Navigating the Aftermath of Workplace Violence
Understanding how to navigate what happens in the moments immediately following a violent incident, whether an active shooter or active threat situation, can be integral to an employee's ability to process the tragedy and move forward. You can help your team members with this by ensuring that they clearly understand what to expect in those zero hour moments.
LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSE
Police officers responding to an active shooter situation are trained to proceed immediately to the area where shots were last heard. Their purpose is to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers will normally be in pairs. They may be dressed in regular patrol uniforms, or they may be wearing bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical gear. The officers may be armed with handguns, rifles, or shotguns, to address the situation.
Regardless of how the police arrive, teach employees to remain calm, do as the officers direct them, and do not be afraid of them. They should put down any bags or packages they may be carrying and keep hands visible at all times. Understand that the first officers to arrive will not stop to aid injured people. Rescue teams composed of other officers and emergency medical personnel will follow the first officers into secured areas to treat and remove injured persons.
Keep in mind that even after escaping to a safer location, the entire area is still a crime scene. Police will usually not let anyone leave until the situation is fully under control and all witnesses have been identified and questioned.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FIRST AID AND STRESS MANAGEMENT
You should factor into your emergency preparedness plan the need for lengthy interviews and interrogations from investigators after an incident has been stabilized. It is common for team members to want to flee the area and find loved ones for emotional security and support. Consider strategizing with prepared responders, compassion volunteers, and others with a sense of hospitality and service, who can serve as peer support.
Providing social workers, grief counselors, and critical incident stress management who can practice psychological first aid is an important step after a crisis. Long-term, leaders should be thoughtful and strategic about re-opening the worksite, and should consider identifying an alternate worksite for those employees who cannot or will not return to work in the days and weeks ahead.
Helping people overcome their fears and enter back into the office will happen faster and more smoothly if emotional and mental health support is provided as early as possible. Realize that media attention, interviews, and ongoing investigation can take over the company and worksite for a considerably long time, and add additional stress to the environment.
COMPREHENSIVE BEST PRACTICES
Active shooter incidents are now, unfortunately, a stark reality that must be given serious consideration in the organization’s risk management and emergency response playbook. Successful incidents are those in which employees and leadership fully agree on the need for a more hardened workspace as the first deterrent to a random act of violence.
Those rare individuals who target their own workplace can be difficult to prevent or disrupt. All employees and supervisors should take seriously any suspicious behavior, expressed anger, or noticeably changing demeanor of a team member or contractor. Red flags and warning signs should not be discounted or overlooked. People should not be discouraged from reporting aggressive or changing behavior because of political correctness or oversensitivity to cultural stereotyping.
Human resources should have established processes to intake rapidly, assess, and follow up on all reports and avoid erring on the side of caution that later results in tragic consequences. There has to be a balance that makes everyone comfortable with reporting early indicators that someone may be losing their grip on reality, and may pose a risk to everyone in the organization.
All of this must be a fundamental component of a complete planning, training, and recurring safety drills program – one that rewards participation and gives everyone a shared responsibility in being alert to protect one another.