Few events can be more terrifying than facing an active shooter in your business. Unfortunately, the number of active shooter scenarios has risen to a point where statistics are available. Per the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA), active shooter incidents are classified as a type of workplace violence, and in fact, 403 of 4,679 fatal workplace violence incidents were classified as homicides.
While this might be concerning, it does not mean your business must operate in fear.
Instead, you need to understand workplace violence and how it relates to the possible risk of an active shooter incident.
What Is Workplace Violence?
Workplace violence is defined as any act that threatens physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other business-disrupting behaviors in the workplace. Unfortunately, many assume workplace violence only revolves around employees becoming aggressive or displaying violent behaviors. However, any customer, passerby, previous employee or other person in your business could be capable of workplace violence.
More than 2 million Americans encounter workplace violence annually, and certain occupations tend to experience higher prevalence rates. For example, the following workplace environments have a higher risk of workplace violence:
- Businesses operating alone or in isolated areas.
- Businesses operating at night or in areas of high crime.
- Businesses serving or selling alcohol.
- Any business that exchanges money with public.
- Any business that requires employees to deliver services to a customer’s location.
- Health care professions.
- Law enforcement.
- Public service workers.
The list can go on and on. If you are selling something or interacting with people, chance is not on your side.
Why Is Workplace Violence Dangerous?
If you were talking to a customer, you do not expect to suddenly be attacked. But, it does happen. The customer could be angry over a purchase or price point. He or she could suddenly suffer a mental breakdown, or the person could simply decide that enough is enough. Unfortunately, you cannot de-escalate every possible case of workplace violence, but if you learn how to recognize its warning signs, you can help prevent it from worsening.
What About Preparation For Workplace Violence Involving Active Shooter Planning?
Before 2000, very few active shooter incidents occurred annually, so tracking their prevalence was not a priority of the FBI. Per the FBI, 160 active shooter incidents occurred in the U.S. between 2000 and 2013. Meanwhile, the annual average of active shooter situations, reports ABC News, has risen to more than 20 between 2014 and 2015.
With the horrors of the Pulse Nightclub still in mind, officials have yet to release final statistics regarding the number of incidents that occurred in 2016. Thus, you cannot assume your business will avoid active shooting incidents in 2017 and beyond. Instead, you need to start preparing a response to workplace violence incidents and complete appropriate active shooter planning and training.
For example, conducting a threat assessment of what factors, such as the factors listed in the aforementioned bulleted list, increase your likelihood of encountering workplace violence can help you determine the level of risk you face.
What You Need to Do Immediately
Regardless of political, religious or other group affiliations, your business may not be as safe from workplace violence as you think, and an incident of workplace violence is a precursor to active shooter incidents. Obviously, not all cases of workplace violence will result in homicides or active shooter scenarios, but it is better to prepare now than wait until you are faced with a life-threatening situation. More than anything else, remember these five keys to understanding workplace violence:
- Any type of violent or threatening behavior is workplace violence.
- Workplace Violence is not a “phase.”
- Report all incidents immediately to authorities.
- Do not give up your business without a fight.
- Prepare yourself and your staff for how to respond to workplace violence incidents, including active shooter situations.
Can we help?
Do you need advice or guidance in planning for an active shooter situation, or other disruption, at your business?
We’ve built the crisis management and active shooter plans for colleges, universities, non-profits, and the Fortune 500 while designing and managing effective, realistic exercises for our clients.