In this day and age, violence can occur in any type of work environment, including the workplace. An emergency action plan should be implemented to prepare response protocols that can be activated in a crisis situation. A response plan targeted at workplace violence is recommended because unlike other natural disasters or hazards, workplace violence involves a thinking, mobile and dangerous human being. Not only are there safety reasons for businesses to develop and adopt emergency action plans, but there are sound business reasons to implement these plans. Studies have shown that up to 40% of businesses affected by a human-caused or natural disaster event never reopen. A sound emergency action plan that is communicated to all employees and tailored towards your business specifically can save lives and your business.
Employers should take into consideration that an active shooter is usually going to have one thing in mind: cause as many casualties as he/she can until stopped. Active shooters will generally not negotiate because his or her agenda is one thing, to cause casualties. Once confronted by someone who can stop them, most active shooters will commit suicide. A typical active shooter scenario is over in ten to fifteen minutes.
Historically, clients and/or customers constitute almost half of the active shooters in the workplace. These people usually know the layout of the building, where employees are likely to be located, such as a conference room or break room, and they are aware of the planned escape routes. Thus, your emergency action plan must be tailored to each specific work location and to employee needs and evacuation routes.
The emergency action plan needs to be communicated to employees with training on what to do, how to report an incident, whom to report to, and what red flags to be aware of throughout their daily work environment. Employees should be encouraged to report a situation that may seem out of the ordinary or out of place. Employers should develop a code that will notify all employees of a situation developing without alerting the shooter. This code should be communicated to all employees during training, it should be simple to use, and sound like a routine communication in the work place. The code simply could be asking “Alice, please call Reception” or “Alice, please report to Conference Room 3”, so long as no employee is named Alice or there is no Conference Room 3.
Employers should develop the following response policies once the code has been announced:
Run: If employees are able to evacuate depending upon the situation they must leave all personal items behind and be vigilant to watch for any danger along the evacuation route (remember that the shooter may be familiar with the routes already set in place and could be waiting for evacuating employees at the exit point). Employees should leave their cell phones in their pocket and keep their hands visible at all times so law enforcement may see evacuating employees are not hiding anything or holding a weapon.
Hide: Employees choosing to hide must turn off or silence their cell phones and stay quiet. If an employee chooses to text friends or family to have them alert the authorities, the employee should have a code word previously set up to let them know there is a legitimate emergency and that they should not call the employee back. Hiding places must be inconspicuous, out of the active shooter’s view, and provide physical protection if shots are fired in the employee’s direction (e.g., locating a bathroom and locking the door, staying as low to the floor as possible and remaining quiet and motionless). Employees should try to blockade the door with heavy furniture to prevent the shooter from entering the hiding place.
Fight: Employees should remain calm, try to dial 911 and alert police to the shooter’s location, or if they cannot speak, simply leave the line open and allow the 911 dispatcher to listen. Employees should only take action against the shooter when they believe their lives are in imminent danger. Employees may attempt to incapacitate or disrupt the shooter by throwing items and improvising weapons, yelling, acting as aggressively as possible against the shooter, or commit themselves to defensive physical actions. Employees should remember that anything and everything can become a weapon in this type of situation. They should not worry about any possible harm to the shooter.
An emergency action plan must include a law enforcement response. This portion of the plan should instruct employees to remain calm and follow officers’ instructions. Law enforcement officers have only one thing in mind when responding to an active shooter situation, to stop the violence. Employees must put down any items they are holding because if a law enforcement officer sees someone clutching a cell phone (a potential triggering device) or clutching a large bag, they will treat that person as a potential threat or suspicious person because the officer does not know what the shooter looks like or if the shooter is acting alone. Employees should keep their hands visable at all times and avoid making quick movements toward the officers. If an officer sees someone running towards them, they must make a split-second decision to determine whether or not those people are trying to harm them, and they may guess wrong, leading to unnecessary casualties. Once the shooter is stopped or has been apprehended, law enforcement will then begin to provide aid and help victims. Employees should notify a representative of the business once he or she has evacuated the premises.
The most important thing that employers can do is be proactive when combating workplace violence. This includes having an emergency action plan in place and communicating that plan and training employees on what to do if the unimaginable happens. Although an emergency action plan may not stop violence from intruding on your work environment, it will surely increase the odds and provide your employees with a better chance of surviving an active shooter situation.
Article Prepared By:
Haley Trust, SilvermanAcampora