After a gunman proclaiming his allegiance to the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria rushed into an Orlando LGBT nightclub and killed 49 people this past weekend, the nightmare suffered by people in Paris, San Bernardino, Bali, and Kenya has continued to touch new types of soft targets.
Instead of trying to pull off large-scale attacks on internationally-recognized buildings like the World Trade Center's Twin Towers or embassies abroad, terrorists are focusing on soft targets, places like European cafes, office parties, nightclubs or malls. This tweak in behavior has put the small business owner squarely in the middle of acts of terror.
According to a report by the New York Police Department's Counter Terrorism Bureau, roughly one-half of 230 active shooter incidents in the U.S. from 1966 through 2012 occurred at commercial facilities, such as office buildings, factories and warehouses, and open commercial areas such as retail stores or restaurants.
"Bouncers and bar owners are on the front lines of terrorism," says Robert C. Smith, a former police officer in San Diego turned entrepreneur. His company, Nightclub Security Consultants, trains security guards and bouncers in the basics of police and counter-terrorism work.
Smith spoke with Inc. over the phone from Alaska, where he is hosting a two-day training class. "Think about what bars and clubs are: Ripe targets for anyone who wants to commit horrific acts."
Smith says that a few large-scale nightclubs called him on Monday to schedule a refresher training seminar after the shooting in Orlando. After Alaska, he'll fly to Las Vegas, then Miami and other cities.
"Bouncers need to have training in how to deal with an active shooter," says Smith. "It isn't just Columbine we should be worried about, or radicalized terrorists, it could be a bartender's ex-husband upset about a divorce."
Smith adds that without bouncers, the nightlife industry wouldn't exist as it does today. He says a business is only as good as its security protocols.
As a business owner, you have a responsibility to create a safe environment for customers. Smith suggests starting with thinking over a variety of worst-case scenarios.
"We knew planes were a threat to the World Trade Center before 9/11," says Smith. "Before Pairs, we knew terrorists could hit cafes and music venues and we knew before Orlando that terrorists could hit clubs. Why are we waiting to clean it up? Business owners need a plan, they need to be prepared."
The New York Police Department suggests creating a security assessment to determine a facility's vulnerabilities. Map out multiple evacuation routes and then practice evacuations under different conditions. Also, be sure to account for people with special needs.
The NYPD suggests training staff to first evacuate the building. If that is not a safe option, hide in a sheltered location. Lock the doors, cover windows, and shut off the lights. Lastly, the NYPD says to take action: occupants should attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the active shooter by throwing objects and using aggressive force.
Smith also affirms the import of vigilance and awareness. He says bouncers should talk to single males--especially if they are taking pictures and simply observing the room. Most terrorists and active shooters are single males, according to the NYPD's report.
That's long been the go-to strategy for a popular Manhattan nightclub, Cielo. "A lot gets filtered at our door," says David Mitchell, the general manager. "We've been around for 13 years and our staff is older and experienced and can sense something before it happens." Still, he says the nightclub has been re-evaluating its security protocols and working with the NYPD since Orlando. As a popular nightclub known for being LGBT-friendly--and as Pride month is under way--Mitchell says he'll beef up security at the door and throughout the club.
And no stranger to violence, New York City's Stonewall Inn is also upping its security. The Greenwich Village bar was the scene of a series of riots in 1969 that helped launch the gay rights movement in the U.S. "For us, we are obviously going to be more cautious," says Stacy Lentz, Stonewall's co-owner. "We understand what Stonewall represents, not just in the U.S., but globally. We are the mothership, the birth place of the gay rights movement." The bar hosted a vigil on Monday night for the 49 victims killed in Orlando that drew 5,000 people. "We feel confident that people will be safe and secure," Lentz says.
Still, she's not taking any chances. Stonewall will employ more security guards at the door and throughout the establishment. Staff will also check bags and keep a close eye on the surveillance cameras. Further, the NYPD's Counter Terrorism Bureau has posted officers with assault rifles outside of the landmark LGBT bar. Lentz adds that she will be putting all of her employees, from the bartender to the DJ, through emergency situation training.
"An active shooter is something we never had to worry about, but now we all have to know what to do in this situation," says Lentz.