How To Prepare Your Workplace For An Active Shooter Event
Though it may be something that no one wants to think about, with all of the active shooter situations in the news lately, it is important for companies to be prepared should a situation occur. A company will want to ensure that it has policies and procedures in place so that in the event an active shooter situation should occur, employees and managers are aware of what to do.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines an active shooter as an individual who is engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. Typically, the active shooter is using firearms and does not have a particular pattern or method in selecting victims. The shooter will most likely not stop shooting until law enforcement arrives and stops the shooter in some way, or when the shooter commits suicide or there is some other type of intervention.
The following suggested steps should be taken to prepare a company for an active shooter event:
Implement a “zero tolerance” workplace violence policy
Create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
Offer training to employees
Conduct active shooter drills
Perform a safety and security audit
Develop a plan to manage the aftermath of an active shooter incident
Ensuring all employees within an organization are prepared to handle a situation could make a big difference in the outcome of the event.
Below are some frequently asked questions with regard to active shooters:
Q: What are the behavioral indicators of a potential active shooter?
A: There are rarely any warning signs of an active shooter. However, it is critical that an employer train its employees to recognize indicators of potentially violent behavior. Such behavior by an individual can include one or more of the following:
Depression and/or withdrawal;
Resistance and overreaction to changes in policies and procedures;
Increased severe mood swings;
Noticeably unstable, emotional responses;
Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation;
Comments about "putting things in order";
Empathy with individuals who commit violence; and
Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons and violent crimes.
An employer should ensure that its employees are aware of these behavioral indicators and urged to alert HR or a supervisor if he or she believes an individual exhibits potentially violent behavior.
Q: Are there good practices for coping with an active shooter situation in the workplace?
A: Yes. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. However, according to the Department of Homeland Security, some good practices for an individual to cope with an active shooter situation include:
Being aware of the environment and any possible dangers;
Taking note of the two nearest exits in any facility one visits;
Staying in an office, if already there, and closing the door;
Relocating from the hallway into a room and securing the door;
As a last resort, taking the active shooter down; and
Calling 911 when it is safe to do so.
Q: How should an employee be trained to respond in an active shooter event?
A: There is no definitive best response during an active shooter event. However, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an individual should maintain a "run, hide, fight" mindset to increase the odds of surviving the situation. As the situation develops, an individual should know how to use more than one option based on his or her location.
According to the DHS, the first recommendation is to run and exit the building, if possible. If running is not a safe and available option, an employee should be trained to hide in a safe place where an active shooter is less likely to find him or her. If running or hiding is not an option, then, as a last resort and only when in imminent danger, the employee should attempt to fight to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.
Q: What information should an individual provide when calling law enforcement during or after an active shooter event in the workplace?
A: If an individual is safe enough to be able to call law enforcement during or after an active shooter event in the workplace, he or she should provide the following information:
Location of active shooter(s);
Location of caller;
Number of shooters, if more than one;
If there is law enforcement on-site (if known);
Physical description of shooter(s);
Type and number of weapons used by shooter(s);
Use or threat of explosives/improvised explosive devices (IEDs);
If shooting is still occurring; and
Number of potential victims at the scene.
The Department of Homeland Security has a web page devoted to Active Shooter Preparedness which includes a webinar, a workshop series and additional resources at: https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparednessAdditionally, a booklet entitled “Active Shooter, How to Respond” can be found at: