Active shooter scenarios typically end within a few minutes, which is both good and bad. It’s good that they end fairly quickly, but it’s bad because they often run their course before law enforcement can arrive.
The frightening reality is that you could be on your own during an active shooter situation. Which means you and your employees need to know what you should and should not do. The way to learn that is through active shooter training.
The purpose of this blog is not to put a scare into your or your employees. No one wants to discuss this topic, but unfortunately it’s something that we need to talk about. More than that, it’s something that we need to face and act on. Why? Because the alternative is not worth thinking about.
Active Shooter Incidents on the Rise
By now, we have all noticed the increase in workplace violence and active shooter scenarios in the United States in recent years. Frankly, it’s hard to miss the headlines, which are constantly announcing some new tragedy in our country.
For most of us, these are just headlines. As disturbing as they are, they don’t directly impact our lives. But for the people directly involved, workplace violence or active shooter incidents can derail or shatter lives.
According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) study of active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, a couple of statistics stand out.
One, the number of incidents per year is growing. In fact, almost two-thirds of the incidents identified occurred in the last half of the study years. That the number of incidents has grown should come as no surprise to you. However, this second statistic may give you pause.
Two, almost half of all incidents occur in a commerce-related environment—they happen at or near a place of business.
This is terrifying for any business owner. And, because of it, you need to educate your employees on how to best handle a threat and the tools they have available to survive a life-and-death situation. (Again, this is not a rosy topic we’re discussing here, but it’s important.) You hope it never happens, but you prepare just in case.
Here’s how the FBI sums things up:
Recognizing the increased active shooter threat and the swiftness with which active shooter incidents unfold, these study results support the importance of training and exercises—not only for law enforcement but also for citizens. It is important, too, that training and exercises include not only an understanding of the threats faced but also the risks and options available in active shooter incidents.
Raise Awareness Without Creating Paranoia
As a business owner, you are in the unenviable position of trying to prepare your employees for the unthinkable while at the same time lessening their anxiety, not increasing it.
No one wants to think about an active shooter event, but you have to think about it because you are the business owner and you have a responsibility to your employees. Put simply, you have to try to keep your employees safe.
A lot of the safety work can happen behind the scenes, mostly with human resources (HR) professionals identifying unstable employees before they become a threat. In many cases, the signs are there if someone is paying attention.
However, preventing or minimizing active shooter events is a companywide effort that requires the eyes and ears of everyone in the building. Of course you don’t want to make your employees anxious, but you need to engage them in the effort because, unfortunately, threats are increasing.
This kind of training at work is hard, says Laurence Barton, a threat consultant and trainer who works with the FBI. “How do you create awareness, without creating paranoia?” he says.
He says employers are handling more threats — increasingly made through social media or through underground Internet services that allow people to send anonymous, encrypted messages.
“About a dozen threats per week for the Fortune 100 [companies] is average,” Barton says, but the vast majority of those are handled quietly, without incident or publicity.
Basic Prevention Steps
More and more companies are addressing the rise in workplace violence. Putting processes in place is something you may want to consider if you haven’t already.
What you can do as an employer besides your due diligence of avoiding negligent hiring and retention is to train your employees, especially your supervisors or anybody in a position of leadership within your company, on what to do in case of an emergency.
So your employees know what to do in case of an emergency and you have an emergency action plan in place that allows your employees to take cover or evacuate the building if necessary.
—Paulo Zavala, Avitus Group Senior Human Resources Consultant
The first thing you need is an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). With an EAP in place, employees will have a guide to help them through an active shooter incident (or any emergency, for that matter, including natural disasters).
Your EAP should include input from your HR and training departments and also the property owner or manager as well as local law enforcement and first responders. It should cover evacuation routes and processes, contact numbers, reporting procedures and information on local law, medical and fire services.
The second thing you need is training. Once you have your EAP in place, you can conduct mock active shooter training exercises under the guidance of professionals.
Active shooter training exercises can help your employee learn and memorize the EAP procedures. They can help teach employees how to recognize the sound of gunfire, evacuate an area, hide, adopt a survival mindset and even, as a last resort, take action against a shooter.
Active Shooter Training a Must
It may not be the most pleasant topic to discuss, but active shooter training is something many businesses are addressing these days. To prepare for a situation, your employees need an EAP in place as well as training from professionals.
While no exercise can faithfully recreate a real-life active shooter situation, practice instills the lessons of the EAP. Going through your company’s EAP in simulations can help your employees memorize best practices that might just save their lives.
This is a difficult topic, so if you would like to speak with any of Avitus Group’s risk management and safety experts, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We have professionals on staff with decades of active shooter training and even real-life active shooter experience.