It can happen anywhere
**edit added 12/7/15**In addition to the guide referenced below, DHS also has a YouTube video on this subject: Options for Consideration Active Shooter Training Video
Violence in the workplace has become a horrible reality in our world. Yesterday’s events in San Bernardino, CA again brought this reality to the fore. While there is so much we still don’t know about this tragedy and why it occurred, whether it was an act of terrorism (either domestic or otherwise) or a disgruntled employee – it still occurred in a workplace.
The sad truth is that I don’t think we can hope to completely prevent these things from occurring. Most experts agree with that sentiment. However, there are some things we can do to prepare ourselves in the event it happens in our workplace.
Some years ago, the Department of Homeland Security prepared a guide to help you and your employees to deal with an active shooter situation. This is a heavy topic, one that will potentially frighten many of your employees (and you, as well), but one that should be addressed. You can find the guide here:
Active Shooter - How to Respond
Some highlights from the guide include having an emergency action plan, conducting training exercises for your employees based on that plan and how to respond to an emergency, as well as advice for HR and Facilities Management personnel to prepare for and manage an active shooter situation.
A word about training – don’t simply hand out the guide or call an all staff meeting and talk to them. Conduct exercises employees have to actually engage in. Doing will have a bigger and longer lasting learning effect than simply hearing you talk about it. Conduct the training periodically as a refresher and for newer employees hired since the last training.
In a mere 13 pages, this guide is fairly comprehensive and will give you a good plan to being to develop your Emergency Action Plan and help your employees know what they should and shouldn’t do in such a situation.
The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that homicide is the second largest cause of death in the workplace. A U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey found that nearly 2 million employees are threatened or assaulted at work each year. These statistics include events like robberies that occur at workplaces, as well as incidences of domestic violence spillover, and unbalanced and disgruntled employees attacking co-workers and supervisors. It now will also most likely include acts of terrorism.
Other things you can do:
If you don’t have an Employee Assistance Program – get one. They are relatively inexpensive and can offer you and your employees many resources and support in all types of difficult situations. EAPS can offer assistance before, during and after a workplace violence event.
Consult with your local law enforcement agency. These folks may have community outreach programs or activities to help you assess your workplace and your policies against workplace violence (of any type) and give you further advice on how to handle an incidence of violence.
Be realistic. Don’t assume "it can’t happen here". It can. Recognize this and prepare. You can do this without unnecessarily scaring the heck out of your employees. In fact, some discomfort now may save their lives later.
At the risk of being too depressing and negative there’s something else you need to be realistic about when planning your prevention and response to such acts of violence. At a previous job, we had a lieutenant from our local police department come in and speak to us about workplace violence in general and active shooter situations in particular. One thing she said has stuck with me. She said that we should anticipate that there will be casualties – either injury or death. We had to recognize this and know that while we can do the best we can, we probably won’t be able to save everyone. Very sad, but most likely, very true. Prepare to the degree that we can, but also be realistic and don’t blame ourselves for the horrible actions of people who would perpetrate these crimes.