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News | Nov. 6, 2019

Active shooters invoke stress long after shooting stops

By Matthew Montgomery DCMA Public Affairs

Around noon on Aug. 28, less than 300 feet from the Defense Contract Management Agency National Capital Region office in Arlington, Va., a gunman enters an adjacent building and makes his way to the eighth floor where he shoots and wounds his intended victim.

In less than an hour, Arlington police have the situation under control — the gunman and victim are on their way to the hospital — and work is returning to normal.

That is to say, the new normal. For the DCMA NCR employees who were locked down and implementing active-shooter protocols for roughly an hour that day, normal will be different for a period of time. For some, their sense of security might be impacted forever.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the psychological impact of active shooter or other violent incidents is different for each affected person. Some individuals might need grief counseling, while others might experience post-traumatic stress disorder or other anxieties. The minimum role of the organization is to facilitate whatever appropriate counseling might be required.

“We learned a lot about our building security, our active shooter protocol and the impacts an incident like this has on our workforce,” said Army Col. Lance Green, DCMA NCR officer-in-charge. “The day after the incident, our leadership team met with each employee as they arrived at work for a one-on-one discussion in order to gauge their stress level, as well as assess the overall stress level in the office, and to determine the types and levels of support that might be required moving forward.”

Once leadership had time to digest the concerns and formulate a plan moving forward, a meeting was held to discuss the shooting incident and the employee support plan moving forward. DCMA Total Force Directorate personnel briefed the benefits that the Employee Assistance Program offers and discussed external additional resources available to assist the workforce.

“We experienced the full spectrum of responses in our office,” said Green. “We had employees who felt relatively normal and we had employees that had genuine concerns about our current facility security posture. Both responses are normal, and we agree that there are challenges with the facility, and we need to remain vigilant on future office improvements and active-shooter training.”

In addition to the human aspect of the shooting, Green said his office learned a lot about the physical security benefits and shortcomings of his location. All of these things were documented and procedures will be updated to account for the new findings.

Recommendations for improvement included making sure all employees are signed up for mass notification alerts from DCMA and local authorities, exterior doors are checked frequently, the office has a clear and reliable way to communicate directly with building security and changes to post event response and recovery.

Green’s team also captured the best practices observed during the incident.

“The NCR office responded quickly by notifying the office leadership of the situation, gathering all personnel into an office shelter in place location, gaining personal accountability and reporting (the incident),” said Green. “All personnel, to include agency personnel on travel and leave, were accounted for within a few minutes of the initial report of the nearby shooting.”

Though the event lasted less than an hour, and the active shooter incident was later classified as a case of domestic violence, the impact still lingers for the DCMA NCR office. 

“We have training events, updates to notification systems, and follow up security actions and improvements planned for the future,” said Green. “This process will take time and it’s something we’ll need to be keenly focused on for the foreseeable future. I am confident, however, that this event has made us better prepared and equipped if future incidents occur.”

While the chances of any kind of violent attack in the workplace, especially the active shooter threat, are exceptionally rare, DCMA has taken a number of steps to both deter the threat and mitigate the consequences of such an event, according to Stephen Kellar, DCMA Physical Security and Antiterrorism program manager.

“Events like this one highlight the paramount importance of reviewing and maintaining up-to-date security and emergency management plans, with conducting rehearsals and exercises, followed by a robust after action and lessons learned discussion,” said Kellar.

DCMA Security staff, in coordination with the agency’s Emergency Management team, offers training, exercise planning and preparation guidelines, as well as subject matter expert consultations to facilitate the training and exercise process. 

Additional information can be found here:

Those interested in finding out more about resources offered by the EAP can use the following link: