For some unreason, active shooters in the workplace have now become a common topic in the news. Recent data from the FBI reveal that there were nearly 160 active shooters in the workplace from 2000-2013, but from 2014-2015 the FBI noted 40 shootings alone, which is a significant increase compared to previous years. While these numbers are not huge, compared to the weekly shootings on the streets of Chicago and Detroit, they still induce panic and fear among workers. For the most American workers, the risk of being shot at work is minuscule.
However, the presence of an active shooter is often a terrifying situation for employees who are often caught in a workplace with nowhere to hide. Thus, many employers are now taking steps to prevent such situations from occurring and providing the employee with tools to pitch themselves should such an incident occur or when the active shooter gains entrance into the building. Unfortunately, in many cases of past active shooters in the workplace the individuals were outsiders so that an employer may not have any warning signs of such an impending threat. In cases, when there the employee has been the perpetrator of such a crime, some of these individuals have exhibited warning signs of their intentions of harming other employees or the employer. In such a situation, proactive measures may be helpful. The one major difficulty with formulating a plan is that many active shooters are unpredictable. They may be impulsive and have no prior plan of a violent action. However, in order to minimize the death and injury, almost anyone can play a vital role in mitigating the impact of the active shooter.
One of the ways employers can maintain a safe workplace is to enforce a policy against workplace violence which includes a process of reporting any indication of the following features in a worker:
- A tendency to argue or pick fights
- Easily frustrated/angry over minute details
- Obsessed with firearms
- Sudden decline in personal hygiene and health
- A sudden increase in drug or alcohol abuse
- Showing signs of depression or talking about suicide
- Showing signs of volatility, bitterness, and frustration
It is important for employees and employers not to disregard these features in the belief that this is not my problem, Lessons learned from past shooters is that most of the individuals showed some of these features and the shootings could have been prevented had someone done something about it.
The majority of active shooter incidents only last several minutes. In fact, the majority are over by the time law enforcement ever get to the site. Thus, it is imperative that the employer and employees be prepared to protect themselves.
To increase awareness and preparedness of an active shooter, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now offering no cost resources to both the private and public sector. The ultimate goal of DHS is to ensure that workers or employers are aware of what they can and cannot do just before, during, and after such an event. In general, the DHS seminars focus on three approaches when faced with an active shooter: run, hide, and fight. The fight approach should be a last resort because in many cases, the active shooter is often heavily armed.
Active Shooter Preparedness Program
Besides providing literature on the subject, DHS is now offering both in-person and online training that focuses on behavioral indicators of the potential shooter, the potential methods of violence, how to develop an emergency action plan and what actions to take during the event. The active shooter online training program is 60 minutes, and it provides introductory steps that one can take when confronted with an active shoo
ter. The program also dwells into the behavioral indicators of the potential assailant and how to manage any active shooter incident. The online course can be accessed at the FEMA website.
There are also some preparedness workshop series that help facilitate discussion to inform all participants of the best practices associated with preparing for and responding to an active shooter incident. These workshops are designed to provide an understanding of the planning and organizing emergency action during an active shooter. To acquire more information on these workshops one should contact Active Shooter Preparedness Program at ASworkshop@hq.dhs.gov
Active Shooter Online Resources
There are several other online resources available that inform workers on to prepare for an active shooter incident. These booklets offer a 90-minute webinar that explain the importance of developing an emergency action plan and how to train employees to deal with such an incident. These resources can be accessed at https://www.dhs.gov/activeshooter.