Unfortunately, in today’s world, employers are facing a very real risk that is present today but was not in the past, the risk of an active shooter. The days of discussing active shooters in terms of “if” and “maybe” have been replaced with qualifiers such as “when and where.”
NBC News reported that there have been 355 mass shooting in the United States this year alone. (A mass shooting is defined as a shooting which involves 4 or more people.) The country also saw more than 4 separate shootings in a single day on 20 occasions this year. The statistics are staggering to say the least.
The shootings have not been isolated or predicable, instead they have occurred at schools, college campuses, concert venues, medical facilities, movie theaters, office buildings and, most recently, public service agencies. The suspects have been disgruntled employees, individuals suffering from mental illness, severe personal distress or family dysfunction and, most recently, individuals with social or religious ideologies that perpetrate random acts of violence.
Recently the world has seen a shift in terrorist attacks to “soft targets.” Facilities or locations that are essentially unprotected or vulnerable to attack have become the focus for terrorist attacks. This has been a strategy for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. This was the methodology used in the most recent Paris attacks and may possibly be motive from the most recent mass shooting in San Bernardino. This approach may support the premise that the categorization of targets as “hard” or “soft” is no longer relevant or beneficial to the science behind preventing attacks. All bets seem to be off, and now the potential victims need to proceed under that presumption. Prepare for the unexpected.
Regardless of the reasons behind the various shootings, employers are now in a situation of facing the potential of their business, their employees and their customers being victims of such violence. Deterrence and preparation are the key. Steps can be taken to minimize your entity being seen as a potential target, soft or hard, for such acts of violence. Organizations must assess their vulnerabilities to such threats and take steps to strengthen their defenses against such threats. Training is paramount. Employees must be trained to recognize the warning signs of workplace violence, unusual behaviors or situations, and warning signs that suggest the innocent could be at risk. Employers can also help to minimize the number of serious injuries and deaths by properly preparing emergency action plan(s) tailored to the specific needs of the employer and its employees in addition to providing adequate training to employees regarding the strategies contained within the plans. Emergency preparedness is no longer a luxury, it is a basis requirement of survival.