The advantages and benefits of living in today’s fast-pacing and technologically-driven world are highly visible in all industries and at all times. Just like today's security threats the world is still working to address, other threats exist within our own borders that are more immediate effecting us on a daily basis. An active shooter situation is amongst the most dangerous circumstances people can find themselves in, whether they are on the street, during their free time, studying, or at work. Between 2000 and 2017, there have been a total of 250 active shooter incidents across the United States, in various environments, from schools to corporate offices.
Workplace violence is the third leading cause of fatalities, after car accidents, and slips/falls/trips. The threat of active shooters is ever-present in our society, and knowing how to handle yourself in such a situation can make the difference between life and death. As a company or institution, providing your employees with quality crisis communication solutions and thoroughly drafted emergency plans is of utmost importance, regardless of size or sector. The presence of an active shooter in your place of business poses the highest level of threat, and therefore should be treated as such beyond being treated as a mere theory. Before discussing how to survive an active shooter at work, we are going to go over the essential aspects of crisis communication, and why having a methodical strategy matters in such cases.
The Importance of Crisis Communications in an Active Shooter Situation
Whether you are a corporate business or a public institution, the health and safety of your employees should be your main priority. This means preparing for all possible scenarios, including, if not especially, for the worst kind, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or active shooter situations. Preparedness is a key aspect of providing your employees and visitors with the means and solutions for emerging safely from a crisis situation.
Aspects to have in mind when drafting crisis communication strategies:
- Always broadcast your alerts, notifications and messages through a modern emergency notification software
- Draft your plans and strategies with all possible scenarios and hazards in mind
- Implement crisis communication templates
- Schedule regular training sessions and maintenance of your emergency communication systems
- Gather feedback from your employees and use it to update your plans and strategies
- Inform all employees of procedures that need to be followed in an active shooter situation and of the persons they can contact
- Make sure that you communicate updated information about emergency exits to your employees
- Form crisis communication teams to be in charge of everything from planning to damage assessing
Having a proactive emergency communication plan, drafted with all necessary aspects in mind, will make a significant difference in all crisis situations, especially in the case of an active shooter, when people’s lives are in danger, and every mistake can have disastrous consequences.
How to Survive an Active Shooter at Work
In 2016, a disgruntled employee opened fire at his former workplace in Texas, after having his contract terminated. Similar situations are regrettably happening all over the world, increasing at an alarming pace, therefore all companies, public institutions, and employees need to be aware of what safety measures they can take. Given the swiftness with which an active shooter situation can progress, usually not allowing time for law enforcement to arrive on the scene, people need to be prepared both mentally and physically for responding to such a crisis.
1. Always Be Informed
The first aspect all employees need to consider is to be informed in advance of what an active shooter situation means for them, and how to save themselves in their place of business. This means knowing all emergency exits, participating in active shooter courses, report any suspicious activity to the authorities, sign up for local alerts and notifications as well as alerts from your workplace, but also being aware of your environment at all times. As a company, making sure that your employees have access to all information is of utmost importance.
2. Coming Up with an Immediate Plan
As difficult as it might be to keep your calm in such a situation, being able to come up with a plan in order to either escape – if possible – or hide until you are safe, is an essential measure in the event of an active shooter. Make sure that you are aware of the persons in charge of crisis communication at your company, and if you find yourself alone, without someone to help, that you can send an emergency text or call 911 from a safe place. If you participate in active shooter trainings, coming up with a plan when or if you find yourself in such a situation can be less difficult than if you have no prior information on how to proceed.
3. Running or Hiding
Getting away from the shooter is a top priority, yet not possible in all cases, so if running is not an option, try to get out of the shooter’s range and hide in a safe place. Help your coworkers escape, but don’t forget that it’s necessary to escape whether others want to follow you or not. If you can make a call to an emergency service, describe the shooter and the situation as best you can. Trying to engage or fight with an active shooter should be a last resort, and you should only consider it if you have prior training in such situations.
4. How to Act During Law Enforcement Intervention
Unfortunately, a lot of people do not know how to behave when police officers are at the scene, and end up putting themselves in harm’s way. Make sure that the officers can identify you, that your hands are up showing you have no weapons, and always respond to their commands.
5. Helping Injured Coworkers
Active shooter trainings should also provide knowledge on how to handle yourself and how to help others in the event of injuries, so if you have that information, try to help anyone in need until medical professionals arrive at the scene. Getting someone injured to safety should be the main concern, but also providing first aid such as applying pressure on a wound, or turning injured people on their sides, and keeping them warm if they are unconscious.
Regardless of the severity of an active shooter situation, all people involved should always seek guidance and counseling in order to deal with the emotional impact, whether it is being provided by the company, or they decide to do so on their own. Making sure that your employees are taken care of and are able to surpass the emotional trauma attached to the aftermath of such an event is an essential aspect that needs to be considered in all active shooter preparedness plans and strategies.