By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Steve Smith has responded to several mass shootings as a SWAT team member of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
Now, he is training local business owners and school administrators and staff on how to be the first responders if an active shooter enters their place of business.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Dec. 2012, Smith and his wife Taylor, who had a newborn and a 2-year-old at the time, said they wanted to do something to help people learn how to respond to active shooter situations.
“It emotionally broke us down,” he said of the school shooting. “We are both parents. I knew something had to change.”
So, he began researching how he could help prepare other people for these incidents, which were becoming more commonplace.
He created Boca Raton-based Guardian Defense in Nov. 2013 with his wife—a company that equips people with confidence and empowers them to respond to active shooter situations, he said.
He is still a full time law enforcement officer and a leader of the SWAT team. He responded to the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport and at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
But when he isn’t on the clock at that job, he is in local businesses and schools helping create policies, action plans and conducting workshops to help teach employees how to be first responders in an active shooter situation.
He said by the time law enforcement arrives to a scene, it is usually over. So, he devised a plan and program to implement at businesses so they can learn how to respond.
“Imagine you have never been through a fire drill and then buildings keep catching on fire,” he said. “We built a safety plan. Our mission is that we come in and we build policies and procedures and train all the personnel that you are the first responders.”
He said the company’s services range from an hour workshop, an all day course with practical drills, up to a six month in depth review and implementation of safety guidelines. Services begin at $800 and can go up to $10,000 for an entire policy and procedures plan.
Smith said their service is not a “check off the box” type program.
“It’s a life skill you’re learning,” he said. “We want you to take it home to your families. It’s not just a training day for that location.”
If you are interested in hiring Guardian Defense to come to your business, you can submit an inquiry online or call. They will go over what your needs are, what policies you have or don’t have in place and what fears and trepidations you may have about the topic.
Guardian Defense has given courses at several local schools including, Saint Andrew’s School, Boca Prep International School, St. Paul Lutheran School and Church, Boca Raton Christian School, Spanish River Christian School, Karen Slattery Educational Research Center and Pre-School at FAU, Ruth and Taubman Early Childhood Center at B’Nai Torah, Katz Hillel Day School, Children’s World Preschool and Katz Yeshiva High School of South Florida.
Courses have also been provided across the country. Recently, Guardian Defense traveled to Sacred Heart Catholic School in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Smith said the instructors who come out are all parents or grandparents who have a lot patience and will make sure all questions are answered.
“We want them to be self-sufficient and provide training for their personnel even when we are gone,” he said. “This has to be instilled and implemented just like a fire drill. We are building something that there isn’t a standard for.”
For school presentations, students are not present, he said. The training is for school employees. The business course goes over violence training and prevention and how to look for signs and triggers in employees, so people can know how to respond before something happens and possibly prevent an incident.
A portion of the course is dedicated to medical response. He recommended upgrading first aid kits to trauma kits by adding tourniquets and quick clotting medicated gauze that can stop arterial bleeding.
“The No. 1 killer in combat or in a situation like this is blood loss,” he said.
Participants spend time learning how to apply a tourniquet under stress.
“It’s about confidence and empowerment to have a plan and share the plan,” he said.
For more information, visit https://guardiandefenseplan.com or call 561-419-8869.