Best practices for creating and implementing an effective plan
July 2020 | General Industries
BY MARK MCGHIEY AND MARY CHELF
Active shooter incidents are an unfortunate reality, and employers have become increasingly concerned over how these threats could impact their workplace.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.