Active-shooter incidents garner the most publicity, but workplace violence issues actually form a continuum, the FBI points out, that also includes domestic violence, stalking, threats, harassment, bullying, emotional abuse, intimidation, and other forms of conduct that create anxiety, fear, and distrust in the workplace. Two veteran security experts recently posed eight questions that facility managers should be able to answer about their own readiness for an incident. Those questions form a checklist of sorts on issues related to proactive planning and policies, communication, and strategizing for real-life emergencies.
In March, at NFMT in Baltimore, security experts Sean Ahrens and Robert Lang offered advice on planning, drilling, and educating. Lang is in charge of crisis management and security education for Delta Airlines in Atlanta and previously held top security positions at Kennesaw State University, Georgia Tech, and Lockheed. Ahrens leads some of the largest security projects worldwide for Aon Global Risk Consulting; his many clients and projects include Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Lotte Super Tower in South Korea, and big federal agencies like CDC and NIH.
Their questions for facility managers included these:
• What will you do before the police arrive? You and the other building occupants do not have the luxury of thinking that, in the event of workplace violence, police will arrive lickety-split and take care of everything. Instead, it’s likely to take police four or five minutes to arrive (two if they’re onsite). Workplace violence incidents are often over in roughly 2 to 4 minutes, so, as Lang challenges, “In those first few minutes, what are you going to do?” Does your security planning address that specific period?
• Do you have an all-hazards written mitigation plan? And if you do have a written plan, is it gathering dust on an out-of-the-way shelf, or is it actually read every so often? “The time of the event [of workplace violence] is not the time to pull the book off the shelf and start looking at what to do,” Lang says. Drills and exercises based upon that written document are an important part of any response plan because they help participants understand what the procedures actually say and mean. Fail to drill, he says, and your participants will not know and understand what they’re expected to do and how to do it during the time when police are on the way.
• Do you realize that, if a workplace shooting occurs, the building now becomes a crime scene and you can’t go back in while it is being processed? “So the crime scene may take two or three days,” Lang says. “Can you afford to have your facility shut down for eight hours?”
• Do your receptionist and security officer(s) know how to communicate that there is an aggressor at the front desk? Does your planning allow for their extreme state of anxiety in that situation?
• Is your security plan specific to your particular work environment? For instance, if there is an incident of workplace violence, Ahrens says, “How do we communicate in a noisy environment? What do you do when an event occurs? Who do we talk to?” If you’re in a multi-use building where one section uses intercom codes (e.g., “Code red”), will the other stakeholders/visitors understand what the codes mean?
• Do your occupants understand that in an active-shooter incident, the police will step right over wounded people and ignore them in an attempt to enter the building and engage the shooter?
• Does your company have a weapons policy?
• What about background checks? “If you’re not doing background checks on your employees and contractors, shame on you,” Ahrens says. “ There is no better predictor of criminality than previous historical incidents. Hire the best, you’re going to have the least problems.”
Workplace Violence: Eight Questions Facility Managers Should Answer
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