This lesson covers one of the most difficult and controversial of security questions: how to stop an attack once it is underway.

Once one or more attackers get inside your facility, your people are at risk. Under these circumstances, your first objective must be getting people out of the way and stopping the attack. This is never a simple task, and there are no easy answers. Unfortunately, at this stage you'll be playing percentages and making important judgements in uncertain circumstances - with minimal data. This makes matters even more challenging.

Although calling the police immediately should be your first line of defense, it's certainly not your only solution. It will probably take a number of minutes for law enforcement to show up, much less find the intruders and stop them. In fact, police officers are seldom trained for this type of situation. That's where SWAT teams come in. However, the problem here is timing. A lot of shooting can take place in the 20 to 40 minutes it will probably take the SWAT team to show up. Unfortunately, the cold hard truth is if you want to keep your people safe and alive, you will have to take action before the police arrive. What are some things you can do to minimize emergency situations?

• Establish procedures for notifying staff of emergencies. Some facilities broadcast code words over intercoms or voice evac systems to alert staff to take prearranged actions. This approach is more commonly used in schools, where children might panic if told "a shooter is in the building."

• Designate leaders within each building. They should have a map of the site and know where power and water shutoff points are. Again, this is an effective technique for schools.

• Have an annual meeting where your people discuss procedures with police, fire, and other emergency personnel.

• Designate a place where family members and others can get information about the situation - located far away from the crisis site so as not to interfere with emergency procedures.

• Have staff members trained in first aid, and make sure team leaders know who these people are.

• Make a list of counselors, psychologists, and mental-health agencies who can help during and after a crisis.

• Find a way to communicate. Often, normal avenues of communication become useless in a crisis. Two-way radios and cell phones work well.

• Designate who will communicate with the media and how you'll provide information. Make sure correct information comes from the facility, and you control the media's access to the site. (If you have an attack, handling the media will be a serious issue. Restrict their access and have a single spokesperson. Otherwise, rumors, bad information, and accusations will inevitably run rampant.)

• Be flexible. Prepare for the unexpected, however, you'll have to make some decisions according to circumstances as they develop.

The big question. Almost everyone who addresses this issue gets uncomfortable about the seldom-asked question: "What should we do to stop the attack before the police arrive?" Our goal as security experts is to look at this question as scientists. We want to define the possible methods of solving the problem - to identify all of the risks and likelihoods of success, and then define solutions with maximum benefit and minimal risk.

In the following section, we identify a number of options for stopping an attack in your facility. We are not recommending any of these options; however, we are attempting to analyze them. Unfortunately, there is little information on what does or doesn't work in these situations. In most cases, you must analyze the situation using anecdotal evidence, partial data, and common sense. The following list details some of the security options (including their advantages and disadvantages) you can use to help protect your facility.

• Panic buttons (duress alarms). These can be either silent (notifying a central security officer) or audible (providing a warning to a single room or the entire facility).

Possible benefits: They bring immediate help to the area and may help clear out the facility. You can use panic buttons with a voice evac system to warn people. You can also mount a silent panic button in an unseen location (such as underneath a desk) and use it to call security personnel without the intruder knowing.

Risks: An audible alarm may cause the intruder to panic and harm people.

A dual audible/silent button may be ideal. You would use the silent button for threatening, but not yet violent behavior, and the audible button when violence is already occurring.

• Intercoms or telephones in each major room or location.

Possible benefits: They bring immediate help to the area and may clear out the facility. You can use them with a voice evac system to warn people.

Risks: These are easy for the intruder to disable. They can also be a cause of complacency when security people assume all is well if they do not receive a phone call.

• Active diversions. If violence is occurring, all bets are off. You must do anything you can to stop the attackers. If you can create some sort of diversion, your people will have a chance to run for an exit. Possible diversions include teargas grenades, flash grenades, and smoke grenades. These are all inexpensive options that are available to security professionals - and nearly all of them are incapable of causing permanent bodily harm.

Possible benefits: Disorient attacker(s) and give your people a chance to run.

Risks: May cause the attacker to escalate violence.

The classic objection to this suggestion is "it may cause the intruder to shoot indiscriminately."

• Encouraging your people (in advance) to automatically scatter if attacked.

Possible benefits: Allows most people to escape because moving targets are much harder to hit.

Risks: May instill panic and long-term fear. May cause people to run before violence has occurred, thus setting it off.

• Pepper spray. Pepper spray is quite debilitating and nonlethal. Spraying an attacker in the face with a good pepper spray will almost certainly stop the attack. The attacker will be unable to see, and will have difficulty breathing for 20 to 30 min. You can use pepper spray effectively at up to 4 m (12 ft), and a near-hit works almost as well as a direct hit.

Possible benefits: Stops the situation immediately. No risk of serious injury to bystanders. It's reliable and easy to aim and use.

Risks: May be illegal in some locations. If the spray completely misses (not especially likely), the attacker might escalate violence. Because of the possibility of the pepper spray totally missing the target, and violence escalating, it is probably best not to use pepper spray unless violence is actually occurring.

• Tasers. Non-lethal weapons that are less reliable than pepper spray, although they do share most of the same benefits and risks. Stunguns are even more difficult to use, requiring physical contact. Disabling an attacker from a distance is a much better idea.

- Firearms (shooting the attacker). There is no more effective short-range weapon than a firearm.

Possible benefits: Stops the attacker immediately.

Risks: Innocent people could be shot accidentally. Someone could also steal, tamper with, or improperly use the deadly weapon before or during the attack. To reduce the risk of inappropriate use, you should store the firearm(s) in a locked case. In addition, the person using firearms must be specifically trained for use in emergency situations.

• Negotiations until the police arrive. Although this strategy is the most desirable, it may not always work.

Possible benefits: Distracts the attacker, buys you time, and engages him or her in nondestructive activities.

Risks: Could anger the attacker, resulting in an escalated attack.

Talking the attacker into putting down his or her gun is nearly always an unrealistic idea. Your goal is to stop or slow attackers any way you can.

For any of the security methods outlined above, consider their individual merits for your facility, discuss them with law enforcement professionals before crisis strikes, and then put them together in a coherent customized safety plan.