible. Keep your hands visible and follow all police instructions. Seek cover in the safest spot you can. Coordinate with neighboring businesses on offering mutual aid for safe spaces.

If you can’t run, hide. If fleeing the store isn’t an option, find the safest hiding place available – a bathroom, behind a freezer, a storage room, any place with solid walls or multiple layers between you and the shooter. Lock the door or barricade it with something heavy like cabinets or a refrigerator.

If you can’t hide, fight. Go for the arms first; poking eyeballs is generally effective, Vuong noted. Use an improvised weapon if possible rather than your hands (hurt them, not yourself) – try a soup can or a wine bottle. Coordinate attacks with multiple people. Try to control the attacker’s weapon; grabbing a firearm in the right place can cause it to jam or release its ammunition. “You are fighting for your life. Do not fight fair and never assume they’re incapacitated. Do as much damage as possible,” Vuong said. “Survival is your only goal.”

Other precautions. Consider installing a panic button that activates an alarm, summons police or closes a security gate to keep a shooter from entering the store. Also consider creating a “hard room” to protect people inside the store. Enhanced awareness also helps, Vuong said: “If you see something, say something.”

Additional guidance, including information about the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program and other training initiatives, can be found here.

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