Smart tech targets mass shootings: can insurers help lead the movement to save lives?

March 27, 2024

By Heather Blaser, SVP, Political Violence

A person with a grudge has it all planned—they’re going to take a gun into the office and cause mayhem. As they approach, a security guard notices something suspicious. The guard presses a button, setting in motion a cascade of events. The building goes into lockdown while workers inside receive a warning and move to saferooms. A simultaneous alert to law enforcement brings police to the scene and the gunman is apprehended—without even having entered the building.

This is not a hypothetical scenario—it happened in southeast Michigan at a regional nonprofit’s multi-story headquarters. An incident that could have led to multiple deaths, traumatized survivors, and wreaked lasting reputational damage, as well as insurance claims for hospital bills, physical destruction, and business interruption, was prevented. Indeed, the organization’s workplace violence insurer was blissfully unaware anything had happened.

That’s because when the guard pressed the panic button, he activated Gabriel, a real-time response technology designed to defend against the growing threat of mass shootings by lone-wolf assailants. Its software automates critical processes for early detection, alerts, and smart response—a system devised from analysis of event patterns that repeat themselves in terror attacks, mass shootings, and workplace violence.

Incorporated into a practical technology solution, Gabriel is helping to build the resilience of potentially vulnerable environments such as offices, schools, retail outlets, healthcare facilities, and hotels. At Mosaic, we’re partnering with this platform to offer its technology as a valuable risk-mitigation tool. By building it into our client offering, we aim to help address a growing gap in traditional cover that excludes, or remains silent on, violent threats like mass shootings.

Looking back at 2016’s Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL, which left 49 dead and 53 injured, it’s easy to understand how software like this could have saved lives. More than three deadly hours passed from the time the shooter walked in the club to the moment he was fatally shot by police.

Had Gabriel been installed, an active assailant event like this could have played out differently:

  • As soon as a threat was evident, automatic alerts would have been sent to the nightclub’s security, management, and employees, as well as law enforcement, sparking an immediate internal and external crisis response, while people in the vicinity would have been warned to get to a safe place
  • First responders would have had “eyes and ears” inside the club, showing them what was happening behind closed doors, safest access points to enter, real-time details from those inside, plus locations of the injured
  • The resulting information asymmetry would have favored responders rather than the shooter, changing the way the incident unfolded, with the likelihood of a quicker conclusion and fewer lives lost

By gathering and sharing information rapidly through a simple interface, Gabriel leverages the speed of communication technology to provide situational awareness that allows informed management of an ongoing incident. And speed of response is critical to determining the outcome of a mass shooting event—seconds can save lives.

But the platform’s contribution to life safety goes further than the technology itself. Clients who onboard must also implement emergency-action plans and are encouraged to sharpen early-detection capabilities, becoming more risk-aware in the process.

Such a smart-tech solution has never been more needed. Data published by the Gun Violence Archive indicates a mass shooting—defined as four or more people being shot or killed in a single incident—occurred nearly twice a day on average over each of the past three years in the United States. The frequency of mass shootings has more than doubled in the space of less than a decade. Workplace violence is also on the upswing. Research by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics found workplace homicides increased by 11 percent between 2014–19, while the average annual rate of non-fatal incidents of workplace violence was eight crimes per 1,000 workers aged 16 and older.

At the same time, paradoxically, many traditional insurers are pulling back, through growing exclusions of deadly weapons or violent behavior from general liability coverage. This protection gap creates opportunities for pro-active specialty carriers like Mosaic amid a growing need for solutions.

It’s interesting to remember that insurers led the charge on fire safety a century ago by refusing to insure spaces without the right safety equipment—paving the way for regulators to set new standards. Today, we have another opportunity to make a paradigm shift for stronger standards to protect people by advocating for broader implementation of life-safety technology. Some US states already require employers to be prepared for workplace violence. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington all have laws or regulations that require healthcare employers to implement workplace violence-prevention programs.

Other states are going further by including non-healthcare work settings. California is leading the way with Senate Bill 553, that takes effect July 1 this year. Under the new law, most employers will be required to implement a comprehensive workplace violence-prevention plan (WVPP), including assessment of workplace violence hazards and procedures for addressing them.

Last month, the New York Senate introduced a bill entitled the Retail Worker Safety Act. Its proposals would mandate written programs for retail employers listing identified risks and methods to prevent violence, training for employees, including active shooter drills and de-escalation tactics, and installation of panic buttons that alert law enforcement when pressed.

The good news is that gathering legislative and regulatory momentum like this is likely to drive wider adoption of life-safety technology. And that will help our industry play its part in providing risk solutions that can save lives.