Protecting Your Workforce Against an Active Shooter

According to the FBI, there was an active shooter event every 18 days in 2016. While workplace shootings have been historically rare, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that there was a sharp increase in 2016 in the number of office shootings, from 83 the previous year to 394. Shootings now account for the lion’s share of workplace homicides with 363 workplace shootings reported in 2019. Keeping your workforce safe against active shooters takes planning.

It’s your responsibility to provide a safe work environment, but what can you do when faced with the unthinkable? You can’t just rely on security guards and alarm systems. What you need is a solid plan that can be implemented during an active shooter situation to safeguard your employees.

Active Shooters

Monitor and React to an Active Shooter

Workplace violence and harassment policies provide a framework for addressing conflicts before they escalate. If these policies are well implemented, they will reduce the overall potential for violence by staff members.

It’s been proven that most active shooters display warning signs before resorting to guns. They will tend to isolate themselves, become increasingly despondent, forget to care for their hygiene, seem nervous, on the edge and impatient. They might seem harsh or quick to judge, prone to fits of anger or sadness, and often sick tired. In other words, their behavior changes in a way that should be noticeable to his or her colleagues.

Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland security reports that most active shooters had no ties with the place they targeted. Even if the active shooter isn’t a complete stranger, you may be powerless to pre-empt the situation if the shooter is a former employee, the spouse or partner of a staff member or a disgruntled customer who feels wronged by the company or its representatives.

Plan and Prepare

You’ll want to create a formal emergency response plan for dealing with an active shooter situation so that your staff knows clearly what to do when it happens. Having a policy in place is not enough to be well prepared. Train your employees, make it part of onboarding, and schedule drills. The FBI has active shooter resources on their website.

When confronted with a shooter, evacuation is always the first and best option. You’ll want to get as many people out of the building and to a safe location as possible, well away from the shooter. Your team needs to map out the fastest exit routes out of the building for each employee and provide alternate routes in case the planned escape route is blocked by the active shooters.

Employees will need to rehearse this often, much as they would a fire drill. Use a person dressed in orange to serve as the active shooter and block different routes. Monitor your staff’s progress and adapt the plan as needed. Employees should move quickly, though carefully, to their designated exit while doing their best not to be spotted by the shooter whose current location might elude them.

Active Shooters

Hide and Fight

Hiding comes next. If someone can’t leave the premises, they’ll want to find cover to shield them from any gunfire. That’s where preparedness on your part can make a big difference. Make sure each office door can be locked from the inside with deadbolts, door stops or other appropriate devices. Install blinds on windows. If the shooter cannot see inside the room, he will be less likely to enter.

Have your employees practice hiding by turning off the lights, locking the door, closing the curtains, shutting off computers and finding cover. During this exercise, pair employees so that one person acts as the “victim” and the other as an observer to evaluate their efficiency.

Finally, if the shooter is near and hiding is no longer an option, your employees must do what it takes to preserve their life. Some people believe they can do that by talking down an active shooter. That may be true for trained officials, but it is not a viable option for anyone on your team. Train your employees to avoid contact at all costs, stay hidden and quiet as long as possible, find a solid object, then attempt to disarm and render unconscious the perpetrator.

Train and Learn

Here are 8 tips to help you and your employees better prepare:

  1. Don’t forget to call 911, but only if it is safe to do so.
  2. Remind people to leave their belongings behind.
  3. Instruct your team to keep their hands visible as they leave the premises to show law
    enforcement they are not a threat.
  4. Tell your employees they can help others escape, as long as it doesn’t slow their own escape or
    put them in harm’s way. Leave the wounded where they are.
  5. Have your team warn people not to enter the area where the active shooter is thought to be
  6. If hiding, remind the person to remain quiet and silence their cell phone.
  7. If the active shooter is nearby, have the person call 911 to allow the dispatcher to listen in and
    locate the shooter.
  8. Finally, if action is required, tell the person to be as aggressive, threatening and decisive as they
    can be.

After an Active Shooter Incident

Seek professional help from trauma experts to promptly deal with the emotional and psychological impact of such an event. Most employees, even those who did not experience the incident first-hand, will need assistance dealing with the loss of close colleagues and the fear of returning to work.

You’ll also need to tally the physical property damage and business interruption expenses and provide assistance to your employees with their health-related claims.

It is your job to provide a safe work environment for your employees. That includes creating a smart active shooter plan. While you may never need to use it, preparing for such an event may save lives. If you need more information on protecting your workforce or creating active shooter policies, speak to you insurance professional; they can give you the guidance you need.

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