Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Active Shooters – How to Protect Your Employees (and yourself)

We are saddened by the events in the Naval Yard in Washington earlier this week. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to the victims and their families. These events remind us of the very real threat that violence in the workplace, particularly from active shooters, presents to all of us.

Many are surprised when we tell them that violence in the workplace is the second leading cause of occupational fatal injuries, responsible for 767 deaths in 2012, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those 767 deaths, 463 were homicides, with 375 specifically related to the use of firearms. This means that more than 1 person each day died in 2012 from a shooter in the workplace. This is a significant hazard that every safety professional must consider and incorporate into their risk management systems.

Certainly, some industries are at a higher risk of workplace violence, such as retail and healthcare, but every industry is affected by workplace violence in some way. Given the recent events now may be a good time to remind workers of the proper procedures to follow in the event of an active shooter in the workplace. Fortunately there’s some great resources available online that can really help bring the messages home. Two resources in particular we’ve found useful in training:

Run. Hide. Fight. This video was developed by the City of Houston, TX, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. It breaks down the response to active shooters into very simple, easy to understand steps and gives some great tips that are easy to remember. This video is also available for download from the ReadyHouston website.

Last Resort Active Shooter Survival. This video goes over steps to take if you’re trapped and have to rely on the “Fight” aspect from the Run Hide Fight model above. Its taught by an ex-Israeli military soldier who does a great job of teaching people practical lessons to give them tactical advantages in an active shooter situation.

Even though active shootings are largely random events, some preventative elements may help reduce your risk further. For example, criminal background checks on employees may be necessary for some positions. Additionally, managers and supervisors, if not all employees, should be trained on how to identify risk factors for employees who are at risk and potentially unstable. These matters can be touchy though, so make sure you put a lot of a thought into your specific organizational culture and how to best implement these preventative measures. However, with a little thought and preparation we may be able to reduce the likelihood of these terrible events and reduce their effects when they do happen. 

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