The growing threat of workplace violence and active shooter events in the United States has created a new reality for all schools, businesses, and organizations. However, the truth is that this has been a reality for some time. As these tragedies continue to occur more regularly and with increased severity, the concern of a workplace violent act or the likelihood of an active shooter must be seriously considered. A workplace violence preparedness and response plan can save lives - but action must be taken and it must be taken now! The sooner people become educated and prepare for the worst the better off they will all be.
What constitutes workplace violence?
Workplace violence is defined as an assault or other violent act/threat that occurs in or is related to the workplace and entails a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to individuals. It can be the result of a disagreement, bullying, domestic dispute, or even an unknown. Those directly affected include coworkers, external visitors, former employees, family members or domestic partners.
What are workplace violence warning signs?
Any of the following warning signs demonstrated by a coworker may be cause for concern and/or special attention:
- A newly unkempt appearance and/or poor personal hygiene
- Threatening or intimidating behavior
- Demonstration of increased personal stress
- Negative personality characteristics
- Obvious changes in work performance
- Observable grievances with threats and plans of retribution
- A history of violence
- Drastic changes in mood or behavior
- Social isolation
- Drug and alcohol abuse
Develop a workplace violence response plan and train employees how to respond to a violent act.
In the case that a circumstance may turn violent, the following measures should be taken:
- Assess the situation and maintain focus on the disgruntled person. Keep attention on their hands.
- Be patient, empathetic and encouraging. Project confidence and calmness!
- Maintain a relaxed yet attentive posture. Also, position yourself at a right angle instead of directly in front of that person. Be ready to act!
- Be reassuring and point out options. Be positive!
- Position yourself so that your exit is not blocked.
It is important for people to understand that workplace violence is a real and present danger.
All employees must increase their situational awareness, take immediate action whenever necessary, and always be prepared. Often, problems can be stopped from escalating just by watching others and taking note of their behavior. Also, by immediately contacting supervision and/or human resources to alert of concerns and potential danger, more serious ordeals may be avoided. However, in the case that threats are made or inferred, authorities must be called immediately. A zero-tolerance policy must be enforced!
How to respond to an active shooter:
An “active shooter” is an individual who is engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and have no pattern or method to their selection of victims. The event is usually unpredictable and evolves quickly. There may also be more than one active shooter.
The current standard protocol for responding to an active shooter consists of 3 options - Run... Hide... Fight.
Active Shooter Response Protocol:
- RUN/ESCAPE: Run and escape as soon as possible.
- HIDE: If you cannot escape, hide and remain hidden until an all clear is given.
- FIGHT: Only as a last resort - Fight like your life depends on it... because it does.
Once outside of the building or affected area, people should adhere to the following guidelines:
- Keep hands visible, raised, empty and with fingers spread.
- Avoid quick movement toward police officers.
- Follow instructions given by the police.
- Never re-enter the building!
- Provide information:
- location of and number of shooters
- physical description of shooters
- type of weapons and how many
- number of and location of victims
Ways to prevent workplace violence and increase employee safety:
In this unpredictable world, it is important that all schools, businesses, and organizations have a workplace violence awareness and response plan in place, and provide training to all employees so that they are ready to respond to any scenario.
Develop a workplace violence policy:
- No allowance for any type of violence. No exceptions!
- Increase awareness with violence prevention education.
- Implement an employee reach out/assistance program.
- Create an “active shooter” emergency action plan.
- Provide active shooter response training. Run... Hide... Fight!
Be strategic and operational:
- Security measures need to be in place.
- Security personnel
- Controlled entryways and exits
- Establish roles and responsibilities
Work with local law enforcement:
- Build relationships with local police officers, patrolmen, sheriffs, etc.
- Provide a map of the facility and arrange annual visits.
- Allow access to the facility
- Arrange annual drills and training events.
Do not delay in taking the necessary steps today for improvement - lives can depend on it. How we deal with a crisis tomorrow depends on how well we trained for it today!
KERAMIDA's emergency management specialists are ready to help you with emergency response management, planning, and training services. To learn more, please contact us today!
Senior Project Manager, Security, Health and Safety Services
Contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.