The potential of workplace violence affecting a company’s business continuity or disaster preparedness planning process was certainly an issue which seemed to gain prominence in many of the related news accounts on this topic that were released in 2010.

One of our readers, Michael W. Wanik, CPP, CBCP recently submitted his thoughts on this topic in a related article entitled “The Employer’s Duty in Regard to an Active Shooter Scenario” where he wrote…

I’ve been involved with the supplication of private security services since I left the military in late 1984. During the time since, I’ve seen the security attitude pendulum swing back and forth a few times.

I witnessed first-hand the trend wherein sensitive duties and responsibilities were stripped from security officers. The hands – off approach was designed to remove liability from actions taken by the officer. Weapons were removed from security officers and first aid training was stopped. I can remember speaking with end users who preferred that the local constable or emergency service be summoned by 911. With the responder was a large insurance policy in the trunk of which the end user corporation saw great value.

Boy, how times have changed. Since 9/11 and Katrina, we have been told by our government that we need to be self-sufficient. Response to us can’t be immediately expected – we should be able to hold our own for three days. We’re again seeing armed security officers and first responder duties appear, if not on the ground; in conversation.

Institutional response to Active Shooter scenarios are also being discussed and interpreted more often. Incidents like Tuscon, Hartford Distributors, Columbine, Mumbai and Virginia Tech have changed expectations of employers and employees alike.

Educational institutions have not been afraid to create and train to policies surrounding the successful lock down or evacuation of a population through various mechanisms. Most employers, however, are just arriving at an initial analysis of an Active Shooter scenario and asking what they should do. The Department of Homeland Security gives short instruction to persons in the area of an Active Shooter: 1) flee, 2) hide, or 3) overpower the shooter if you can do so. They do not however give employers instruction on what actions they should take.

Many of my clients question out loud; should they hit the fire annunciation system? Should they try and do some sort of e-mail or overhead page?  What will their liability be if someone flees into an area where the shooter exists or has traversed to?

The pendulum is swinging. Business understands the need for the provided HLS guidance. They are better understanding what type of risk their business faces whether they do or don’t publicize response to an active incident. Therefore, they are making plans.

According to news reports about the recent Discovery Channel shooting, company leaders made announcements over an intercom for employees to avoid the main lobby. Reports indicated employees were understandably confused; not knowing what the situation was or which direction to proceed. But at least they were tuned into an issue so they could turn on their survival instincts. Discovery Channel had a plan for this fluid situation.

The sad reality of our world today is that employers must think about a response to an Active Shooter scenario occurring in their workplace environments, be they wholly occupied or in a multi-tenant building. Business needs to take a lesson from the education sector.

Beyond doing the right thing for the employee, continuity of business operations depends upon it. “  

Mr. Wanik has also authored a related article (“Managing Your Workplace Violence Risk“) on his company’s SSCSecurityMatters website and is offered as additional reading material for those risk management team members in your organization responsible for the security and safety of all who are employed by that organization.  Click here to read that full article.

We welcome other comments and thoughts on this relevant and potentially critical element of organizational behavior as well as risk management dynamics now facing a company’s efforts to “plan for the unexpected” in their business continuity planning process.

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