It’s a scenario no organization wants to face, but it’s become a far too common reality — an active shooter in the office.
However unlikely they may seem, active shooter incidents in the workplace do occur. It is essential that employer HR teams have a plan for how to prepare and respond and that there is proper employee awareness and training on active shooter policy and procedures.
Today we’re going to take a look at how to prepare for these scenarios, what steps employers should take if the worst does happen and what systems can be used to ensure best outcomes.
Paying Attention to Mental Health
First things first: it’s important to monitor employees’ health — both mental and physical.
While the nuances of how mental health and gun violence are linked is a complicated issue — and in fact some studies have found that there is no direct causation between mental illness and an increased disposition to violence — it’s nevertheless important to pay attention to workforce mental health and be proactive about addressing issues or red flags.
Of course, this is easier said than done, which is why having a system like In-Sight in place where employers are able to monitor employees’ overall health and address issues early on is critical to administering services and providing the help that is needed.
Be sure that employees understand there is a zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment of any kind and encourage them to report any threatening or odd behavior. Employees should be aware of procedures to report an employee acting strangely so resources and services can be administered to anyone needing help.
Finally, if someone seems to display violent tendencies forcing termination, report the employee to the proper authorities.
Planning for a Shooter Incident
For emergencies in general, employees need to know what the protocol is, and reinforcing this means regularly creating awareness and practicing things like fire drills to ensure the proper exits and steps are known, as well as having a general meetup area for employees to be counted.
Responding to an active shooter incident is unique in several ways. Rather than having a main meet-up area, employers may want to stress to employees that they get as far away from the office if possible, while also contacting the police and emergency services.
This video created by the Department of Homeland Security shows the step-by-step the process your staff should follow if faced with an active shooter.
The video recommends three different actions your employees should take, including:
- Fleeing — if possible, the ideal scenario is for employees to escape the building if a safe route is available, then call the police.
- Hiding — in the event an escape route is cut off by the shooter, employees should hide in a room, block the door if possible and hide behind an object away from the door. Employees should not congregate in groups if hiding together; instead spread out throughout the room while assuming cover. They should also call the police if possible.
- Fighting — if there are no options to escape or hide available and employees are confronted by the shooter, then they should assume they need to fight for their lives.
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that when the police arrive, they may not immediately know who the suspect is. Employees must put their hands up and spread their fingers to show they are not concealing a weapon.
As the New York Times notes, escaping employees must show the authorities that they are not a threat, as opposed to telling them.
Getting the Resources and Support You Need
Presenting these options to staff can be stressful. No one wants to be told that they are not safe and, if found face to face with an active shooter, might have to fight them directly. But creating awareness and being prepared is better than the alternative.
When presenting these topics, employers might want to consider bringing in a local police or paramedic officials to answer any questions employees might have. This will also add a level of credibility and help reinforce the seriousness of the policy and corresponding procedures.
Consider running active shooter drills similar to fire drills. Employees need to know the closest exit and fastest way out of the building from their desk, along with the safest places to hide.
And finally, it’s important to have a system in place that coordinates this training and provides the necessary resources to communicate these important messages effectively. At IPMG, our Risk Management Services (RSM) help employers navigate this challenging task, providing the training and preparation support needed to keep employees as safe as possible.
Putting a plan in place to prevent and respond to active shooter incident is well worth the effort. To learn how IPMG’s Risk Management Services might help you in that process, click here.