Credit unions still aren’t prepared for an active-shooter incident
Credit unions aren’t moving quickly enough to prepare for the risk of an active shooter.
Most institutions “have their heads buried in the sand and they don’t want to talk about it,” Michael Petrone, risk management consultant at CUNA Mutual Group, said during a recent training on active-shooter response strategies presented by the CrossState Credit Union Association. “A majority of them don’t have any plan in place, they don’t have any policies, they don’t have any procedures, they don’t have any guidelines [and] they don’t have any training.”
Mass shootings are defined as incidents in which four or more people are injured by gunfire, whereas active shooters are individuals actively seeking to kill people through gunfire either within a confined space or populated area.
Gun-related deaths in America hit their highest level in 40 years in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Recent analysis from the Federal Bureau of Investigation found in 2019 there were more mass shootings in the United States than there were days of the year. Between 2000 and 2018, a total of 277 active-shooter events left 884 dead and wounded 1,546 people.
In early 2019, five people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a SunTrust Bank branch, and while no events of this type are known to have taken place at credit unions, Petrone and others say the industry is still not prepared.
Petrone, an ALICE-certified instructor credentialed to educate about how to respond to gun threats, said many CUs are unprepared because of how unpleasant the topic is. Credit unions aren’t developing training programs because they don’t want staff and often don’t know where to start, he said.
“In some ways it’s frightening to talk about it, but people did say that they were relieved to have a better knowledge about what to do in a situation like that,” said Melissa Marquez, CEO of Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union in Rochester, N.Y., which held an active-shooter training in 2015.
“No one wants to face the possibility that we could be attacked like that,” she added.
Marquez said the $23 million-asset credit union has not repeated the 2015 training because staff turnover has been too low to necessitate it, though the topic may be revisited soon on account of recent staffing changes.
The topic did come up briefly early last year following a training on handling a robbery and active-shooter prevention does occasionally come up in those discussions, though experts suggest the two require a completely different type of response.
“It’s quite different from robbery training because the statistics show that if you follow your procedures, robbers want to get in and out as quickly as possible,” Marquez said. “And there’s a greater reassurance of not being hurt or injured.”
Petrone suggested credit unions add active-shooter response training to other incident response training such as robberies, though he said quarterly refreshers for staff on how to deal with armed gunmen are a best practice.
Many credit unions approached for this story declined to be interviewed because their institution does not offer trainings for these situations. There are no current metrics to determine how many credit unions conduct these trainings, but that doesn’t mean all those credit unions are unprepared.
United Federal Credit Union in St. Joseph, Mich., implemented its own program at a board member’s request. The course, developed in-house, took nearly five months to put together, said Kimetha Firpo, SVP of human resources..
“We developed our own in-house training, but other CUs might purchase their training externally,” Firpo said. “They may not have the resources to develop their own training, so it could be a type of resource constraint as well.”
Indeed, costs may be part of what’s holding many credit unions back on this front. Costs for active-shooter training can run CUs up to $10,000. Ripcord Solutions works with a handful of credit unions to create active shooter training, which integrates into the credit union's system to ttem which can help track how many employees have taken it.
According to Ripcord's President Paul Lambert, it's similar to a condensed movie specific to the credit union.
"It's configuration as opposed to customization," Lambert said.
Firpo said the costs have been worth the investment.
“It’s a challenging topic to present and there might be some reluctance, but if it’s done it has to be done well in order to make people feel safe and secure,” Firpo said.
This story has been updated updated at 9:35 A.M. on Feb. 10, 2020, including a correction on the number of active-shooter incidents since 2000.