By Randy Boss, CRA, CRM, MWCA, SHRM-SCP
ACTIVE SHOOTER IN THE WORKPLACE
Actions to take, because it’s no longer “it can’t happen to me”
Imagine you are at work concentrating on your task at hand when you hear the pop, pop, pop of gunfire. Unfortunately, this type of dangerous event can happen anywhere at any time, quickly and unexpectedly. An active shooter is on the loose, killing or attempting to kill as many people as possible with a barrage of bullets. Rifles and handguns are most frequently the weapon of choice, and most active shooter situations are unpredictable, evolve quickly, and are over within minutes. But these minutes must seem like hours when you’re ducking behind the shelf in a store, petrified beyond all comprehension.
This was what surely was going through the minds of the hundreds of folks in the line of fire when a gunman entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and opened fire, killing 22 and wounding dozens more. A typical workday or trip to the store quickly turned into a nightmare. Not long after that event, a gunman opened fire in Dayton, Ohio’s popular Oregon District, slaughtering 10 and injuring 27.
While these incidents don’t happen every day, as risk advisors we need to bring this potential workplace hazard to the attention of the business community we serve.
Last year, the FBI reported there were 27 active shooter incidents in the United States resulting in 85 deaths and 128 people wounded. Sixty percent of these events occurred in the workplace. Is there a reason to believe that that number won’t go higher? Have we seen any indicators that it might actually come down?
While these incidents don’t happen every day, as risk advisors we need to bring this potential workplace hazard to the attention of the business community we serve. We should encourage our clients to plan for a response if it happens at their place of work. This should be part of their overall safety and disaster plan. Doing so is just proper risk management and the right thing to do. Their employees should feel safe in their work environment. And certainly, that goes for any customer who enters their store, their restaurant, or their office building.
Here are actions recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
- Always be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- Take note of two of the nearest exits in any facility you visit.
- If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
- Only attempt to take down the active shooter as a last resort.
- If you find yourself in a situation with an active shooter, quickly take the following action, as your life may depend on it. Your three options are to run, hide or fight back.
- When the best option is to run:
- Have an escape route and plan in mind.
- Leave your belongings behind.
- Keep your hands visible.
- When the best option is to hide:
- Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view.
- Block the entry to your hiding place and lock the doors.
- Silence your cell phone.
- When the only option is to fight back:
- Do it as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.
- Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
- Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.
Naturally, call 911 when it is safe to do so and provide the location of an active shooter, number of shooters, physical description of shooters, number and type of weapons held by shooters, and number of potential victims at the location.
We know active shooter incidents are becoming more and more frequent. Usually, there is not a pattern in the selection of victims, so anyone can be a target if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Common motives of active shooters include anger, revenge, ideology, and untreated mental illness.
We need to eliminate the “it can’t happen to me” mentality among the clients we work with and change the way they respond to active shooters. We can achieve this by having a plan on how to train their employees, just like we do with fire and severe weather drills. We need a response to this evil man-made disaster in order to ensure the best chance to survive an active shooter at work.
Randy Boss is a Certified Risk Architect at Ottawa Kent in Jenison, Michigan. As a Risk Architect, he designs, builds and implements risk management and insurance plans for middle market companies in the areas of safety, work comp, human resources, property/casualty and benefits. He has over 40 years of experience and has been at Ottawa Kent for 37 years. He is the co-founder of emergeapps.com, web apps for insurance agents to share with employers. Randy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.