Active Shooter: Prepare, Prevent, Recover
American’s have struggled to find solutions as the rise in mass shootings continues. According to Homeland Security, 44% of mass shootings occur in a place of business. As conscientious employers, we seek to prepare our organizations for that unfathomable possibility. We hope that violence in the workplace never occurs but have a responsibility to ensure the safety of employees, clients, and anyone visiting our workplace.
What can we do to protect our organizations, ourselves, and our employees? The best is through planning for prevention, preparation if an active shooting should occur, and recovery and response. All of these, of course, begin with policy and procedure. Putting into place specific orders of responsibility for reporting and responding, assigning roles for emergency situations and coming up with a valid and easy to follow plan.
Creating policy to prevent an active shooter can be as simple as maintaining EAPs that encourage mental health care, maintaining no firearms on the premises (in line with local, state, and federal law), and having adequate security at your office. In addition to creating the policy, facilitate an environment where your employees feel heard and respected. Keeping an honest and open dialogue going with employees could help if, in the worst-case scenario, you suspect that someone may become violent or see a risk in the workplace. This can help you to be informed and your employees and organization to be prepared in case of an emergency.
The next step should be preparing your organization: educate your employees on evacuation procedures and what the right response should be. Some experts suggest training. Many organizations offer information (such as Homeland Security and the FBI) on how to conduct your own training using the Run, Hide, Fight method. You can find more information here.
In addition, there are organizations that can come into your workplace and assess risks. They can help you build a clear and complete plan to react and recover from an active shooter. These organizations often offer employee training as well, teaching your employees exactly what to do, where to go, and how to respond if an active shooter is present in your building.
The final thing to consider when planning for an active shooter is how your organization will respond and recover. The key is empathy and understanding. This time will be difficult for you and your employees, and you may be out of your office for quite some time as police conduct an investigation. Build policy and plans based on what is best for your organization and employees that allow the police to adequately do their job.
The first thing you should be prepared for after an active shooter is handling the media. While time to recover would be ideal, the media is often on the scene before we have time to think. Because of this, you should come up with a general statement and a person that will be designated to handle all media inquiries. This will ensure that your responses are prompt, concise, and empathetic. It will also allow your employees and your organization more time to heal, allowing recovery to move more quickly.
Having a plan includes not just what you will say, but what will happen next. Be sure to plan for an off-site office or remote work if your office is unavailable for an extended period of time. Not only will this be better for productivity, but often when individuals face trauma they seek normalcy as a piece of recovery. Bringing your employees back to work and allowing them to return to their routine can help them to recover and heal after a crisis situation. Ensure that when they do return, your open and honest dialogue is continued; allow your team to mourn, direct them to EAPs for additional support if needed. Be prepared with a plan to empower them to work through their trauma and seek any assistance they may need.
While we all hope it never comes to fruition, having a plan can make a successful recovery possible. Plan ahead to ensure your organization can remain intact, your employees can remain healthy, and as always, plan for your own self-care. When tasked with caring for others, we often lose sight of ourselves. Whatever procedures you design, ensure that you leave room to care for yourself and allow for recovery.