Parkland, Florida. Las Vegas. San Bernardino. The Boston Marathon. Mass-casualty shootings and terrorist attacks are an increasing concern for American businesses and institutions, from schools to houses of worship to factories and office parks. While the deadliest incidents garner the most media coverage, such attacks are more common than most people realize. In 2017, for instance, there were 346 mass shootings in the U.S. in which four or more people were shot.
“The recent high-profile active shooter incidents are making people aware because they realize they need to do something,” says Luke Mahlstadt, founder and president of Strategic Threat Assessment and Defense Inc. (STADT Inc.), an Orange County-based safety and security consulting firm. “But it can be difficult for companies or organizations to determine exactly what they need. That is why we start off by assessing the vulnerabilities and letting them know what the deficiencies are.”
Mahlstadt says that while preparedness is essential for today’s organizations, there are a number of misconceptions and logistical hurdles that keep many establishments underprepared.
“Organizations often think that they are completely covered and that if someone observes an act of crime or something suspicious, they will report it immediately,” he says. “If someone looks like they are in the wrong place but seem to be doing something right in a sense, most people will acknowledge that it seems like something wrong is happening, but it is someone else’s problem. I want to instill the value that everyone has eyes and ears and has the ability and duty to look out for one another. People think it is someone else’s problem until it happens to their establishment or to them personally.”
Other challenges include financial limitations and failure to integrate preparedness into the organizational structure. STADT Inc. works with all members of the organizations they serve to develop comprehensive plans, identify and rectify vulnerabilities, improve the physical security infrastructure, and provide practical training in First Aid, CPR, and BLS as a certified American Heart Association Training Center.
“Our clientele base includes churches, religious premises, schools and corporations ranging from landscape service companies that want to get their team First Aid certified to office parks that seek to work on vulnerabilities they may have regarding access control, camera coverage, surveillance techniques and ensuring the safety of the personnel inside their building,” Mahlstadt says.
Ready for Anything
While acts of violence are top of mind due to the recent attention in the news media and political world, a holistic approach to emergency preparedness includes planning for such varied hazards as natural disasters, including earthquakes and wildfires, to occupational safety issues and workplace injuries.
Mahlstadt has observed that for-profit companies are often at an advantage when compared to government or nonprofit entities in this regard.
“Standard corporations are more prepared than private schools and churches, primarily because they often have someone designated as responsible, such as a director of security or OSHA representative. Churches or schools might have that, but in the nonprofit sector, there is difficulty obtaining the funding,” he says. “There is a different standard because those establishments don’t typically have card access entries or established security personnel, but because they are places of congregation, there will be mass crowds in vulnerable situations, such as church services, classes or pep rallies.”
Regardless of the situation at hand, Mahlstadt says knowledge of basic situational awareness and first aid can be a lifesaver and everyone in an organization needs to have this essential know-how.
“If everyone knows how to do it, they can literally save lives,” he says. “We train for the ability to apply tourniquets, to stop the bleeding, to save a life. We wish to spread the knowledge and certify people so that they have the confidence to react, whether they save a family member or a complete stranger.”
Having a team member designated to coordinate in the event of a traumatic injury can not only increase the likelihood of a positive outcome but also limit an organization’s liability.
“Everybody has or should have insurance and it will help the insurance company if there is someone who can respond to workplace injuries. Plus, it minimizes the risk of litigation if you have the ability to identify the hazard prior to injury and/or treat the person promptly,” Mahlstadt says.
From the Battlefield to the Boardroom
A devout Christian, Mahlstadt points to his faith, his wife who is a Kindergarten Teacher and their daughter who is in 2nd grade as motivating factors in his desire to help others. “For me, it doesn’t matter what community I am serving,” he says. “It is about securing our next generation leaders, It is about saving and protecting lives.”
Mahlstadt’s career began with eight years of service to the U.S. Army, followed by an unpaid internship with the FBI and government contracting with Blackwater (now ACADEMI under the Constellis umbrella). Recognizing the need for emergency preparedness in the homeland, he turned his attention to assisting California-based organizations, first serving as a security director for a Los Angeles County casino and a member of his church’s security team before founding STADT Inc.
Though primarily serving Orange County on a confidential basis, Mahlstadt is seeking to expand, with a workforce that prioritizes retired and off-duty military and law enforcement personnel.
“There are many consultants and security companies, but few that do vulnerability and threat assessments,” he says. “In the future, our goal is to eventually create jobs for veterans and off-duty or retired law enforcement and provide certifications for them so that they can provide a better living for their families and themselves.”
STADT Inc. has achieved the California Small Business and Disabled Veteran Enterprise status from the state government, which has allowed the startup to expand its reach and further its mission.
“The purpose is to acquire government contracts to train teams such as those working for city or government agencies on risk assessments, emergency action plans and/or workplace injury prevention and first aid, as it will provide jobs to employ more veterans on our team,” he says.
While Mahlstadt’s services are currently focused on the private sector, he looks forward to the opportunity to serve public sector clients, such as school districts and city utility companies.
“I have been in talks with Orange County officials who say that local schools and government buildings are overwhelmed and need assistance. There is backlog in developing in-depth assessments,” he says. “Not only do we assess the physical location, we develop action plans proven to deter undesired activity and training to respond in accordance with the injury or threat identified.”
Regardless of who he is serving, Mahlstadt’s motivation is the same: “Our passion is to serve confidentially and we operate with integrity and honesty, as well as an ability to inform and create teams within the establishment, rather than having to just outsource for security.”
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