Rick Shaw Talks Prevention with Your Security Adviser


Rick Shaw: Most liabilities, incidents, and tragedies were preventable. However, most people are not aware of how prevention was possible and is possible going forward.

What is the key to prevention and preventing preventable incidents? Rick Shaw, CEO at Awareity, and I have beRick Shawen serving together on the ASIS International School Safety and Security Council for several years, but it wasn’t until ASIS 2015, that we connected in person. Rick’s presentation focused preventing lawsuits, liabilities, violence, tragedies and numerous other incidents, since hearing him speak I have been looking forward to sitting down and learning more about Awareity.

YSA:       So, what can you tell me about Awareity?

Rick Shaw:       The short version is Awareity is helping and equipping organizations to save lives, reputations, and bottom lines.  I will share the longer version as we go through the interview.

YSA:     Can schools, businesses, and organizations prevent incidents, headlines, lawsuits, and tragedies? If so, why are most incidents preventable and how do you prevent them?

Rick Shaw:    Can incidents, lawsuits, and tragedies be prevented?  Yes! Most incidents, lawsuits, and tragedies can be prevented.  We know this because, in almost every post event report, the conclusion is that the incident or tragedy was preventable. Prevention Rick ShawThe post-event report teams come to this conclusion because they almost always find there were numerous pre-incident indicators that if they had been collected and shared with the appropriate people, for example, a threat assessment team or community threat assessment team, they could have assessed and connected the dots. By connecting indicators with other indicators and connecting their assessments of at-risk individuals with the appropriate resources, intervention and proactive prevention steps could have and should have been taken.

YSA:     When you talk about “connecting the dots,” what indicator (dot) is missed most often? Why?

Rick Shaw:   Failing to connect the dots is an explanation or excuse that we often hear after an incident or tragedy. Organizations fail to connect the dots over and over again because of numerous common gaps and disconnects, however the following two are the main reasons organizations fail to connect the dots: 1) they were not aware of the dots or the pre-incident indicators because the organization did not provide a confidential or real anonymous tool for people to report the pre-incident indicators they observed, such as concerning behaviors, suspicious activities, and social media leakage. 2) the indicators were kept in a silo (with a person or within a department), a spreadsheet, a paper form or an email and not collected in a secure central platform where the incident reports and indicators could be assessed and connected by the appropriate personnel.

YSA:     How does the safety and security industry get schools, business, and organizations to start focusing on being proactive and addressing the issues that could prevent preventable incidents?

Rick Shaw:    First of all, is critical for schools, businesses and community leaders to understand the differences between safety and security and how critical it is to balance safety, which is preventing, and security, which is reacting and defending.  The data and the post-event reports reveal most organizations have invested almost entirely in security and reacting to incidents, at-risk individuals or threats already at their front door…think locks, alarms, guards, etc. Organizational leaders have invested almost nothing in preventing the at-risk individual or at-risk situation from escalating to the stage of showing up at their front door to attack. And I say stage because we also know from extensive research and overwhelming evidence that at-risk individuals go through stages, such as a grievance followed by ideation followed by planning followed by preparation and then the attack and the stages provide numerous opportunities for successful intervention and prevention efforts to take place – if you have the pre-incident indicators to recognize the stages.

YSA:     I have to ask, given your experience, are there individuals that scoff at the idea that incidents, headlines, lawsuits and tragedies were and are preventable?

Rick Shaw:    That’s a great question and the answer is yes. Many individuals believe incidents and tragedies like Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook or Fort Hood or San Bernardino were not preventable. This is because they have not performed research on their own or seen the extensive research we do at Awareity, but I can tell you when they see the timelines that show all of the pre-incident indicators that clearly reveal enough information existed before the event and enough time existed before the event, they begin to realize that most incidents and tragedies were indeed preventable.

YSA:     When do you see the “aha moment” on a person face, and you realize that they understand the premise of “connecting the dots” and prevention?

Rick Shaw:    Typically the pre-incident indicator timelines from Awareity’s research provides the proof and the visual that people need to experience that “aha moment”.  The pre-incident indicator timelines help people realize they don’t know everything other people know throughout their entire organization. Most have already experienced situations where they find out after the fact that other people were aware of pre-incident indicators that could have helped them to be more proactive and even pre-active with their intervention and prevention efforts. Once they realize pre-incident indicators are almost always observed, they begin to understand and realize how critical it is to utilize a central secure prevention platform. Next, they start realizing all of the pre-incident indicators observed by individuals within their organization, their community, and on social media must be reported, collected, securely shared so all the right dots can be connected more efficiently and more effectively.

YSA:     Looking into your crystal ball, what challenges lie ahead for the safety and security industry over the next 5-10 years?

Rick Shaw:    Albert Einstein said “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” So my crystal ball view is that we have to move beyond conventional thinking and conventional security approaches that clearly are not preventing mass shootings, workplace violence, terrorism and homegrown terrorism and numerous other acts of violence in our schools, colleges, organizations and communities. Another reason our conventional thinking must change is due to the aforementioned terrorism-related threats that we all face today.  As terrorists continue to attack soft targets where security is limited or may not exist at all,   it is vital that community leaders and organizational leaders change their conventional thinking and their one-sided security investments to a more balanced investment in security for reacting and defending and in safety for proactive and pre-active preventing.

YSA:     What does the future hold for Awareity and Rick Shaw?

Rick Shaw:    The future for Awareity is exciting and looking very promising as our prevention platform continues to help and equip schools, colleges, organizations and communities to successfully achieve all six essential steps of prevention, which is vital to saving lives, reputations, and bottom lines. Awareity’s unique prevention platform now has nearly five years of data, evidence, and proofs of concept that prevention is possible. So for Awareity, we will continue to reach out to leaders and stakeholders of schools, colleges, organizations and communities and share the successes. I am writing a book that will share extensive research, lessons learned, case studies, the six essential steps to Prevention and how future successes must include Community-wide Prevention Platforms and Community-wide Threat Assessment Teams to deal with the world we live in today and connect all the right dots.

Awareity Rick Shaw

Rick Shaw Bio

Rick Shaw, is founder and CEO of Awareity and is a successful entrepreneur, trusted advisor and Prevention Specialist for hundreds of leading organizations including schools, colleges, government, hospitals, banks and others. Rick Shaw has been delivering “Prevention Services” for over 30 years and led the way in developing Awareity’s innovative, multi-award-winning and proven “community-wide prevention platform” that is successfully equipping “teams” (threat, risk, security, information security, compliance, human resources, social media, prevention and others) to prevent incidents/tragedies rather than being limited to reacting to them.

For more information, visit Awareity or call 402.730.0090

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