Active Shooter Events
Author: Gloria Ju
When news of an active shooter breaks, most individuals are saddened and horrified by the incident, but also grateful that they were not affected. Many people commonly believe "it won't happen here" or "it won't happen to me." The fact is, no one knows when and where an active shooter event will occur. No employer should think its workplace is immune.
Active shooter situations are unpredictable, occur quickly and result in panic and chaos. Therefore, it is important for employees to know ahead of time what to do in order to keep themselves and others safe.
The following are key steps an employer can take to prepare its workplace and its workforce in the event of an active shooter situation.
1. Put Proper Policies in Place
An employer should have policies in place that demonstrate its commitment to workplace violence prevention. Written policies serve to advise employees on acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior, how to properly react to violent situations and how the employer will respond to complaints of violence in the workplace. Policies that an employer should consider implementing include:
- Workplace Violence Prevention;
- Workplace Violence;
- Weapons in the Workplace;
- Standards of Conduct;
- Emergency Procedures;
- Visitors in the Workplace; and
- Responding to Employees' Concerns.
2. Create an Emergency Action Plan
To create an emergency action plan (EAP) best suited for its specific situation, an employer should assemble a team consisting of various members of management, HR, security and in-house legal counsel. An employer may also want to utilize external resources, such as local law enforcement and emergency responders, outside counsel and the facility owner or property manager.
An effective EAP may include the following components:
- Emergency reporting procedures;
- Emergency evacuation plans, escape routes and designated safe areas;
- Employer contact information for the EAP;
- Contact and location information of area hospitals;
- Emergency communication and notification procedures;
- Procedures for notifying employees' family members; and
- Procedures for addressing the media.
3. Conduct a Security Audit
A security audit can help an employer identify and fix gaps in building security. An employer should look at what security measures are currently in place, whether they are being used properly (e.g., ensure doors that should be locked are not being propped open) and whether additional measures are necessary. Another important area to audit is the number of exits and the ease of access to these exits, which can help improve evacuation procedures.
4. Train Supervisors and Employees
An employer must train staff members on its workplace violence policies and emergency action plan. This means not only reviewing the policies and plan with employees, but also conducting drills as reinforcement. An employer should regularly conduct active shooter drills, similar to fire drills, to ensure employees understand how to respond during an active shooter situation. The Department of Homeland Security endorses the "Run, Hide, Fight" mindset, which means training employees to first attempt to get away; if escape is not possible, then finding a secure location in which to hide; and fighting as a last resort, if an employee comes face to face with an active shooter. Employees must also understand how to behave when law enforcement personnel arrive to the scene.
Training can provide employees with some peace of mind that their employer is making an effort to protect them against a potential active shooter situation and giving them the tools to react quickly and effectively.
Separate supervisor training is also important, as managers are expected to lead employees during times of crisis.
5. Manage the Aftermath
Even after an active shooter event ends, an employer's duties do not. An employer may need to:
- Report fatalities and other injuries to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration;
- Communicate with a deceased employee's family, including expressing condolences, returning the employee's belongings and providing final paychecks and applicable benefits;
- Provide injured employees with leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or with reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act; and
- Provide traumatized employees with services through an employee assistance program.
An employer also should take the time to review the effectiveness of its emergency response procedures and make improvements as needed.