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Addressing the risk of active shooter incidents in the workplace

Best practices for creating and implementing an effective plan

July 2020 | General Industries

BY MARK MCGHIEY AND MARY CHELF

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

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Active shooter incidents are an unfortunate reality, and employers have become increasingly concerned over how these threats could impact their workplace.

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Preparing for an active shooter can be a challenge for employers, and many barriers stand between a business and a concrete plan of action.

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To help navigate these challenges, it's important to be educated on common roadblocks, as well as best practices for creating and implementing an active shooter plan.

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Active shooter incidents are an unfortunate reality, and employers have become increasingly concerned about how these threats could affect their workplace.


Statistics show that active shooter incidents have been steadily increasing since 2000. In fact, an FBI study1 found there were 277 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2018. What's particularly concerning is that the majority of incidents occurred at workplaces across all industries.


These findings highlight the need for employers to remain vigilant about active shooter awareness and prevention efforts. However, preparing for an active shooter can be a challenge for employers, and many barriers stand between a business and a concrete plan of action. To help navigate these challenges, it's important to be educated on common roadblocks, as well as best practices for creating and implementing an active shooter plan.


The challenge for employers


While businesses often understand the need to prepare for active shooter incidents, many never establish an effective plan. This can occur for a variety of reasons, but it's often related to the following:


  • The employer lacks the resources or know-how necessary to create an effective active shooter plan
  • The employer has other priorities that are critical to their day-to-day operations

It's not uncommon for businesses to hear about an active shooter incident in the news and begin to create a plan, only to have the process stall before procedures are formalized. To get over this roadblock, businesses need to make preparing for an active shooter incident a priority.


Active shooter incidents should be treated like other risk management concerns. Employers should demonstrate a top-down commitment to safeguarding their organization, employees, members and clients from the threat of violence. Only then can businesses truly take the steps necessary to build an active shooter prevention plan.


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It's not uncommon for businesses to hear about an active shooter incident in the news and begin to create a plan, only to have the process stall before procedures are formalized.

Creating and implementing an active shooter plan


While it's impossible to completely eliminate the threat of an active shooter event and the subsequent trauma and litigation it may bring, proactive organizations are in a much better position to respond to an incident. In order to mitigate costly lawsuits and liabilities created by active shooter incidents, employers should consider the following best practices for creating and implementing a plan:

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LEVERAGE EXPERTISE

It's true that most businesses won't have the expertise they need in-house to create an active shooter plan. However, employers can leverage a variety of outside resources to draft a plan that's right for their operations. Employers can seek the assistance of law enforcement, fire departments, trade organizations and the Department of Homeland Security. These entities have the knowledge and insight that employers need to appropriately plan for an active shooter incident. For instance, a business's local police department can help conduct drills that simulate an actual active shooter event.

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CUSTOMIZE THE PLAN

While active shooter plans have common elements, they need to be customized to meet the unique needs of the business. Essentially, what works for a manufacturing company with multiple locations might not apply to a nonprofit or school that works with vulnerable populations. Employers need to do a complete risk assessment and carefully consider every aspect of their plan to ensure it addresses active shooter exposures unique to their operations.

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INTEGRATE THE PLAN

When developing an active shooter plan, employers should integrate it into business continuity plans, risk management plans, workplace violence prevention programs and zero-tolerance workplace violence policies. The latter two are most crucial, keeping the following in mind:


» Workplace violence prevention programs — Written programs for workplace violence prevention, which are typically segments of an overall safety and health program, provide a proactive approach for reducing or eliminating the risk of violence in the workplace. A prevention program focuses on developing workplace-appropriate procedures for preventing and mitigating violence. It should have clear goals for preventing workplace violence, be tailored to the company's size and be flexible enough to apply to various specific situations.


» Zero-tolerance workplace violence policies — In most workplaces, the risk of violence can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. One of the best protections that employers can offer their workers is a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should provide a commitment to protecting all employees against workplace violence of any kind. It must also be a policy of zero tolerance, meaning any violation of the policy would result in termination.

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TRAIN EMPLOYEES

While creating a written active shooter plan is critical and ensures that policies and procedures are well documented, employers must also train their employees and conduct regular active shooter drills. These training initiatives and drills provide step-by-step instructions to employees, ensuring that they know what to do in the event of an incident. The more drills and training an employer provides, the more prepared their staff members will be. Even remote employees or individuals who typically work in the field can benefit from active shooter training. This is because pillars of active shooter safety (e.g., threat recognition) apply regardless of whether the employee is on-site or off-site.


Training and drill plans should be reviewed frequently to account for any organizational or policy changes, as well as to evaluate employee performance during previous active shooter drills. Again, employers will need to keep vulnerable populations in mind when creating and improving these drills. This is particularly important when you consider that these populations (e.g., children or individuals with disabilities) may not be able to evacuate when faced with an active shooter threat and will require unique safety plans.

When reviewing these strategies, employers should recognize that active shooter plans are not one-size-fits-all: They're living and breathing documents, and employers must be willing to tailor their approach to meet the specific needs of their workplace and workforce. Doing so allows businesses to hone their active shooter procedures and safeguard their most valuable assets: their employees.

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

Active shooter incidents have been steadily increasing since the year 2000.

Active shooter incidents should be treated like other risk management concerns.

Creating a written active shooter plan is critical and ensures policies and procedures are well documented.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP


Learn more about active shooter incidents by visiting the Department of Homeland Security's website. If you're an agent interested in growing your commercial book of business, please go to nationwide.com/agents.

about the experts

Mark McGhiey, Associate Vice President of Loss Control Services

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Mark's organizations provide solution-based risk management services, specialized claims management and premium audits to commercial insureds across the United States ranging from small proprietors to... large industrial operations.

Mark is a board member of the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) and sits on the Commercial Committee for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

Mark has a degree from Illinois State University. He holds Certified Safety Professional and Certified Fire Protection Specialist designations.
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Mary Chelf, Senior Technical Consultant of Loss Control Services

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Mary leads Loss Control for the Specialty Care Services (Human Services and Senior Living) practice and supports the National Retail Programs business. She also develops strategies and resources to support both territory managers and members with... their risk management needs.

Mary has over 34 years of experience in the insurance industry as a Loss Control professional. She joined Nationwide in 2005 and has led the Loss Control Services field efforts for the Rocky Mountain Regional Office, the Pacific Coast Regional Office and the Pacific West Regional Office.

Mary graduated from the University of Central Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in industrial safety and a minor in management. She is an active member of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).
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