Richard Long, Senior Advisory Consultant, Business Continuity Planning, MHA Consulting
Movie theaters, schools, homes and businesses are all places where people have been injured or killed in shooting incidents. The nation is in the midst of a debate over the level of gun control that is appropriate. State laws vary widely from one state to another. No matter where you live or work, the risk of an active shooter exists. In a state such as Arizona (my home state), I would be very confident in saying that a gun has been in your building recently even if you have a “No Weapons Allowed” sign. If you live in a state that has more restrictive concealed carry laws, it may not be a daily occurrence, but it does happen. Even if you don’t feel that guns are a concern, individuals can enter most buildings with other weapons (such as a pocket or folding knife), and they do so on a regular basis. According to an FBI study on active shooters (September 2014), there were 160 occurrences between 2000 and 2013, with the largest percentage of events (45.6%) occurring in a commercial environment. The remaining 24.3% occurred in educational and other environments.
No matter your social or political leanings, planning for your response to workplace violence should occur, and your plan must be updated along with all other plans and strategies. Thinking or hoping it cannot happen is not a strategy. While the planning process may be difficult, how your organization reacts to and prevents violent incidents will make the workplace more comfortable and efficient for everyone. In your plans, do not contemplate just a singular type of event – such as an active shooter – but consider all types of violence. Guns are the big concern in our current environment, but it is important to remember that people are the reason behind these acts (this is not intended as a political statement), and our plans need to consider how people act and react.
Items to consider:
- What barriers are in place in your facilities preventing access to critical equipment?
- What measures are in place in your facilities to keep people safe?
- What are your evacuation procedures for a workplace violence situation? Are they the same as those for a fire? Should they be different? For example, in a workplace violence incident you may want to use both elevators and stairs.
- Do all staff members follow the procedures for visitor access? Have you ever seen someone who does not belong in your building? What did you do?
- What is your weapons policy? Does that include knives? Should it?
- Is workplace violence part of your overall training for all employees?
As in all aspects of our continuity planning, not planning for something does not make the issue or risk go away. This is especially true with workplace violence preparations.