In this episode, delve into the crucial topic of active violence preparedness with Brink Fidler, owner and founder of Defend Systems, a prominent life safety and security consulting firm in Nashville, TN. Stephanie and Brink talk about why every firm owner should have open discussions and plan for frightening events, and how they can empower their team with knowledge and tools to respond effectively.
They also address the relevance of active violence preparedness in office environments and how to adopt a “warrior mindset” when faced with danger. The emotional and traumatic aspects of active violence events are not overlooked, as Stephanie and Brink touch on the need for mental health support and proper coping mechanisms.
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Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Stephanie Everett (00:35):
Hi, I’m Stephanie Everett.
Zack Glaser (00:36):
And I’m Zack Glaser. And this is episode 455 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Stephanie interviews Brink Fidler about emergencies in the office and preparing for the worst.
Stephanie Everett (00:50):
Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists, Postali, & LawPay. We wouldn’t be able to do our show without their support, so stay tuned because we’re going to tell you more about them later on.
Zack Glaser (01:01):
So Stephanie, I think it would be, we’d be remiss if we led into this episode with something kind of frivolous or one of mine and Jennifer’s intros. It’s a little bit more happy. This is a very serious episode. You interview Brink Fidler and want to just make sure people know there’s some emotion coming out of this, but we think this is a really important thing to talk about as lawyers, if you’ll kind of give us a little bit of what we’re going to expect today.
Stephanie Everett (01:31):
So Brink talks about and trains schools and companies on how to prepare for what he labels active violent situations. So it’s kind of used the phrase active shooter a lot in the common space, but he says it can be beyond shooters. So he uses that term active violence. You’ll hear us talk about that, and this is a little bit of a tough episode. Nobody wants to talk about this, right? But just like we talk about data security or how to keep our team healthy and mental health and all the things that we care about so much here at Lawyerist, it felt like this was a piece that we also needed to talk about as owners of firms, how do we think about and take steps to keep our team healthy and safe physically?
Zack Glaser (02:24):
I hope that not all lawyers have had something like this, something that is a active violent situation happened in their office, but I certainly have, and I assume because of that, I’m not an uncommon person. I’ve had people threaten me. I’ve had people come into my office in a violent manner. Luckily, my dad, when he was alive, he was six three and huge. And somebody simply had a cane, and I don’t mean cane walking, but they were there with a big stick. So we were able to deal with it. But this is something that I think is common and we do need to make sure that our people and ourselves are safe.
Stephanie Everett (03:06):
I mean, I remember being a first year attorney and I was at a big law firm working on a bankruptcy case, and I had a creditor who was very upset that they weren’t getting the money, that they were rightfully owed by my client who had filed for bankruptcy. And they threatened me, and I remember the partner at the time alerting the authorities and I was almost like a little surprised, like, oh, we take those steps, right? I was just like, okay, we’re taking this serious. So let me just share with everyone. The topic is not a fun one. I think we tried to do the interview in a way that isn’t overly dramatic or maybe scary. I will confess you’ll hear that I do get a little emotional during the interview and maybe in an unexpected place. It’s one of those topics that sort of catches you off guard.
And Brink did a nice job of acknowledging that and giving me that space to experience it because it is a hard topic. So I wanted to prepare our listeners. I think we talk about it in a pretty matter of fact way, but it can be sensitive for some people. Unfortunately, too many people today have had to deal with this situation or have some connection to it. So I’ll just remind everyone. We have our show notes where we put the whole transcript of every episode, by the way, available to you on our website. I think this is too important to ignore, so we need people to be thinking about it. But if listening to this one feels a little much, maybe you could read about it. You could read the Transcripting and get the information
Zack Glaser (04:45):
Right. Yeah, I think it’s important to say that even though my tendency a lot of times in dealing with this personally would be to bring humor to it, but this isn’t very serious. We do need to deal with these things, but in your own place, in your own time.
Stephanie Everett (05:00):
And to Brink’s credit, he gives some real concrete things to think about that. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about since we had the conversation and I’ve shared with several people, so if you have an office of a physical space, he’s going to give you some real practical tips. Really, anybody, even if you don’t have an office, just you can use an everyday life. So it is really good information, still sad that we have to give it, but here’s your little bit of hope. I think we end on an inspirational note in a way that we can all take some action. So maybe that’s the takeaway.
Zack Glaser (05:33):
Okay. Well now here is Stephanie’s conversation with Brink.
Brink Fidler (05:41):
Yeah, my name is Brink Fiddler. I’m the owner and founder of Defend Systems in Nashville, Tennessee.
Stephanie Everett (05:46):
Hey, Brink. I am. Okay. I’ll just be honest. I usually tell people I’m excited to talk to them and in today’s situation I’ve been thinking about and preparing for our conversation and I’m like, I feel like this is a topic we need to cover, but I don’t know if I’m excited about doing it.
Brink Fidler (06:04):
That makes total sense. I tell people all the time that it’s really sad that I can do this for a living, but that’s the world we live in, unfortunately.
Stephanie Everett (06:12):
And so maybe just tell us a little bit about what it is you do and how you approach helping people.
Brink Fidler (06:19):
Sure. So my company is a life safety and security consulting firm, and we really specialize in just a few things. The primary one being active violence mitigation, training for schools, corporations, healthcare, law firms, you name the organization type, we’ve probably trained it. We also do a little bit of law enforcement training. And then when we do physical security consulting around new or existing construction, if you’re wanting to improve your physical security, whether it be access control, cameras, analytics, perimeter fencing, protection dogs, all the above. We do a lot of consulting in that arena as well.
Stephanie Everett (06:55):
And since I know you speak on the topic a lot, what’s a good way or how do you even just get us started in why we need to have these conversations even though they are kind of scary and they do freak us out and it can be triggering for some people. And so what do you tell people about why we’ve got to pay attention?
Brink Fidler (07:16):
Well, the speed with which these events unfold and then the unpredictability of where and when they occur. I mean, they happen everywhere. As you know, you can’t even go to the grocery store anymore without having to think about this stuff. But the speed with which they really are over, I tell people all the time, it’s really important that we focus more on what I call the middle space. What I mean by that is we’ve gotten gotten a lot better at law enforcement training and response. We’ve gotten better at prevention because we’re educating people, but where we’re still failing miserably is in the middle, which is empowering the people that find themselves in an event like this with the knowledge of what to do. And that’s where I focus just because they happen so fast and are over that waiting on law enforcement or hoping that law enforcement’s going to get there is really not a plan anymore.
Stephanie Everett (08:06):
So I mean, I guess walk us through what are some things that we would need to know if we find ourselves in that middle situation?
Brink Fidler (08:14):
I think it starts with before you find yourself in that situation and just some easy things to do. One in particular is identify second exit everywhere you go. And that means the grocery store. That means a restaurant that even means your friend’s house. Every single place you go, you should identify a second exit. We have a part of our brain called the primitive brain, which is where fight, flight, or freeze lives. And that’s the part of your brain that really functions well under stress the rest of your brain doesn’t. But you have to give the primitive brain tools with a little bit of training and forethought and what is called scripting, which is just playing stuff out on your head. So if you could do that ahead of time, just in each situation you’re in as far as locating a second exit, oftentimes under stress, you won’t have to think, your primitive brain will just take you there. Our training is an acronym for Defend, which is deter, evade, fortify, evaluate, notify, and defend. So your first choice is of aid if you find yourself an event like that.
Stephanie Everett (09:15):
Yeah, I’ve noticed myself now when I go to the movie theater or when I’m in an outdoor concert, I mean just anytime I’m around other people, I’ve noticed that I have started thinking about what would I do if there was a situation right now, where would I go and how would I react? And so it sounds like that’s the kind of thing we need to just start thinking about more.
Brink Fidler (09:39):
It is, and it’s sad that we have to, but we do have to, our tools we kind of prepare people for and they evade. A lot of people use run, hide, fight, which is fine. It’s better than nothing ours, it’s just a little bit more descriptive than that. But in the evade piece, this may surprise some people, but your first goal is actually not simply get out of the building. Your first goal is to get something between you and the threat, whether that’s a wall, a building, a tree, a car, whatever it is, you want to use the concepts of covering concealment to shield yourself from the threat. That might mean you stay in the building longer, which is totally fine. That might surprise some people as well. But the main goal is to get stuff, for lack of a better word, between you and the threat as you move.
If you laser focus on getting out of the building, then you will tend to leave yourself exposed longer. What I mean by that, it’s like a long hallway. If you see an exit door at the very end and you laser focus on getting there, well you’re leaving yourself exposed down that entire hallway as you do that. So that is not what we want to do. The debate is always your first choice, but that is assuming that the approximate location of the threat also, meaning if you’re on a 10th floor of a multi-story facility and you’re notified there’s a shooter in the building and you don’t know where they are, we don’t want you running down the stairs and hoping you don’t bump into ’em. So the evade piece is first, but that’s assuming the approximate location of the threat.
Stephanie Everett (11:08):
Are there any other kind of common misperceptions people might have about these active violence events?
Brink Fidler (11:14):
They’re all over the place, to be honest with you. And every time we have one where there’s a lack of information, my friend and radio host Matt Murphy always says there will be speculation. And that’s true. So it really depends on the event as far as misconceptions go. But one that is very relevant and very close to home for me that I can talk about is the Covenant School shooting in Nashville. They are a client of mine, so I did their training the year before that happened. It also hits really close though, because I know those people, and Katherine was a friend of mine and Will Kenny, the little boy that was killed, his dad is a friend of mine, so that one hits close. But one example of a misnomer that started floating around out there was that one of the little girls that was killed pulled the fire alarm in an effort to warn everybody.
And that’s just simply not true that that is not what happened at all. I don’t understand why people make stuff up. Again, back to I guess lack of information, there will be speculation, but I don’t know if people just want to believe stuff. But usually I try not to even comment on these events for several days because a lot of the initial information that comes out always ends up being inaccurate. But I would say that a lot of people tend to exaggerate the damage. Or another good example that I think is a kind of a misnomer is the Metro National Police were hailed as handling the situation very quickly and responding very quickly. That is true once they entered the building, that was very fast from the time that Rex, the officer that opened the door, to the time that they shot the shooter was two minutes and 15 seconds.
So that is fast. But from the time the shooter shot through the doors and entered the building until law enforcement shot her was over 16 minutes. So that’s kind of an eternity. If you’re a teacher or anyone in that situation and someone’s trying to kill you and your kids, 16 minutes is a long time to have to perform, especially considering Parkland, Florida, that entire shooting lasted like seven minutes. So back to the middle space, having knowledge and tools of what to do if you find yourself in that situation is really the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family.
Stephanie Everett (13:30):
That makes a lot of sense. And so far we’ve sort of been talking about if you’re an individual in this situation, I guess we should shift because a lot of our listeners have their own business. And also as I was preparing for our conversation today, I know of lawyers who have been threatened by either disgruntled clients or even in one situation, they were a family law lawyer and it was the spouse of their client or soon to be former spouse of their client. So I was thinking about as lawyers we’re often in very emotional intense situations for our clients, with our clients. And I would imagine that would also kind of elevate the risk that our law firms might experience. Is that I mean, an accurate, I would imagine statement?
Brink Fidler (14:21):
Very. Matter of fact, I just had a call with a very prominent, well-known attorney who has some serious threat issues going on currently, and they want us to come take a look at several things. I won’t get into the details, and that just happened within the last three days, was that phone call. Yeah, I mean, again, these things can happen anywhere, but as far as an industry where there’s a lot of volatility just based on simply what you all do, I would say that there should be an elevated awareness around this topic and around training your people on what to do. We have trained a pretty significant size law firm here in Nashville. And initially some of the feedback prior was people thought, well, why are we doing this or whatever. And I always tell people, there’s always in every group we train, there’s three kinds of people.
There are the ones that are going, why are we doing this? They’re the ones that are going ehh and then they’re the ones that are going, thank God we are finally doing this. And our program, I would say is designed to at least get the people that ask why we’re doing it, at least get them to the middle. Usually it gets ’em all the way to the other side. But we don’t come in and scare people. We’re not fear mongers. We just come in and educate you and give you some data, facts and research around the topic. And then if I’ll speak y’all’s language for a moment, on the liability side, what is your exposure as a small firm, big firm, whatever it is, what’s your exposure if you know this type of training is out there and you don’t take the opportunity to provide it to your employees?
I mean, I don’t know is the answer. OSHA just says you have to provide a safe working environment. But another thing that several of our clients have said, management wise, there’s a big media company, I won’t name ’em, but their boss finally decided to bring us in because she felt like she was giving her employees a skillset that they could also use away from the workplace, whether they’re at the mall or a concert venue with their family, whatever it is. So at the end of the day, I would say look at it that way, that we’re not coming in trying to scare everybody, but we want to give people tools at least on how to respond, especially in such a volatile, not just society, which I’ve never seen volatility this high in my life, but also just in the world that you guys work in.
Stephanie Everett (16:50):
And so I mean, in that sense, we do fire drills. You’re taught in elementary school, go home and figure out your escape route in your house and know what you’re going to do. And so in that sense, it’s just being prepared and going through those same exercises, but for a different threat. And I guess just to clarify, when you say everybody needs training, is it active shooter training? I mean, what kind of training are we looking for just so we all know what it is we need?
Brink Fidler (17:18):
Yeah, active shooter is the easiest term to use. A lot of times, we’ll call it active violence because there’s more things than guns out there. And I just saw an article this morning where a bunch of kindergartners were stabbed to death in China. So these things are active, violence is everywhere, but the term that most people understand and that here on a regular basis is active shooter, but that can also sound intimidating or whatever it does some people. So we usually call our program Intruder Action Training and just give you tools on how to do all that.
Stephanie Everett (17:51):
Makes sense. All right. Well, let’s take a quick break. When we come back, I want to shift a little bit more into some of the office environment things we should think about.
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Stephanie Everett (20:19):
I am back with Brink and unfortunately we’re covering a topic that I feel like we needed to cover. I mean, we talk about having a healthy business all the time on this show, and when I saw Brink speak, I was like, this is a topic. Nobody wants to talk about it, but we really need to be aware as business owners, it’s another level of the toolkit that we need to bring to our team. And so I’m glad that you’re here educating us. And one of the things we talked, we were just talking about we need to get our team trained, but I feel like there’s also some things we should probably be doing to our physical space that we might not think of or we might take for granted. So in that sense, what are some of the kind of easy things that people should be thinking about when they are thinking about their office space?
Brink Fidler (21:09):
I would just say think of it in layers. The more layers you have, the more protected you are. That’s the way most security is designed, whether it’s physical security around the White House or physical security around a person like a V I P protection type thing. The commonality and the common spoken language in that industry are in our industry is layers, but non-security types can understand that. Think of it as an onion. So we want to first and foremost, ideally stop them from getting in. A lot of businesses have access control, electronic access control, badge card readers, different types, but a lot of those same businesses will have that access control on giant sets of glass doors that’s keeping your criminals of opportunity out. But obviously as we saw in the Covenant School shooting and several others, Sandy Hook was the same. Glass is a weak point period as far as forced entry goes.
And so having some sort of forced entry protection on your glass if you do have glass is highly recommended. There are several out there. There’s different types of laminates i e window films. There are some polycarbonate stuff out there that some of it’s person resistant but not bullet resistant. But then there’s all the way up to level eight bullet resistant polycarbonate stuff that’s out there that will stop 07.62 rounds. So I would say figure out what your level of need is, but also all those products are not created equal. And the most important thing about forced entry protection for glass is the installation of the product. So there’s a lot of good salesman out there. I would just say prior to making a purchase or spending money on that, I would do a little bit of research. One thing we like to do is test those products independently of the manufacturer because there again, a lot of good salespeople out there.
So we have tested products from both 3M as well as the defense light. Yeah, I can send you some links if you want to include ’em for people to just take a look at. We are fans of both of those particular products, but I would say it starts there, really keep ’em out. However, all the physical security in the world is great, but for the industry, y’all are, there’s a great probability that the person could already be in your office, right? Because of whatever’s happening. It could be a client, it could be the higher likelihood, to be honest with you is that is ex-spouse of one of your employees or ex-boyfriend girlfriend, things like that that might know how to get in. So again, back to do the people in the building know what to do, but physical security is important. Seeing ’em coming before they get there is really helpful too. So that would go to camera systems surveillance. CCTV is a great force multiplier if you have somebody watching it, not just to tell you what happened afterwards.
Stephanie Everett (24:02):
Makes sense. Those seem smart and easy things for people to start thinking about. Anything else? When we kind of think about that office security layers, that might not be top of mind for us because we don’t think about this every day.
Brink Fidler (24:16):
Well, just that most people don’t have a lot of knowledge around what’s out there and what’s available. There are a lot of analytics that can run on existing camera systems that are real force multipliers that will tell you if you want to know if there’s motion in one corner of the parking garage or one section of your perimeter fence, there are analytics that can tell you that– facial recognition software is out there. And that scares a lot of people because they don’t understand it. Like facial recognition software does not scan my face when I walk up to your law firm and tell you that Brink Fidler is here because it’s never seen me before. People think that’s what facial recognition is. They’re saying, oh, look, Stephanie-well no, unless you have an image uploaded or you’ve seen that person previously. But where it becomes a real force multipliers, if you have a problematic whatever ex employee, ex client, current client, you can upload their image into your system and then if any camera on your system detects that face, it can send you an alert immediately.
And so that’s a real force multiplier where you don’t have to have somebody watching the cameras all the time. But again, those facial recognition analytics are not all created equal either. We like to test all those as well, so people just don’t have an education really is the biggest thing. I will plug one firm that I use all the time, and I won’t use anybody else. They’re here in Nashville. They’re called Herring Technology, H E R R I N G. They’re the best I’ve found in the industry. They go nationwide, but they do some massive clients that your audience would certainly know, and they’re fantastic and they can’t get rid of me because they kill everybody on customer service. There’s a lot of people that will come and put cameras in or access control, but I like to test all this stuff too and try and break it first. So that’s how we found each other. But if you’re looking for an even just an education, they’re going to be your go-to for that for sure.
Stephanie Everett (26:15):
Nice. One of the things I know you talk about, kind of shifting gears a little bit as we start to wrap up is this idea of a warrior mindset. And I would love for you to just share that with our audience because I think, well, it resonated with me, so maybe you could tell us what you mean by that and why we should be thinking that way.
Brink Fidler (26:36):
Sure. I introduced that in the last part of the acronym, which is the Defend. So assuming you’re a lockdown, we call it fortify, but if you’re locked down in an office, the shooter breaches forces their way through the door, or you’re stuck in a hallway and you have to take on that person, you have two choices. You can either take ’em on or not, and of course not means you’re choosing not to live. And I think that that’s not most people. Most people have a desire to live and go back to their families. And so I try and explain to people that you have to take on that warrior mindset in that moment. And this does live in everybody. It’s just simply a choice to call it up. And it’s basically they will not take your life. You will not give up, you will not stop.
You will live through this. You will see your loved ones again. You will win. And the one that I really try and drive at home for people is that they need to understand that right now you accept injury over death. And I know that seems like a pretty basic and elementary principle, but the reason we hesitate it is humans in life to do certain physical things is a fear of getting hurt. Well, you’re probably going to get injured if you’re taking on a gunman that’s trying to kill you. So what? Right? Just own it right now. And it’s really well illustrated for me by two particular quotes that I like and I use in the training. One is by a UFC fighter. He says, I don’t know how I’m going to win. I just know I’m not going to lose. But my favorite is the following, the devil whispered, you cannot withstand the storm.
And the warrior replied, I am the storm. And that’s the mindset shift in the moment of this person is not ready for me. And that’s true. I mean, we see it time and again that when people take on these shooters, they’re not ready for it. They have no plan for that, and it typically ends the attack. Sometimes the initial person taking them on does obviously get killed, but the alternative of not taking ’em on is terrible. I mean, one of the teachers in Sandy Hook shoved all of her kids in a bathroom and shielded them with her body. But what do you think he did? I mean, I understand her mindset, but we have to get in the warrior mindset of ready to fight, defend ourselves, and defend anybody with us.
Stephanie Everett (28:41):
And I didn’t expect to get emotional in our conversation, and I’m sure you’re sure you’re used to that, but sorry.
Brink Fidler (28:51):
No, it’s fine. It’s a dark world, right? I walk a dark space. It’s tough for me. I’m not going to lie. I did a walkthrough of the Covenant School two days after that happened and the victims were gone, but their D n A evidence wasn’t gone. And that belongs to people. I know mean this is, it’s heavy. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But at the end of the day, I told myself, if I don’t do this, there could have been information in that school that I needed that could affect somebody’s life down the road, and I’ll work through the trauma piece. That’s me. But that’s usually what I end on a lot of times is don’t overlook that piece. If you’re an organization, don’t overlook the mental health piece of this because this is very obviously traumatic. I mean, people that experience mental trauma are 15 times more likely to commit suicide.
So as an organization, on that note, don’t overlook that part. If you have an event like this, you need to be prepared and have another organization ready to come in and help y’all work through that piece of it. Because no matter how big and bad you think you are as a human, you can never unsee or unexperience what you’ve seen and experienced. And we didn’t understand that with our veterans. That’s why we have an epidemic of suicide in that community. So I would say, please don’t overlook that part of this. Surviving the event is not always surviving the event.
Stephanie Everett (30:10):
And it angers me is probably a gray word that we have to have this conversation that recently, I had a sleepover from my daughter when she turned 12, and I listened to sixth graders sit around the breakfast table and talk about what they would do in a real active shooter situation because they had been through enough drills that they were like, well, here’s what I’m going to do. And this was just like how I would talk about going to the mall with my friends, and there’s a pain in my stomach when I hear these things. But maybe the reason I was so emotional when you talked about that warrior mindset is I’d like to think that that would be my reaction, that I would go fight like hell before I let anything happen to somebody else. And you don’t know until you’re in that situation. But I think it’s important that we at least have these conversations as difficult as they are because it could save our life or our loved one’s life one day.
Brink Fidler (31:08):
Yeah. And I ask this question, as you know in the training, if you’re a parent, raise your hand. It’s a lot easier to call up that warrior mindset if you imagine your child being behind you, but you have it in, you want to get back to her. Right? Earlier you brought up fire drills. It’s been over 60 years since we’ve lost a child in a school fire because we as a society, we did something. We passed code and law and fire inspection and fire marshal and life safety, and you can’t even think about building a building without all that taken into consideration. We haven’t done that in this space. It’s overdue that we need to take it a little more seriously just on it from a design perspective and protocol perspective. And I think the reason we haven’t is the sting wears off because of the amount of media we have access to now at our fingertips that we’re inundated with 30,000 bad stories a year.
So the last one, the sting wears off. I mean, after day, our phones blew up, and I would say maybe 15% of those actually ended up booking us for training by the time school rolled around, because that was the last day of school. Same with Covenant. We had a lot jump up and down afterwards. And then a few have gone by the wayside, not as many. I mean, we are booked solid all the way through November. My life’s going to be crazy, but it’s got to sting. And so my ask, I guess of your audience would be ask what your workplace is doing. Ask what your kid’s school is doing and be vocal about it. And I feel like we as a society owe it to every single victim of these to be better at this. And that starts with everybody getting involved.
Stephanie Everett (32:43):
I love it. That’s a great place to wrap up. Thank you for coming in and educating on us on this, which is not easy and not fun, but necessary.
Brink Fidler (32:53):
Yeah, I appreciate you having me. Thanks for giving me the time.
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