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Blog: Handling the Unthinkable: Active Shooters in the Workplace

By December 15, 2018July 24th, 2019Blog

The last thing anyone wants to think about

This article is from Sterling’s Spring 2018 issue of its Risk & Business Magazine. Want a copy? Email Please enjoy and share.

Anyone who has been following the news for the last few years has probably come to one sad conclusion: the number of active shooting situations in the United States seems to be exponentially growing. Whether it’s at a school, the local Walmart, or even the YouTube Headquarters in California, it seems like nowhere is entirely safe. It follows, then, that business owners and employees should have at least a little bit of training and knowledge on hand to manage the situation. A little bit of knowledge goes a very long way.

Preparing for the worst

The first step is to simply bring the topic up and begin to talk about it with your employees. From there, you can begin formal training, which can and should include some of the following: Recognizing the sounds of gunshots, assisting law enforcement, the “survival mindset”, and how to react to gunshots or shootings. Training should not be limited in scope, meaning everyone from the ground up should be getting individualized programming. Employees in Human Resources will have different concerns than public facing employees, and both will have different concerns than Mid- and Upper Management.

Next, recognize the fact that many active shooters, unfortunately, are often either current or former employees or are a known acquaintance of an employee. It is essential for managers and co-workers to be able to recognize common characteristics of potential violent behavior in the workplace. It should be noted, however, that these characteristics are in no way definitive and, thus, should be treated as what they are: potential signs of violence and nothing more.

Here are some common indicators to look out for:

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Unexplained absenteeism
  • Depression/withdrawal
  • Unstable emotions
  • Severe mood swings
  • Domestic violence
  • Previous incidence of violence
  • Antisocial behavior, especially relating to comments about weapons or violence

Have the basics in-place

Of course, there are basic emergency preparations that you should already be implementing. Safety standards, having evacuation plans and facility maps posted, and ensuring everyone knows the local emergency numbers are the basics, but you can easily branch out from there. When it comes down to it, most emergencies are going to follow the same basic steps. Do active shooters bring new concerns to the table? Of course. With that being said, you can’t build a castle on a foundation of sand. Review your basics and make sure they are in order as well.

Does your company have an emergency plan? Has the topic of active shooters ever come up? If so, what came of it? Have any procedures changed as a result? If you are interested in learning more about preparing for active shooter situations or other emergency planning concerns, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today.