While many business owners do not like to think about the possibility of an active shooter in their workplace, the unfortunate reality is that the risk is real and present across the country. Active shooter training should accompany crisis management or business emergency preparedness plans. When employees feel safe in the workplace, they will be more productive. John Daniels, a workplace security expert and former NBA security executive, explains the process of active shooter training and describes the ways in which workplace safety preparation can save lives.
What is an Active Shooter?
An active shooter is engaged in attempting to kill victims in a confined area. Most active shooters show no method or pattern in selecting their victims. These situations evolve quickly and can be highly unpredictable. Law enforcement must be called immediately to gain assistance.
Unfortunately, many active shooter incidents are over before law enforcement can reach the scene. It is necessary to prepare oneself physically and mentally to cope with an active shooter event.
Creating an Emergency Action Plan
The prospect of dealing with an active shooter is serious and disheartening. If a business has an emergency preparedness plan, they are more likely to be able to cope with these adverse effects in the workplace.
The emergency action plan should include how to report emergencies including fires and active shooters. This workplace safety plan should incorporate an evacuation policy. Emergency evacuation protocols should be laid out in the plan, along with safe exits from the building and an assembly point outside where employees should gather.
The emergency action plan needs to include the contact information for anyone who needs to be informed. The plan should include a list of hospitals and law enforcement locations. The plan should include ways to alert employees to the situation. It should include provisions to contact individuals who are working at remote locations as well as local hospitals and law enforcement.
Finally, the workplace safety plan should be exercised, and the staff should go through training. This is crucial to expose weaknesses in the plan and most importantly, allow employees to become comfortable with their response in this scenario.
The plan should include ways to alert employees to the situation. It should include provisions to contact individuals who are working at remote locations as well as local hospitals and law enforcement.
Everyone should think about these workplace safety steps when it comes to dealing with an active shooter. First, it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings. If you see or hear anything suspicious, take immediate action. Be sure that you know where the two nearest exits are, wherever you go. Secure the door if you are in an office. If you are in a hallway, get into an enclosed room and shut the door.
In a life-or-death situation, employees may be called upon to attempt to take the shooter down. If you cannot run from the shooter, your chances of survival are greater if you are aggressive toward the shooter and try to incapacitate them.
How to React in an Active Shooter Situation
The most important thing that anyone can do in an active shooter situation is to try to evacuate the facility. Your workplace emergency preparedness plan should include several different plans for getting out of the building. Leave your things behind and help others escape with you. Warn other people from going into areas where the active shooter may be.
Keep your hands visible at all times so that responding officers do not think you are the active shooter. Be sure that you follow all of the instructions of responding officers.
If you can’t evacuate, your next best option is to hide. Find a good place to hide, such as in an office with a locked door. Barricade the door with heavy furniture and try to crouch down out of sight. Avoid a location that can be seen from the door or window. Make sure that your cell phone is silenced and stay as quiet as you can.
Dial 911 if you can to alert law enforcement to the location of the shooter. If you can’t speak on the line, leave the line open so that dispatchers can hear what is going on.
Former NBA security executive, John Daniels states that the last option, when you are in a life or death situation, is to fight the shooter. Hitting the shooter with furniture, tackling them, or throwing objects at them may injure, distract, or disarm them. Use anything you can find as a weapon. You must fully commit to your actions, taking into consideration that you may become the shooter’s next victim if you can’t take them down.
When Law Enforcement Responds
When law enforcement responds to your active shooter situations, you should follow these protocols for interacting with them. The first group of responding officers will not stop to help people. They are there to apprehend the shooter and to secure the area. Make sure your hands are visible with your fingers spread.
The second group of officers will arrive with emergency medical personnel and help injured persons. It is best to avoid running up to emergency personnel, as you may be mistaken for a shooter.
You will need to provide information to 911 or the responding officers. You will need to tell them where the shooter is, how many shooters there are, give a physical description, tell law enforcement how many weapons the shooter has, and number how many potential victims are at the locations.
After your office has evacuated, you will likely be held by law enforcement until all possible witnesses have been interviewed. Be patient with this process and allow law enforcement to do their work.
Active Shooter Training
While the goal of creating informative and realistic training scenarios are important, it is typically most effective to give staff basic and concise response tips and reminders. There have been numerous recent examples of aggressive training exercises that have yielded physical and emotional injuries to trainees and exercise participants.
The sound of a discharged firearm in real life is much different than the same sound on television or in the movies and there is value in knowing the difference. However, the larger training objective should be to educate employees which breeds confidence instead of creating a fearful staff. This is an important consideration when thinking about active shooter training for workplace safety.
The procedures above will help more of your employees survive in a life-or-death situation. John Daniels recommends that all companies from the smallest of businesses to the NBA create an emergency action plan and run regular active shooter drills.