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By Jay Hart, director of Force Training Institute (FTI)
As the national conversation regarding violence in the workplace suggests a heightened awareness stemming from increased media coverage, recent studies suggest there may be statistical evidence supporting this perceived frequency. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 5 percent of all businesses experience an instance of workplace violence each year. For larger organizations with more than 1,000 employees, this rate is increased tenfold to 50 percent. A 2014 report from the FBI found active shooter incidents in the U.S. now occur on an average of once a month. Of these incidents, almost (45.6 percent) occurred at a business while nearly a quarter (24.4 percent) occurred at Pre-K to 12 schools and institutions of higher learning.
Although active threats and the environments where they take place can vary from incident to incident, the common threads found throughout can be woven together to create the fabric of an effective and successful safety program. The following are lessons learned gleaned from past experience that businesses can use as tools for building a solid foundation for a safety-minded workplace:
Mindset to Clear the First Hurdle
More often than not, active threat training is the elephant in the room. Everyone has seen or heard of incidents, but are reluctant to take the steps toward mitigation. The reasons may vary from believing it’ll make employees more fearful than empowered to worrying the training might not be “right” for the team. However, looking the other way is not a solution to any problem, much less one with harmful consequences.
The aforementioned statistics illustrate an increasing probability of an active threat incident, making it less of an "if" and more of a "when." Unfortunately, violence doesn’t discriminate on where it can take place, so the entire enterprise – be it headquarters, warehouse, or storefront – should be involved in preventative measures. Breaking through the barrier of apprehension begins with a holistic approach: one team, one goal. Leadership should evaluate the type of training fitting for their organization’s culture, articulate the vital importance of such training to employees, and clearly explain how the training will be implemented.
Flexible Response Plans
Violence is seldom a cookie cutter affair and as such a “one size fits all” response is likely an ineffective solution. Conversely, having too many threat-specific responses can be confusing, if not outright dangerous. While different threats do warrant varying responses, a series of “stovepipe” procedures can cripple a person with tunnel vision during a high-stress scenario.
All active threat response plans should be built upon the same principles so even if the minute details are lost in the heat of the moment, team members can still make informed decisions to ensure the safety of themselves and others. Streamlining processes encourages a quick implementation and retention of information. Knowledge increases confidence, confidence increases decisiveness, and it is decisive action in a critical incident that saves lives.