Transcript – Episode 8

Fred Dunayer:             Welcome to the SCORE, Small Business Success Podcast, Been There, Done That. To get free mentoring services as well as to see the wide variety of resources available for small businesses, visit our website at or call 1-800-634-0245. Now, here’s your host Dennis Zink.

Dennis Zink:                Episode number eight. Workplace violence. Fred Dunayer joins me in our studio today as co-host, SCORE mentor and our audio engineer. Good morning, Fred.

Fred Dunayer:             Good morning.

Dennis Zink:                Our guests today are Dr. Donette Gordon and her husband, Don Gordon with Unseen Security Associates. Welcome to Been There, Done That.

Donette Gordon:        Good morning.

Don Gordon:              Good morning, thank you.

Dennis Zink:                Don Gordon started his law enforcement career with the Aurora Police Department in 1977. During his 27 year career in law enforcement, he has worked as a hostage negotiator, criminal investigator, drug agent, undercover officer and defensive tactics instructor. He has a degree in criminal justice.

Dr. Donette Gordon has worked in law enforcement for 25 years. Retiring in 2007 as the Chief of Security and Intelligence stationed in Washington DC. She has taught numerous courses at Everglades University. She has a graduate certificate in advance conflict resolution and analysis.

Doctor Gordon is a diplomat of the American Board of Law Enforcement Experts and a member of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences on the American Society of Industrial Security. In 2009, Don and Donette Gordon began training others in personal and physical security. Working as consultants for diverse government and private organizations such as the Department of Agriculture, US Park Service, Washington States Search and Rescue.

Would you begin today by providing our listeners with some background information on how your business came to be and exactly what it is that your business does?

Don Gordon:              Well, it started a long-time ago and far far away when I was a special agent with Bureau of Land Management Department of Interior. I was asked to develop a program for employee safety because many of our government employees work in very remote areas all by themselves. Help is far far away and you run into some very interesting people when you’re out in the wilderness.  The secondary purpose was the listing of the spotted owl which caused a lot of controversy and animosity toward the Federal government which was then related to the employees as they are out in the field.

I developed that program and in how an unarmed person might be able to survive and get out of a very tense situation using their verbal skills and those kind of things. Eventually, we had added the active shooter into that program and this program we’re going to be talking about today is just kind of gleaning that information out of the overall program.

Dennis Zink:                What is meant by active shooter?

Donette Gordon:        An active shooter is an individual or a number of individuals that actively engage in killing what’s in a confined area. There’s no pattern or method of selecting their victims, in many cases there’s no apparent motive except to kill. An example of this is in September of this year at the Washington Naval Shipyards.

A location that supposedly had multiple areas of security, we had an active shooter actually enter, kill 12 people and injure eight. We’ve also recently had the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a year ago, where 20 small school children were killed and six faculty members violently gunned down.

Dennis Zink:                There’s something that just happened on Friday also in Colorado, can you go into that a little bit?

Donette Gordon:        Exactly. That was at Arapahoe High School where Karl Pierson walked in with his shotgun looking for the librarian and unfortunately he found Claire Davis. She is still struggling for her life right now.

Dennis Zink:                I understand she’s in a coma and was shot at the face, is that right?

Donette Gordon:        That’s correct.

Dennis Zink:                According to the frequency of news reports, it seems like active shooter incidents are on the rise, if so, why is this happening?

Donette Gordon:        Well, it does appear to be on the rise. From 2001 to 2008, we had on average about five incidents a year. Since 2009 that number has tripled. We now have 15, 16 sometimes 20 a year. Sadly that’s translated to approximately 136 men, women and children dying. There’s no one single factor we can point to as to why this is actually on the rise.

Dennis Zink:                What’s the difference between an active shooter and a drive-by shooting?

Don Gordon:              Well, both of them sometimes the victim seem, the victimization seems to be very indiscriminate but the drive-by shooting is not in a constricted area, happens very quickly, usually, driving by, and a lot of times you can assess or assign some sort of motive to that kind of shooting, drug-related, gang-related, things like that.

In the active shooting situation, we have the confined space and often much less personal, the victim does not know the perpetrator and has no idea why it’s happening.

Dennis Zink:                Can an active shooting incident be prevented and if so, how?

Don Gordon:              Well, I don’t think you can prevent an active shooting situation and the purpose of our training is truly to mitigate the outcomes, there are things that you might be able to do if you realize you have the options to do that. That’s what we’re looking for is to mitigate the outcome.

Dennis Zink:                It would be helpful to talk about the characteristics such as mental illness, you hear a lot about that, that are prevalent in my active shooters, what are some of those characteristics?

Donette Gordon:        I think there’s a natural tendency to want to have a list or a profile, most people are very comfortable with that and while it’s true that in 25% of these incidents, there was diagnosed mental illness. It’s not true in all those cases. We really don’t have a checklist, there are some agencies such as FEMA that have listed a propensity to have guns, collect guns, history of mental illness. There’s no real grocery list or check list out there.

Dennis Zink:                What makes your training so different?

Don Gordon:              Well, what we tried to do, is we try to empower the person that’s found themselves in the situation of being involved in an active shooting. You have more control over your life and your outcomes than a lot of  literature could lead you to believe if you can develop the options, if you can develop your survival plan for these situations and what we do is we try to get people to understand these are things they can do, they can be moderately in control of their destiny.

Dennis Zink:                Homeland Security advocates evacuating, hiding and a last resort, confronting shooters. That seems like good advice but is there more to it that a person can do, can you explain?

Donette Gordon:        Well, it’s excellent advice, however there is much much more that can be done to protect yourself, employees, even your loved ones. For example environmental awareness, knowing something as simple as where the exits are, can and will save your life. Understanding the dynamics of an active shooting incident.

Refusing to be lizard-brain during an emergency or some other proactive tactics. Yes, I do call them tactics because you may be faced with some, are terming, the new terrorist.

Dennis Zink:                What exactly do you mean by lizard-brain?

Don Gordon:              Lizard-brain is a nice physiological reaction to a stress situation. You get an incredible adrenaline dump and you probably all have that when something is happening and this is just outside your realm, adrenaline will kick in, all of your fine motor skills will disappear. The lizard-brain is when the body goes into a survival mode and it draws all of the blood into the core of the body to operate the systems required for survival.

This would be the heart, the lungs, major muscle groups, oxygenate all of the muscle groups and everything like that. It draws blood from the brain. One part of the brain that loses the blood will be your prefrontal cortex which is all of your higher order thinking, then it goes into the amygdala which is what we call the lizard-brain, is your primordial brain.

That is really concerned with survival, that leaves you with the three options of fight, flight, freeze. What we try to do is convince our customers or help our customers in the development of a survival plan because once you’re in the lizard-brain, your higher order thinking is gone, you’re not going to be coming up with a survival strategy.

At that point, it has to be something that’s already there that you reach in to your vault of survival skills and pull that out and use it to survive the situation. You can’t prevent the lizard-brain, but you certainly can mitigate the results of having a lizard-brain.

Dennis Zink:                Is that a situation that the shooter himself or herself might have as well because you think they’d be pretty nervous, loading, reloading and trying to kill more people?

Don Gordon:              Absolutely. The shooter will also be experiencing all of those effects and what we find in the active shooting case is they are very well planned. I drop by the drug store and buy a gun on my way to this building and start shooting people. They have planned it out, they know what they’re going to do, and they’re operating off of their list of plans and this is the advantage that the victims have.

Because without the higher order thinking skills, the shooter is not tactically thinking, he’s just rote in his plan doing the shooting and leaves himself vulnerable in many areas or leaves areas of escape open because he’s not tactically thinking about what he’s doing.

Dennis Zink:                What exactly do you mean by unseen security?

Donette Gordon:        When we hear the term security, we think of locks, cameras, guards, security guards both armed and unarmed. All of those do offer a degree of protection but there’s so many other things that can be done to maximize your safety, these are the unseen aspects of security. The pre-planning, the environmental awareness, the deciding not to have a lizard-brain during these types of incidents.

Dennis Zink:                Many victims of active shooter incidents play dead. Could you explain why this may not be the best plan or is it?

Donette Gordon:        There is no one right way, every active shooter incident is different and contingent on a variety of factors. Evacuating, hiding or taking action against that shooter may be the best way to protect yourself. Awareness of your surroundings and having a plan, well, that’s going to ultimately increase your chances of survivability in any emergency.

Dennis Zink:                What is your position on gun control given that we are seeing an increase in active shooters?

Donette Gordon:        As responsible trainers, we neither support nor oppose any proposed legislation, our purpose here for the training is to provide usable information that’s going to help keep you safe during a commission of a violent act and also be able to take that information and share with your loved ones.

Dennis Zink:                It seems that Pandora’s box’s is not just opened but blown out of the water with the number of guns that are in society already so it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of room for gun control to have any impact to the situation.

Don Gordon:              Well, the determined person will find a weapon and they’ll get it legally, illegally, if they’re determined to have one, they are going to have one. I would think that gun control unless you have greater access or there’s a legal means by which a psychiatrist, psychologist can say maybe this person shouldn’t be buying weapons.

That’s a legislative and legal question that will be debated forever. We just assume, I just assume that people who want a gun will get a gun.

Dennis Zink:                What is the value of your training?

Don Gordon:              Well, the greatest value in this training is to empower the people. Hopefully help them along that decision process where they can make plans and they can think about contingencies when they walk into restaurant, they look for the exits, what available weapons, improvised weapons would be there if they needed them, where might the safe room be.

Know the difference between cover and concealment, you can hide behind things and not be seen but still get shot. There are things you can hide behind that they can’t shoot through. Anything like that. That’s the value. Empowering the person, the individual because society is not always going to be their savior.

The police aren’t always going to be there. These active shootings often, well most often are over by the time you have a law enforcement response.

Dennis Zink:                Is it an instinctive thing that police officers like to sit facing the door?

Don Gordon:              Well, it’s a fun thing to watch in a restaurant, if you see six policemen walk into a restaurant and they’re going to sit at a table, I guess gamesmanship that will occur to see who does not have their back to the room and those who will be watching the room. I have been unconsciously in that if you will shoving match to get the chair where I can see what’s going on. Because I don’t trust anybody else, to watch what’s going on. It’s fun.

Dennis Zink:                It’s like musical chairs but you innately know what to do because you’ve been trained to do that and that’s what, that makes a lot of sense.

Don Gordon:              Yeah. We look for things. I used to aggravate Donette driving down the road, just saying, you see that guy, he just walked into the 7 Eleven, because you’re looking for things like that.

Dennis Zink:                Now with concealed gun permits, those numbers are going up every year, I’m assuming. There’s more people with guns but I guess they’re not the ones that you have to worry about unless you’re in argument with them?

Don Gordon:              Well, we certainly hope that the concealed weapons permit process weeds out people that should not have them. Those who do have them, we’re certainly hoping they’re responsible in their use.

Dennis Zink:                I’d like to talk more about what you called lizard-brain, about the instinctive response that people have. Do you believe that this can be overcome?

Don Gordon:              Well, I think it’s an extraordinary person that can overcome the effect of lizard-brain when you get into the situation. It’s so unexpected and it can be so violent, actually mentally traumatic. What we try to do is say you can compensate for that lizard-brain effect and the compensation comes all down to planning, pre-thinking everything out, contingency planning, doing the what ifs.

That is extremely uncomfortable for most people to do, to sit around well, what if somebody comes in with a gun through the door right now,  it’s just not normal to sit around and contemplate those things. We’re going to take people out of their comfort zone I hope for their own survival.

Dennis Zink:                Sounds like putting together a will.

Don Gordon:              Yeah. Nobody wants to do it. It’s just, that’s the mindset.

Dennis Zink:                No one starts their day expecting it to be their last.

Don Gordon:              No they don’t.

Dennis Zink:                Although the shooter sometimes do.

Don Gordon:              Yes. The active shooter generally it’s a suicide by police or they will suicide before the police get to them.

Dennis Zink:                It shows you the mindset that they have.

Don Gordon:              That absolute knowledge of their ultimate demise is what keeps them in that lizard-brain context because they know they’re going to die. The body doesn’t really like to go along with that.

Dennis Zink:                An active shooter can come into a movie theater, an arena, a school, a place of worship, your office. Every building is different. Do you get involved with assessing the locations for the companies that you work for?

Donette Gordon:        Yes. Actually we, prior to putting on any training we go into the building and location or the organization and do a physical security survey. Take a look at where the exits are, the entrances, choke points. Then from there we go ahead and actually personalize our training to include all of that in, when we talk about the active shooter.

We’re involving the audience, the employees. Let me give you an example. Just recently, we went into a small college and we did active shooting training for the faculty and the staff there. Prior to that, the physical security survey showed us that we had in particular in one area a number of offices and they only had one way in, one way out.

Well, if an active shooter was going to go down that hallway, the employees, the only way to get out would be to go past the active shooter. That gave us an opportunity to talk to the employees in those particular offices and think of some options for them if they heard that there was an active shooter in the building or any disturbance.

Dennis Zink:                What were some of those options that they could have done?

Donette Gordon:        Definitely to close the door, lock it as soon as possible, turn out the lights. In this particular case, we were following Homeland Security’s advice of actually hiding or sheltering in place.

Dennis Zink:                Okay. I understand there’s a card that with information that we can give out to our listeners, if they inquire about more information to get information on Homeland Security.

Donette Gordon:        Absolutely. If they would go to the Homeland Security website, Homeland Security has done an excellent job of putting together a lot of resource materials for active shooter and they do have cards that can be printed out.

Dennis Zink:                You insist that having a plan of being prepared is really one of the key ways to keep yourself and your family and your employees safe. How do you explain this to children?

Don Gordon:              Well, that’s a hard one because you don’t want to traumatize children and nobody wants their child living in fear. You can, we can’t, but you can assess what your children are capable of handling and what ages they should be given certain information. Small children, one of the best things is the stranger danger.

If the big bad man makes you afraid, run away. In the cases of school shootings, fortunately for the children they generally have adults there ready to help them. The more mature mind can lead them through that kind of crisis. For those situations, I think it’s imperative that also the adults have all of that information or all the information that they can get, so they can help the children survive.

Again just that stranger danger is probably one of the better things that we have going for children’s education.

Dennis Zink:                I find it frightening to think that an active shooter incident can happen at anytime, when you’re at the mall, you’re shopping for groceries, you’re at the post office mailing a letter. How does one prepare for this?

Don Gordon:              It’s mental mindset and environmental awareness. Be prepared, have a plan, know what you want to do if something happens, then the environmental awareness because everything changes all the time. Where is my escape routes, how can I get out of here? Sidewalks, alleyways, doorways, what buildings look like they would be safe, where can I go, where can I hide.

You just have to be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes I think it might be possible to recognize a person that has that purposeful focus of doing evil. You can escape them before it happens. Hopefully dial 911 and tell the local authorities about that.

Dennis Zink:                What other training is offered by Unseen Security Associates?

Donette Gordon:        We have training in workplace violence where we will go in and again do a physical security survey on the facility and talk to the employees about possible assaults that could occur. This also includes management training for the managers, we have a module on being a hostage and living.

We also have in development something for the elderly. Elderly safety and security that we’ll be working on.

Fred Dunayer:             You all have shared a lot of quality information. If our listeners go away with just one or two thoughts from this session, what would you recommend that they think about?

Don Gordon:              I would recommend that they think about surviving and going home. You know that it’s, your family wants you at home. Your co-workers hopefully wants you back. We just want them to think that we can survive and let’s go home at the end of the day.

Dennis Zink:                Well, Donette and Don, thank you for enlightening us today about Unseen Security Associates. For more information how can our listeners contact you?

Donette Gordon:        You can reach us by phone, 775-354-6700775-354-6700. We also have a website, that’s now up and that’s

Dennis Zink:                Can you repeat the phone number again?

Donette Gordon:        Absolutely. 775-354-6700775-354-6700.

Dennis Zink:                Is there an email address?

Donette Gordon:        You could email Don or myself, Donette Gordon,

Dennis Zink:                Terrific. Well, if you our listeners have a story to tell and would like to be interviewed for a future business podcast, please contact me by email providing your topic of interest and a brief bio, send to and that’s spelled C-E-N-T-R-E of influence. Again that’s

Fred Dunayer:             You’ve been listening to the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast – Been There, Done That! The opinions of the host and guests are theirs. They do not necessarily reflect those of SCORE. If you would like to hear more podcasts, get a free mentor, view a transcript of this podcast, or would like more information about the services we provide, you can call SCORE at 800-634-0245 or visit our website at Again, that’s 800-634-0245 or visit the website at

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