Unfortunately, many organizations feel ill-equipped to prevent a workplace violence event. All too often, the incentive for implementing a prevention plan comes in response to tragedy.
OSHA believes a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with hazard controls and employee training, can reduce the incidence of workplace violence.
Profile of an Active Shooter
An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.
Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims.
Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrive on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.
Responding to an active shooter situation
Active shooters can appear in easily accessed public spaces or in workplaces – both private and public-facing. No matter where you are, remain as calm as possible and remember:
• Be aware of any possible danger in your environment
• Identify the two nearest exits
• If you can flee, do so immediately – leave belongings behind
• If you cannot flee, find a potential hiding place with cover (that will stop a bullet) and concealment (the assailant cannot see you there)
• If you are behind a door, lock, or block entry to it
• Silence electronic devices
• If able, turn off all lights and cover windows. As a last resort, try to incapacitate the shooter – keep moving and be distracting
• In close range situations, fighting increases your chance of survival – work with others to ambush the attacker with makeshift weapons (e.g., fire extinguishers, books, chairs, etc.)
• Know your emergency notification methods and numbers
• Call or text 911 as soon as you can do so safely
How to respond when law enforcement arrives
Law enforcement will usually be required to end the situation. Comply with law enforcement and allow them to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
There are several ways you can assist:
• To the best of your ability, be prepared to provide 911 and law enforcement with your location, the number of shooters, physical description of the shooter(s), the number and type of weapons used by the shooter(s) and the number of potential victims
• When law enforcement arrives, remain calm and follow all instructions – in the absence of other instructions keep your hands raised, visible and free of any objects
• Don’t scream or yell
• Evacuate the area quickly – do not stop law enforcement to ask questions or for help
Facing an active shooter can be unimaginable, but being prepared might save your life. Remember to stay alert and as calm as possible. Try to run first, hide if you cannot flee safely and fight only when you have no other choice.
Training for an active shooter situation
Every organization needs to address workplace violence. Managers and safety professionals at every workplace should develop a policy on violence that includes:
• Employee training and creating an emergency action plan
• Conducting mock training exercises with local law enforcement
• Adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence
Training exercises will prepare staff to effectively respond and help minimize loss of life by:
• Learning emergency escape procedures and route assignments, (i.e., floor plans, safe areas)
• Receiving contact information for, and responsibilities of individuals to be contacted during an active shooter incident
• Receiving information concerning local area hospitals (i.e., name, telephone number, and distance from your location)
• Understanding the emergency notification system to alert various parties of an emergency including:
o Individuals at remote locations within premises
o Local law enforcement
o Local area hospitals
• Recognizing the sound of gunshots
• Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard and/or when a shooting is witnessed:
o Evacuating the area
o Hiding out
o Acting against the shooter as a last resort
• Calling 911
• Reacting when law enforcement arrives
• Adopting the survival mind set during times of crisis
Preparing for the worst can be difficult. Nobody wants to think about being involved in a situation with an active shooter – they can be unpredictable and unfold quickly. Because an active shooter behaves erratically, they have no pattern and their victims are random – being prepared can be your best defense.