It's a problem from hell--and one that companies would be wise to think about before it's too late: What do you do if there's an active shooter in your office?

In April of 2018, a woman named Nasim Najafi Aghdam shot three people at YouTube's San Bruno, Calif. headquarters because she was reportedly angry about how the Google-owned company handled her videos. In July of that same year, a man named Jarrod W. Ramos shot five people at the office of the Annapolis, Maryland Capital Gazette, ending what was described as a years-long grudge against the 30,000 circulation local paper. 

Add to this, shootings in Pittsburgh (11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue by an anti-Semitic gunman in October 2018), Sutherland Springs, Texas (26 people killed in November 2017), Charleston, South Carolina (9 people killed in a racist attack in 2015), as well as attacks on schools such as Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida (17 people killed at in February 2018) and it's easy to see that there are few places immune to the epidemic of gun violence. 

"It's an increasing problem in so far as statistics show active shooters and workplace violence are increasing year on year," says Stacey Blau, co-founder of Miami-based 5326 Consultants, a security and investigations firm. "Every institution, every entity needs to be concerned with guarding against an active shooter situation. It can happen anywhere and it does happen anywhere. And, of course, it happens in the most vulnerable places, places that are 'soft targets' and don't have great security in place."

Enter Openpath, a three-year-old startup based in Los Angeles that created a key-less, fob-less access control system for businesses. Openpath, which sells hardware and cloud-based tools that make office entry easier using a smartphone app, just announced a new lockdown solution designed to make your company's safety planning a little less daunting.

Users of Openpath's system can upgrade to a customizable one-touch lockdown system to limit access in the event of a shooter, enable exits in the event of a natural disaster, or deal with almost any scenario your company may experience. James Segil, Openpath's president and co-founder, says the cost will depend on the number of doors covered and the size of the organization, but says it will cost in the "tens of dollars per door, per month." The lockdown feature was not a part of Openpath's original release, but is being rolled out as concerns around safety have grown nationwide.  

It will also be free to Openpath users who work at nonprofit organizations, as well as schools and places of worship, something that the executive director of a Los Angeles synagogue who asked that her temple not be named for security reasons, found reassuring when she decided to implement it. 

"We've always been aware of our doors and what was closed and opened," she says. "After the Tree of Life incident in Pittsburgh, all synagogues across the U.S. became more aware of security ... It's scary. We're aware we work in a synagogue. We're aware people don't want us around."

"We needed access control," she says. "Up until this past year we only had keys. Keys are difficult. Keys are easy to copy, easy to never get back." With Openpath, she says, she can change someone's access in seconds as well as lockdown her synagogue from anywhere. "It makes it simple for me to make this a welcoming a place and a safe place."

Safety is an essential component for any access company but in recent years, the worst-case scenarios have become a lot worse. Openpath, which has raised $27 million from Emergence Capital, Sorenson Ventures, Bonfire Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Fika Ventures, consulted with LA-based RAS Consulting & Investigations to conceive next-level approaches to next-level concerns.

"It came from a place of frustration," says Segil, a serial founder who previously co-founded content delivery system EdgeCast Networks (sold to Verizon in 2013), customer-interaction management tool KnowledgeBase Solutions (acquired by Talisma in 2005), and e-commerce and web-hosting application service Virtualis (acquired by Allegience Telecom in 2000). "There are moments when our whole company feels powerless as we watch the world around us. We have an increasing number of houses of worship, schools, and businesses [at risk]. Everybody is experiencing the same thing."

"I can't change gun control laws," he continued. "There are a lot of things I can't do. What I can do, because I'm in the physical security business, is I can enable and empower people who manage physical space to be a little bit better about how they safeguard that space."

There are many access control systems from companies like Honeywell, ADT, Kisi, and others that offer an array of solutions for the security concerns of their clients, but Segil like to think that Openpath serves as a kind of smart building platform, able to integrate with third-party apps and hardware. 

While the lockdown system is a smart feature, 5326's Blau cautions that no single tool is the ultimate fix. "If somebody thinks technology is a panacea or a wholesale substitute for the human element, that's always a mistake. People still need to be trained, they need to be on guard, skeptical."

"People simply think, 'This is not going to happen to us. We're too small, we're too this, we're too that,'" she says. 

Segil, for his part, hopes that no one ever even needs to use Openpath's lockdown mode. "I don't want my feature to be used ever," he said with a long sigh. "It being used is not a good thing, that means bad things are happening."

Published on: Sep 4, 2019