Jeffrey A. Slotnick, CPP, PSP, is president of Setracon Enterprise Security Risk Management Services. He is an ASIS Senior Regional Vice President and past chair of the Physical Security Council.
Security Management spoke to Slotnick about the deadly shootings in Las Vegas and the event's significance for active shooter preparedness and physical security. Their conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Stowell: Besides what we're seeing in the news, what other details can you share with us about the shootings in Las Vegas?
Slotnick: The shooter was located from the smoke alarm going off in his room…not by tracking shots. I listened to the YouTube video [of the shooting]; he had more than eight guns in the room, two shooting tables with loaded magazines. My gut feeling, from the sound of the gunfire, is that it was probably an AR-15 style rifle but the military version of it. It was a full auto rifle. I think from the sound of it, it was suppressed. He had a silencer on it which would create additional smoke in the room and, of course, trigger the alarm. He had to be very wealthy, the gentleman was a man of means–he's not your typical [guy].
He owned aircraft, he was a licensed pilot, he owned homes in several different locations. And just a single rifle like that, you're talking about a suppresser that costs twelve-hundred dollars, and a rifle that has a price of twelve to fifteen-thousand dollars, plus all the tax stamp and licensing to obtain it, which is significant.
I think this story is going to be rapidly changing through the day because you now have a full team of investigators on the ground including FBI, ATF, and local law enforcement, and they're tracing this guy's patterns.
Stowell: The shooter fired from the 32nd floor of a high-rise building. Are there any similar active shooter events we can compare this to?
The Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting is the closest. This guy [Paddock]–he was not aiming his shots. The shot pattern was ranging 20 to 100 yards. But for a trained sniper to shoot from 450 feet away, 125 yards at a down-angle, 32 floors up–it's a difficult shot for a sniper. If you listen to the rapidity of the fire, he was basically just shooting into the crowd. The only time he paused was to change magazines. So those were not aimed shots. He was depressing the trigger and emptying a magazine.
Stowell: Would you classify this shooting as a soft-target attack?
Slotnick: Absolutely it's a soft target [attack]. This gentleman displayed a high level of intelligence in planning. He had to choose the room he was in, he had been on the ground since Thursday; he'd had the room since Thursday. I'm sure they're going to find if they retrace his steps he was actually at the venue. He chose his room very carefully. He of course brought in a number of weapons over a period of time; those things were all there.
Technologies exist that would not have prevented this, but could have significantly minimized the effectiveness and impact of this person. He could have been located a whole lot quicker. There was a technology on the show floor at ASIS in Dallas. It's a shot-spotting technology that integrates with other physical security systems, identifies with high rates of accuracy the location of the shooter, and then with integration into other physical security systems rapidly turns cameras toward the source of gunfire.
Stowell: What are the barriers that have prevented organizations from investing in this type of technology and integrating it into their physical security systems?
Slotnick: That's the big question–showing value for security. People are reticent to invest in technologies that they don't know about, or they find out about, and want to make sure it's not the latest flavor of the day. And our ability as security professionals to make the business case. Look at the expense Mandalay Bay [Resort and Casino] is going through now. I don't know what the cost of these shot-spotting units are, but they're Wi-Fi enabled, they're integrated. I imagine it would have been significantly less than what the hotel is having to spend presently.
Stowell: There have been so many mass shootings in the United States. How will the conversation in the aftermath of this massacre be different than others?
Slotnick: I think the conversation is going to wrap around, what can we do to prevent things like this? Obviously, [Paddock] walked into a hotel at some point in time with eight to 10 firearms. So what processes do we have to have people go through screening? We had the same thing when you think about the Aurora, Colorado, shooting, and movie theatres look at things totally different now. They've integrated physical security systems, or metal screening at the doors depending upon the neighborhood and community, and plans, policies and procedures specifically for active shooter-type events. I would imagine post-event, we're going to see some increases in security programs at hotels and different procedures for checking in.
Stowell: We focus a lot on helping businesses prepare for active shooter events, but what are the lessons here about personal safety and awareness of surroundings?
Slotnick: It's just good knowledge to have, whether you're on foreign travel or whether you're in Las Vegas, knowing how to respond to a disaster, knowing what you're going to do during a disaster, having a personal preparedness plan, and the ability to communicate with people outside of the venue. We tend to think of cell phones as a singular device. There's Twitter, there's LinkedIn, there's Facebook Messenger, there's live feeds, there's FaceTime. There are all kinds of ways to communicate. But having a plan, especially if you're with your family at a location and having a place to congregate; being aware of your surroundings when you go into a venue, and knowing where you're going to go should something happen. Whether it's a natural disaster like an earthquake or whether it's an active shooter event, you must be aware that these things do occur and just have a plan in your mind of where you can go and what you can do.