We have all seen those straight out of the movies scenarios on the news when tragedy strikes at work. An active shooter comes in and wreaks havoc on anyone and everyone. The haunting images of people running for their lives or the aftermath usually stick with me for days after. These events generally leave you with the feeling of sadness and also thoughts about what if it happened at your workplace. How likely are you to be exposed to this situation?
The FBI conducted a study in 2013, below are some of the key elements of their findings:
• An average of 11.4 incidents occurred annually
• An average of 6.4 incidents occurred in the first 7 years studied, and an average of 16.4 occurred in the last 7 years
• 70% of the incidents occurred in either a commerce/business or educational environment
• Shootings occurred in 40 of 50 states and the District of Columbia
• 60% of the incidents ended before police arrived
Even though statistically speaking, the chances of experiencing this form of workplace violence is rare, many companies have chosen to take a proactive stance and instituted an Active Shooter Policy. Some include Active Shooter/Intruder training for all employees. I recommend to my clients that they consider the pros and cons of having an active shooter policy in the workplace. Here’s what you may want to consider:
It’s generally better to be prepared and not need the policy, than to need it and not have it. The best argument for having this policy and training is the preparation and the duty of care of your employees. Implementing a plan gives your company a sense of control and an idea of what to do in the unthinkable event. Plus, employees will appreciate knowing that you took the time to put a procedure in place and training could be beneficial. At the very least they will have an idea of what to do in this situation.
Training gives employers and employees lifesaving tools in an otherwise deadly situation. For HR professionals, training provides tools that you can use to identify signs of a potential issue with an employee, and even suggestions of best practice methods of how to handle a problematic or unstable employee. For your employees, the FBI suggests the Run, Hide, Fight method. Run from the danger if this is an option, hide and barricade yourself if the danger prevents you from running, and lastly fight if you are out of options. Fight using whatever resources are within your reach. The Run, Hide, Fight method will make thoughts clearer when chaos and fear takes over.
It seems that many of these shootings are conducted by disgruntled or ex-employees of the companies. Does having a policy really prepare you and your employees if the shooter is aware of the emergency procedures? Numerous news outlets have reported that the San Bernardino Health Department had trained their employees on how to spot would-be shooters in the workplace, however it is hard to say if this training was beneficial or how many lives were saved as a result. On the other hand, some employees may not see the same value of this topic being brought to the forefront as others. Even worse, some may be traumatized by the training. Truthfully, we HR professionals have no way of knowing our employees’ past, and what they have been exposed to. If you do chose to show a training video, please make sure you review the material yourself first for sensitivity and appropriateness.
While the Run, Hide, Fight may be an effective tool to for these kinds of events, some may worry about hero employees who choose to fight when running or hiding may be a better choice. This is not necessarily the impression you would want to give your employees. Fighting for their life is necessary when the threat is imminent, but if it isn’t, running and hiding is the safest.
This is a sensitive topic that must be approached with care. If and when your company decides to implement an Active Shooter Policy, Procedure or Training, make sure you put a lot of thought into the process. Every company is different, and what is right for one, may be not be right for another.