Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Run. Hide. Fight.

That’s what I remembered about active shooter training when I heard a scream in the hallway while on a call with a client last week.

I was at the Alliance Center, where NCN is a tenant, in a small conference room, surrounded by glass. I saw people running down the hall, shouting that someone had a gun. Then, I tried to hide in the tiny room when I saw a man walk by pointing a gun.

After he passed, I darted to the bathroom across the hall since I didn’t have a safe exit route.  As luck (if you can call it that) would have it, the shooter only wanted to harm his soon-to-be ex-wife and himself, not the rest of us.  Tragically, he succeeded.  Despite a mental health hold and being barred, as a pilot, from his local airport due to threats he had made, he still had a gun that he used to take the life of a woman he once loved.

This was domestic violence that became workplace violence, traumatizing over 125 people in the building that day.  The victim, Cara Russell, was the executive director of the Colorado Association for Recycling, one of almost 50 organizations located at the Alliance Center. Rose Andom Center Ribbon Cutting

Earlier that day, Katie and I were at the ribbon-cutting for a new shared space in Denver, the Rose Andom Center, where over 20 agencies will provide services to survivors of domestic violence.  Some of the detectives from the morning’s ribbon-cutting took statements from witnesses of the shooting that afternoon.  Several came back to the Alliance Center on Friday to debrief us on the case and help us process the trauma.

This incident had nothing to do with shared space.  It could have happened anywhere, and impacted the people nearby in a similar way.  I think we are on to something, however, when I think about the power of the Rose Andom Center to affect the lives of women like Cara Russell by making it easier for people to access life-changing services.  The Rose Andom Center is modeled after the first Family Justice Center in San Diego, where they have seen the rates of domestic violence related homicide in the city drop by over 50%.  hope the same thing happens in Denver.

The Alliance Center community rallied in important ways, both during the incident and after.  There were many heroes in the building that day, some who tried to keep Cara from harm and many who helped keep others safe.  The Alliance Center has always had a certain sparkle, and the people who make up this community are a particularly loving and dedicated bunch.  The detectives noted that we seemed to be different from other sets of people they had encountered in similar situations. We had woven a community long before this incident happened. While we suffered a loss on June 28th, almost instantaneously, we pulled together to honor the fallen, take care of one another and move forward.

As we heal, we want to make sure you have resources to keep your communities safe.

  • Start with the relationships within your buildings – you can never predict what situation might play out but a tight-knit community can accomplish great things!
  • Be prepared for an emergency: We have a new resource on Safety Policies and Procedures, combining Ask-NCN discussions, training resources, and more in the form of a wiki.
  • Reach out to your local police: Many departments will do a free walk-through with you to identify potential areas of concern, and help you plan for the worst. They would much rather help you plan than respond to your 911 call.

We tend to focus on things that go wrong, but last week someone said to me that you never know all the benefits that come out of one act of kindness.   I’m focusing my energy in that direction and I hope you will too. May the efforts of our network be a force of good.




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