By Jerry Leemkuil, Association Risk Management Services, Federated Mutual Insurance Company
The sound of gunshots breaks through the hum of a busy workplace. Chaos ensues as people scramble for safety while an active shooter fires at an unsuspecting and unprepared group of workers.
It’s easy to brush off the possibility of being involved in such a situation, thinking that it could never happen to you. But the unfortunate reality of the modern American workplace is that these terrifying scenarios are becoming more and more common. Active shooters act alone or in small groups, and fire indiscriminately, choosing their victims at random. Knowing how to respond is essential for every employee.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security1 has developed a three-part response strategy, with the goal of surviving until law enforcement arrives to end the rampage, usually about 10 to 15 minutes after the event begins. Share the following strategies with your employees to help them increase their chances of making it through a deadly situation. Drills, held once or twice per year, will help keep the information fresh in employees’ minds.
Run — This is the first and best option. Pick an escape route and follow it, keeping your hands visible to avoid being mistaken for the shooter. Avoid grouping together. If you can help others evacuate safely, do it. As soon as it is safe, call 911 and give them as much information about the situation and the shooter as you can.
Hide — If you are not able to evacuate, find a place to conceal yourself. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view, offer options for movement or escape, and provide protection from gunfire. Lock or block the entrance if possible. Ensure mobile devices are silenced, remain quiet, and wait for the shooter to leave the area.
Fight — This should be the last resort, and only if you are in immediate danger. Fighting requires commitment to the course of action. Act with aggression and intent. Make as much noise as you can. Throw items or use objects as weapons to disable the attacker.
No matter what strategy you must use, always remain calm. Your survival depends on your ability to make rational decisions. When law enforcement arrives, follow officers’ instructions immediately without making sudden movements, keeping your hands visible.
An emergency action plan (EAP) can help prepare employees for an emergency, including an active shooter. Your EAP should include:
- A preferred method for reporting emergencies
- An evacuation policy and procedure
- Emergency escape procedures, including floor plans and safe areas
- Information for contacts
- Emergency service information, including hospital telephone numbers and locations
- An emergency alert system to notify law enforcement and individuals at remote locations within your facility
It’s not enough to simply have a plan. Your employees should know how to implement it. Collaborate with local law enforcement for training on recognizing and reacting to an active-shooting event. Training should include recognizing the sound of gunshots, applying the Run, Hide, Fight strategy, reacting when law enforcement arrives, and adopting a survival mindset during a crisis.
Prevention and Intervention
The unpredictable nature of an active shooter means that there are no definitive ways to prevent a shooting. But experts have identified indications2 that an employee might have violent tendencies, including sadness, depression, threats, menacing behavior, hypersensitivity, diminished work performance, and a host of others.
Teach employees to be on the lookout for warning signs and notify a supervisor or human resources representative as soon as they can. It could be a matter of life and death.
With the uncertainty of identifying a potential perpetrator and possible legal ramifications of taking pre-emptive action, prevention can be tricky. If you suspect an employee might be at risk of committing workplace violence, consult law enforcement immediately.
Federated offers resources to help you educate your employees on this vitally important topic. Seven Minute Safety Trainer® has the resources to conduct training sessions with your employees. J. J. Keller® Video on Demand offers videos on preparing for, surviving, and recovering from an active shooter threat. The Training Today® learning management system offers a course on reaction to and preparation for an active shooter. Log on to Federated’s Shield Network® for access.
1Source: “Active Shooter: How to Respond,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/active-shooter-how-to-respond-2017-508.pdf. Accessed June 2019.
2Source: “Workplace Violence Prevention: Readiness and Response,” Federal Bureau of Investigation Law Enforcement Bulletin. https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/workplace-violence-prevention-readiness-and-response. Accessed June 2019.
This publication is intended to provide general information and recommendations regarding risk prevention only and should not be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations herein may help reduce, but are not guaranteed to eliminate, any or all risk of loss. The information presented may be subject to, and is not a substitute for, any laws or regulations applicable to your business. Qualified counsel should be sought regarding questions specific to your circumstances. © 2019 Federated Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.