Building owners prepare for the worst

The scenario of a disturbed former employee returning to the workplace with a gun to settle a score is not just a distant nightmare. It happened last week in Maryland. It happened in San Francisco in 1993.

The City’s Building Owners and Managers Association recently held a drill of its emergency preparedness plans to prepare for such a disaster striking one of San Francisco’s office buildings again.

BOMA simulated an active shooter event on Aug. 18 with a gunman entering an office at 303 Second St. in SoMa to violently settle a domestic dispute with a co-worker. The drill focused on the combined response of the Police Department SWAT Division and the building’s security staff.

“Emergencies are just that, they’re emergencies,” said John Bozeman, legislative assistant for BOMA. “Communication is key between everyone involved.”

Such coordination could be the difference, he said, between saving lives and a repeat of the horror of July 1, 1993, when Gian Luigi Ferri went on a shooting rampage at 101 California St., killing eight people on three floors of the 48-story high-rise building. The event led to the 1994 National Assault Weapons Ban, but workplace shootings continue, most recently the Sept. 1 assault at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Maryland.

During BOMA’s drill, evaluators were placed in areas where a hostage situation would most likely take place, such as main entrances and stairwells, to monitor the interaction between the building’s security staff and emergency responders.

“The key thing is that at a certain point in an emergency the SFPD has to take over the entire situation, so they need to work closely with building management to determine what the situation is,” said Bozeman.

Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair Peter Franklin said the goal was to determine all the things that could go wrong and make sure they don’t go wrong in an actual emergency.

BOMA officials will present updated guidelines at a Wednesday seminar in the Ferry Building about how building managers can assist police and how to best keep tenants safe during an active shooter situation.

Once the shooter is in the building, there is no time to discuss strategy, Franklin said. Everyone in the building needs to know how to act from the outset to preserve as many lives as possible.

“Once the shooting starts, you’re in the survival phase,” Franklin said. “Those likely to be victims are tenants and they need to have been trained in survival at this point.”

IF YOU GO
Emergency seminar

What: BOMA San Francisco’s second annual Emergency Preparedness Seminar
Where: Ferry Building, Port Commission Hearing Room
When: Wednesday, 8:30 to 11 a.m.
Registration: $85 for BOMA members, $105 for Non-members
Contact: www.bomasf.org/education.php?evttype=Seminars

Notes

  • BOMA held its first emergency preparedness drill last year. It took place at the Ferry Building and involved an earthquake simulation. It was the first time BOMA had partnered with The City in a mass evacuation and was the first preparedness drill in The City’s history.
  • Bozeman said BOMA plans to hold a preparedness drill every year and each will involve a different emergency situation.

shaughey@sfexaminer.com

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