Risk Management

3 Imperative Things to Remember When Reviewing Active Shooter Insurance

Because gun violence is unpredictable, risk managers need to keep on top of any exclusions their active shooter insurance might hold.
By: | October 1, 2018 • 5 min read

It’s a tough subject to tackle, but mass shootings in the United States have become more commonplace.


As violence crops up in schools, movie theaters, workplaces, universities, churches, concert venues, government buildings and more, risk managers know they have to do something to preempt an attack.

Some suggest arming teachers in schools or arming managers in office spaces, but each strategy brings its own set of risks and liability. A Gallagher paper, “Arming Managers With Guns?” detailed such risks, including compliance with specific gun permitting laws and issues surrounding reckless or negligent behavior related to the corporate-approved weapon.

And while no policy can be the ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for mass shootings, a number of entities are starting to invest in active shooter insurance to cover losses that stem from such an event.

In fact, after the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting on Valentine’s Day, McGowan Program Administrators, which offers active shooter and workplace violence covers, noted hundreds of new inquiries into this type of coverage from schools. The Beazley Group saw a four-fold increase in interest in active shooter policies since last year, marking Marjory Stoneman as the catalyst.

As risk managers aim to research and add this type of cover to their portfolio, here are some key factors to keep in mind while planning out potential active shooter insurance coverage.

1) Don’t Assume General Liability Policies Will Cover Everything

As McGowan notes on its website, many of the standard liability policies in existence were most likely written before the rate of mass shootings surged. Some even go as far as to exclude gun-related violence entirely.

Because of this, active shooter insurance has grown in popularity. Also known as active-assailant coverage, active shooter insurance is considered a gap coverage meant to cover such things as funeral costs, death benefits and other expenses of that nature. Some policies include extra liability and medical expense benefits. Others cover a wide range of attack-types, such as knife and vehicular attacks, as part of the cover.

School districts in particular are interested in adding this to their existing covers.

“It at least gives us some peace of mind that, in the event of a horrible tragedy, we can begin to put things in place,” Belpre City Schools treasurer Lance Erlwein told the Wall Street Journal.

“Fifteen years ago who would have ever thought you would need something like this. It’s awful that schools have become the target,” Erlwein added.

However, it’s important to remember that not all active shooter policies are the same from carrier to carrier. Evaluating and comparing coverages is key throughout the process in addition to reviewing general liability for where the gaps might be in the first place.

 2) Likewise, Don’t Rely Entirely on Existing Property Coverage if the Building Has to Come Down

“A property policy offers very little in coverage for an active shooter event,” said Mitchel Brashier, national risk control leader, the Baton Rouge area, Gallagher.

Sometimes, even though the physical damages are small, places of violence choose to tear down the affected building. Marjory Stoneman Douglass, for instance, has shuttered its facility and plans to demolish it.

The average property policy doesn’t have this kind of teardown/rebuild clause attached to it. Likewise, “there are so many variables to consider concerning insurance for replacement of physical plants where shootings have occurred that it would be difficult for the industry to design a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” Brashier added.

Take Sandy Hook Elementary and Virginia Tech as examples:

In 2012, a gunman entered Sandy Hook, killing 20 school-age children and six faculty members. The school was completely torn down and rebuilt due to the emotional duress linked to the site. The school spent roughly $50 million to take down and rebuild a facility better designed for possible future attacks.

RELATED: When the Emotional Toll of a Mass Shooting Requires a Building to be Torn Down, How Can Risk Managers Foot the Bill?

By comparison, in 2007, a college student unleashed violence at Virginia Tech, killing 32 and wounding 17 more. The university chose to tear out the inside of the buildings where the shooting occurred and, instead, strategically remodeled the insides to better protect students against a repeat attack.

“Usually, there is very little resulting physical damage to trigger the property policy; however, due to obvious emotional reasons, going back into the same facility may not be practical, at least for some time,” said Brashier.

Risk managers can take a page out of Dianne Howard’s book. As director of benefits and risk management for Palm Beach County School District, she knew she wanted to prepare for the unlikely possibility she would need to take down one of her school buildings. She worked to get a teardown/rebuild clause and upped her active shooter coverage.

3) Ask About Terrorism Coverages and Other Potential Exclusions

Many active shooter insurance policies exclude terrorism as part of their coverage.


This is because of how the two types of events are defined. While both horrendous in nature, these events are looked at differently in how they are addressed by first responders, the law and insurance. For example, after the Mandalay Bay Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, the authorities spent weeks debating whether or not to define the attack as that of a terrorist nature. Gunman Stephen Paddock was able to squirrel away 47 guns into his hotel room before unleashing 1,100 rounds on hundreds of concert-goers below. Fifty-nine people died and 422 others were injured.

Ultimately, however, authorities settled on calling the event a mass shooting, because Paddock’s motive — which is still unclear — did not fall into the definition of a terrorist attack.

Because of this, an incident could easily go from being a random and senseless act of gun violence and become labeled an act of terrorism. Risk managers are wise to ask about any possible terrorism exclusions within their active shooter insurance, especially if they want to guarantee they are prepared for these unpredictable events. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]