Active shooter and workplace violence incidents are a growing threat to businesses of all types, including public and affordable housing organizations.
In-depth employee training, incident response planning, and comprehensive insurance coverage are essential to prepare your organization for the unthinkable.
While standard general liability and property insurance policies can provide limited protection to organizations targeted in such attacks, coverage gaps are common due to the many ways losses can be incurred. Organizations can address these gaps by purchasing a deadly weapons insurance policy—also known as active shooter coverage or malicious assailant coverage—developed by commercial insurance carriers in response to the growing number of incidents involving an armed individual or group.
Active shooter incidents on the rise
The federal government defines an active shooter as "one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area," according to an FBI report released last year.
Between 2017 and 2021, the FBI reported 192 active shooter incidents (data for 2022 hasn't been released as of this article's publish date). This figure doesn't include shooting incidents related to self-defense, gang violence, drug violence, domestic disputes, and hostage situations, of which there are hundreds nationwide each year.
The FBI report highlights an upward trend in active shooter incidents in recent years. In 2017, an active shooter incident occurred, on average, once every 12 days. That figure dropped to once every six days in 2021.
Of the 61 active shooter incidents in 2021, 32 occurred at a business, such as grocery stores and manufacturing sites. In eight of those 32 incidents, the assailant was in some way affiliated with the business (e.g., current or former employees). Three of the 61 incidents in 2021 occurred in or near a residence.
The FBI noted an emerging trend in 2021 involving roving active shooters who shoot in multiple locations in a single day or various places over several days.
Why should housing organizations consider deadly weapons coverage?
Public and affordable housing organizations are responsible for providing safe and secure housing for their residents. Unfortunately, the risk of a deadly attack in these settings is a growing concern and can have devastating consequences for residents and staff, said Angel Fear, a regional manager with HAI Group's Account Services team.
A deadly attack at a housing organization can result in significant financial losses, including costs associated with emergency response, medical expenses, property damage, business interruptions, legal fees, and counseling services. Under certain circumstances, authorities may deem business operations must cease, and buildings cannot remain occupied for a certain period, necessitating the relocation of residents.
Deadly weapons insurance coverage can help cover these costs and minimize the financial impact on the housing organization. It can also provide peace of mind for staff and residents.
"Having deadly weapons coverage in place can help demonstrate to residents, staff, and the community that the housing organization takes safety seriously and is prepared to respond to a crisis situation," Fear said.
The basics of deadly weapons insurance
Deadly weapons coverage is typically purchased by businesses, schools, and other organizations at risk of experiencing a violent attack.
"It's a sad reality that this coverage is now necessary for public and affordable housing organizations in today's climate," Fear said.
Coverage is usually triggered by a deliberate attack by a malicious assailant intending to instill fear and cause as much loss of life as possible. Fear recommends a policy that offers broad form coverage that adapts to a range of circumstances and a wide definition of weapons.
"Most deadly weapons policies define a malicious assailant as someone in possession of a portable or handheld device, instrument, or substance used to inflict bodily injury," Fear said. "For example, an individual who uses a vehicle in an intentional act of violence can be considered an armed assailant."
Emergency response costs
Site surveys/threat assessments
Preventative training for employees
Business interruption costs
Aside from helping a housing organization respond to and recover from a malicious attack, deadly weapons coverage usually includes services that can help organizations prepare for and prevent such incidents.
"In some cases, deadly weapons policies cover the cost for policyholders to access services to assess their risk of a deadly incident, conduct site surveys, develop comprehensive security and incident response plans, and train employees," she said.
Deadly weapons insurance is generally a location-based policy, meaning the policyholder provides the insurer with a schedule of locations that require coverage. Fear said some housing organizations elect to cover office space only, while others cover their entire portfolio of properties.
Preparing for and preventing the unthinkable
Deadly weapons insurance coverage is not a substitute for taking proactive steps to prevent an attack from occurring in the first place. Public and affordable housing organizations should have a comprehensive security plan, including training for staff and employees, to reduce the risk of a shooting incident. As noted above, deadly weapons coverage can assist in these risk mitigation efforts.
Physical security measures are a critical prevention measure, Fear said. These measures include security cameras, locked fences and gates, building access control, call boxes, and security lighting.
"These are examples of proactive steps you can take to shore up security rather than just hoping an attack doesn't happen to your organization," she said. "An organization with little or no physical security measures can be denied deadly weapons coverage because of its increased risk profile."
In a session on active shooter incidents during HAI Group's 2022 Risk Control Conference, Tom Veivia, president and founder of 302 Consulting Group, LLC—a security and crisis management firm—said that while physical security is crucial, organizations should consider a holistic approach that includes an internal threat assessment and management process.
Veivia, a former FBI agent, said deadly attacks on businesses closed to pedestrian traffic are usually by someone internal, such as a disgruntled employee.
Individuals that engage in workplace violence experience multiple stressors leading up to an attack. These stressors are physical, psychological, or social forces (e.g., relationship conflicts, mental health episodes, financial strain, drug abuse, injuries, death of a loved one, etc.) that place real or perceived demands on an individual, Veivia said.
"Maladapted coping behaviors lead to violence," he said. "It's a domino effect, and the last domino is violence. We want to intercept them before they get to that last domino."
Veivia said organizations should conduct regular security surveys and assessments to identify individuals who pose a risk of violence. He recommended that organizations create a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team representing various departments. Veivia suggested working with a certified threat manager to coach and guide the threat assessment team.
The team's goal isn't to predict violence, but to prevent it, Veivia said.
"A cardiologist can look at your risk factors, your lifestyle, and conclude that you're either at a low, medium, or high risk of a cardiac event," Veivia said. "They can't predict when you will experience such an event, just that it's a risk. It's the same as a threat assessment."
Veivia said the goal shouldn't be to punish low-risk individuals but to attempt to mitigate the stressors these individuals are experiencing. How can you predict if someone will become violent? Individuals often leak their intentions to someone in their inner circle before an attack. Employees should receive training on how to pick up on and report these cues, such as changes in social behavior, paranoia, repeated violations of company policies, and talk of severe financial problems. Imminent threats should always be reported immediately to 911, Veivia said.
"Even a small piece of info you provide could prevent a tragedy," he said. "We are hardwired to detect danger but socialized to ignore it. If your hair stands up on the back of your neck, that's a clue, and we need to trust that."
Do you need deadly weapons coverage for your public or affordable housing organization? Contact your HAI Group account executive to start the conversation.
Includes copyrighted material from a company under the HAI Group family, with its permission. This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice, and shall not be relied on as such. We strongly recommend consulting with legal counsel or an appropriate subject matter expert.