Businesses should have an emergency plan in place for workplace shooting
In recent weeks we have all read headlines or seen news video of senseless mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio.
The fact that the shootings were in different scenarios – the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California; a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; a crowded street in Dayton, Ohio – and others that have taken place at schools, colleges and businesses demonstrate that it is vital to have an emergency plan in place.
According to the FBI, there were 250 active shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2017. The acts of violence left 799 people dead and 1,418 injured. The data shows that 42 percent of these incidents took place in businesses.
While businesses might have evacuation plans in place in case of fires and shelter-in-place plans for tornadoes and other weather incidents, they might not have an emergency plan in place for an active shooter in the workplace.
They should, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
While a business has to consider a variety of factors to develop an effective active shooter response plan, the American Society of Safety Professionals, or ASSP, recommends focusing on five key areas to better protect employees from workplace violence.
First, a business must assess the risks by identifying its building’s vulnerabilities and how an attacker could exploit those vulnerabilities. To do this, the ASSP recommends looking at:
- How easily could an assailant access the site?
- Will the shooter be able to easily move through the building?
- Does the business have the capacity to lockdown the building or spot a threat through video surveillance?
- Is there an evacuation route in place?
- What type of security does the business have?
- Are procedures in place to notify employees and first responders in case of an attack?
As part of a comprehensive plan, a business should examine its human resources policies to assess hiring practices, reporting processes, orientation programs, and discipline and termination procedures as well as how those policies and procedures can help reduce the potential for workplace violence.
The next step involves securing and protecting the business, according to the ASSP. Take a look at what security measures are in place. There are two types of safeguards classified as “hard” and “soft” controls.
Hard controls are just what they sound like – devices in place to prevent access to a building, such as gates, locking systems and surveillance cameras. Soft controls involve thoroughly screening prospective employees, training workers to report perceived threats and how to react to when a building is locked down or evacuated.
Now it’s time to train the staff. Human resources departments can do this in a variety of ways, but everyone should understand their role and be familiar with procedures that will go into effect during an emergency.
Some of the issues that will need consideration include:
A crisis communication plan: Designate employees who will be responsible for internal and external communications, who will work with agencies responding to the emergency and who is authorized to speak with the media. Being able to clearly communicate with employees and first responders is often the first area to break down during an active shooter incident, according to the ASSP.
Tactical and full-scale exercises: A business can stage tactical exercises that focus on one component of the emergency plan, such as what to do during a lockdown or shelter-in-place incident. A full-scale exercise is coordinated with outside agencies to determine how effective an emergency plan would be when put into place.
Before you conduct a full-scale exercise, HR and leadership should coordinate with outside agencies that will likely respond in the case of emergency.
The ASSP noted that inviting first responders – police, fire and emergency medical service officials – to the site can help build relationships with those agencies. It also will enable first responders to become familiar with the layout of the building. Responding agencies can even offer suggestions on how to improve security at a location and give tips on how to strengthen an emergency plan.
The final area a business must address is how to handle issues after an attack. In addition to ensuring employees get the attention they need – including counseling to help them cope with the experience – the ASSP recommends developing a business continuity plan that will help limit interruptions of operations at the facility.
To learn more about resources visit the FBI Active Shooter Resources website at fbi.gov/about/partnerships/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-resources. You can also visit the Department of Homeland Security’s resources page at dhs.gov/cisa/active-shooter-preparedness.