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Active assailant cover: Preparing for a post-pandemic rise in mass shootings

Fears are growing that as the pandemic eases and society gradually reopens, lone wolf and terrorist attacks will escalate.

Despite the closure of schools, universities, and non-essential businesses during the pandemic, there were still 611 mass shooting incidents in the United States in 2020 a 46% increase on the previous year.

There are a number of factors at play, but the social, economic, and political impact of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored.

Fears are growing that as the pandemic eases and society gradually reopens, lone wolf and terrorist attacks will escalate, not least because COVID-19-related trauma still remains.

COVID-19 impact

The effects of the pandemic have been devastating at many levels for large sections of society. Numerous people face mental health problems due to job loss, loneliness, and a drastic change in routine.

Gun sales have surged, while coronavirus has stalled anti-crime efforts. According to one estimate, gun sales in the US increased by 65% in 2020 compared to 2019, reaching a record 23 million.

Additionally, the United Nations notes evidence suggesting there may have been an increase in the number of youth and children accessing extremist content online, when they spent a significant amount of time away from school and education facilities.

Consequently, institutions, businesses, schools, and hospitals — in some cases, for the first time — are looking for protection against mass shootings and the fallout of these events.

Types of attack

An active assailant incident is a deliberate malicious, physical attack by an individual who is present and armed with a weapon.

Weapons can include hand-held instruments (such as a gun or knife), explosive devices, vehicles, corrosive substances, and drones.

Attacks commonly occur in commercial areas, and public places; their heavy flows of human traffic make them more susceptible target locations.

Entities that host, support, or house large numbers of staff, customers, children, and the vulnerable are also exposed to such events. These include schools, universities, care homes, restaurants, stadiums, places of worship, offices, and hospitals.

Terrorism versus active assailant cover

Businesses are usually fully aware that some sort of insurance is necessary to protect against this form of attack. However, given the many different type of coverages available, careful scrutiny of policies is required.

For example, traditional terrorism coverage will only respond to incidents with a political, religious, or ideological motive. Similarly, the wording of a general liability policy can be vague on whether an active assailant event would be covered.

By contrast, active assailant policies provide affirmative protection from this type of incident. As the biggest impact of such attacks is on the victims and their loved ones, products cover the associated cost of supporting family members, including those associated with counseling, funerals, and medical treatment.

This type of insurance can provide cover for not only property damage and business interruption, but also non-damage business interruption, caused by denial of access or threat or loss of attraction (downturn of potential revenue as a consequence of an incident). This provides protection for businesses that were not the direct target of an attack, but have still suffered a loss due to business operations being unable to perform as usual.

Coverage can be sought for first and third party legal liability, which is important especially in litigious jurisdictions, where any injury or fatality resulting from an active assailant incident may result in significant legal expenses or settlements. 


Active assailant insurance policies are progressively including the provision of expertise and additional resources to businesses to help with pre-incident planning in order for them to be better prepared for these attacks, as well as handling the outcome should they occur.

Crisis management services can provide this pre-incident training, as well as crisis response. It is vital for a business to have a robust framework in place to protect its people and operations, if something does happen.

This includes accounting for people onsite, establishing an employee/family reunification center, having support services in place to provide psychological support and first aid, managing the media, liaising with the local services such as hospitals and care teams, and working with the police to coordinate crime scene management and clean-up.

With the terrorism insurance market becoming more mature, a benchmark is emerging for businesses managing and transferring active assailant exposures. As the take-up of these policies accelerates and the solutions available proliferate, businesses that are judged not to have a plan after an attack may face the greatest criticism. Working with advisors to build the right insurance program can help organizations be more confident in the event of an active shooter event.

If you have questions regarding active assailant cover, please contact your Marsh advisor.

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