Risk & Security

December 31, 2015       Andy Segedin      

Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino Calif., site of the terror attack that killed 14 and injured 17 on Dec. 2, had recently participated in active-shooter training. Leeza Hoyt, a spokesperson for IRC, confirmed that the center’s staff had undergone active shooter training but could not reveal specifics.

The IRC site is made up of three buildings, according to Hoyt. Building 1 and Building 2 house IRC offices while Building 3, the location of the shooting, is used for conferences and community events.

Building 1 and Building 2 were to be reopened after investigators return access to the facilities to the landlord and the cleanup process is completed. It is anticipated that the two buildings will return to previous operation, providing social services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Hoyt said that she was not privy to any potential changes in security procedures and that it is too early to tell what those might be.

Client services are up and operating. Given the nature of the center’s work, many IRC employees worked in the field anyway, Hoyt said. Efforts have been made to ensure that staffers have appropriate electronic devices to work while the office is closed and have access to their messages. IRC has looked into securing an off-site location to accommodate any intake sessions that would have previously been held in Building 1 or Building 2. “The team is rallying,” Hoyt said.

The mass murder in San Bernardino was the second shooting at a nonprofit in less than a week, coming just five days after an attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs that left three dead. With nonprofits’ value in the community not precluding them from acts of violence, managing security and risk are climbing up organizations’ priority ladders.

Peter Persuitti, managing partner of religious and nonprofit practice at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (AJG) in Itasca, Ill., near Chicago, was impressed by the collaboration between first responders and IRC’s leaders in the wake of the attack, adding that it can serve as a lesson for other organizations. “Quite frankly, what struck me about this incident was how well the community and the nonprofit worked on this,” Persuitti said. “I keep saying that we have to come out of our organizations in the contexts in which we reside.”

IRC is a client of AJG’s Glendale, Calif., office. Persuitti declined to go into further detail regarding IRC’s account.

Creating a relationship with first responders is an easy but important means of preparing for a potential violent action, Persuitti said. In addition to establishing communication and fostering a familiarity with employees and facilities for first responders, first responders might also be able to provide training nonprofits would otherwise turn to their insurance carriers or a third party to receive.

“Risk management is no longer just me sitting in my office and getting trained,” Persuitti said. “It’s the networks that will be the safety nets in the future. If there is one thing that a nonprofit can do today, it is reach out to local first responders.” Relationships with local religious institutions might also be valuable, he said, citing the response of houses of worship in the aftermath of the IRC shooting.

Insurance coverage for unexpected, potentially devastating incidents such as violent acts and cyber breaches are sometimes covered under general policies, but specialized policies are able to provide additional services such as notifying clients of a breach or assisting with employee trauma. Persuitti acknowledged that some organizations might not be in position to handle the fixed costs of additional coverage and thus would be wise to set aside dollars on a regular basis to save for response in the event of an incident. “It’s probably a contextual question in terms of the cost to the organization,” Persuitti said. “Is the organization in a city? Does it service children? The first step is just knowing that these things are out there.”

Eileen Richey, executive director of the Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA) in Sacramento, Calif., of which IRC is a member, said that ARCA participated in a conference call the day after the attack with California’s Department of Developmental Services’ emergency services coordinator. Information and resources were passed along to the state’s 21 regional centers, Richey said. IRC services 30,000 clients in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, Richey said, with a staff of about 670.

Centers throughout the network are revisiting emergency plans in light of the events at IRC, Richey said, a process that ARCA, as a trade organization, has not been actively involved in. “I think the incident at Inland Regional Center changed the world for us,” Richey said.

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center in Leesburg, Va., has developed an active-shooters fact sheet, said Executive Director Melanie Lockwood Herman. The report shows that 160 active shooter incidents took place between 2000 and 2013, killing 486 individuals and wounding 557 people. The center utilized federal government agencies’ definition of an active shooter incident: individuals killing or trying to kill others in a confined and populated space.

To prepare for potential active-shooter scenarios, the Nonprofit Risk Management Center recommends taking the following steps:

  • Establish a preferred method of reporting active-shooter incidents;
  • Communicate emergency escape plans including floor plans, safe areas and route assignments with key stakeholders;
  • Institute a lockdown procedure for individual units, services sites and facilities;
  • Integrate shooter-response plans with organization or facility’s emergency operations plan, crisis plan and/or business continuity plan; and,
  • Document key information concerning local emergency response agencies and hospitals.

“Preparation is not complete until the plan is documented and shared with first responders,” the document reads. “Emergency responders will also need a diagram of the building identifying all possible entry points, the number of staff and clients within the building, access controls and locks.”

A Run-Hide-Fight active shooter video and public service announcement created by the City of Houston and the Department of Homeland Security is cited in the sheet as commonly referenced method of preserving lives in shooting scenarios.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers nonprofits in Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI)-designated areas the opportunity to apply for Nonprofit Security Grant Program funding. State Administrative Agencies (SAA) apply on behalf of organizations for grants, which have totaled $36 million since 2013, including $13 million in 2015.

A FEMA representative deferred comment to SAAs. “The program seeks to integrate the preparedness activities of nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack with broader state and local preparedness efforts,” Monica Vargas, public information officer for the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) said via email.

SAAs are only able to apply for grants on behalf of behalf of tax-exempt organizations, according to Vargas. Each nonprofit agency may apply for up to $75,000 in aid through its designated SAA.

According to Vargas, criteria for determining eligibility include: Substantiation that prior threats or attacks have been made against the organization or a closely related organization; the site holds a symbolic, nationally or historically recognized significance that could make it a target; previous findings based on threat or vulnerability assessments; and, that the applicant is located in a UASI urban area.

The 2015 UASI urban areas for the state of California were Los Angeles/Long Beach, San Diego, Riverside, Anaheim/Santa Ana and the Bay Area.

Each nonprofit applicant must submit a justification of investment document along with a risk assessment and mission statement. A total 27 grantees in California collectively received just shy of $1.9 million of the $13-million pie in 2015, according to Vargas. The California Legislature authorized an additional $2 million of similar funding for nonprofits statewide. Proposals were received in November and are to be awarded in January.

Vargas did not speculate when asked how the events in San Bernardino could impact the volume of future applications for FEMA dollars. “There is no way to anticipate the number of applications we will receive,” Vargas said. “On average, we get from 80 to 150 per year since the funding was first offered in 2005.”

More information regarding the grant can be found at www.fema.gov/nonprofit-security-grant-program  NPT