Stephanie Dwilson

Providing Active Shooter Training in the Workplace

Active shooter training prepares your workplace for an event that no one wants to occur. But this workplace training, when done right, can help your employees feel more secure in the long run — even if the idea of the training is a little alarming at first. It’s important to conduct the training as positively as possible, focusing on how your business is creating an overall culture of safety.

Make the Drill Part of an Overall Safety Program

Just over 75 active shooter incidents occurred between 2016 and 2018, and 80% or more occurred where people work. Although the overall likelihood of an active shooter incident happening at your business is low, it’s important to be prepared.

Consider having more than just a standalone active shooter drill. Instead, make it part of an overall office safety awareness program. You want to make your business secure, and part of that involves creating an environment where employees feel that they can always come to you with their concerns.

Aim to assemble a crisis management team that pulls people from HR, security, IT and maintenance. Together, they can develop a security program that addresses both cybersecurity and physical security. The team may decide on measures such as adding security cameras, implementing better password protection, strengthening windows and doors, and adding swipe-access cards.

Instead of hosting one active shooter drill, host a workshop where you introduce your new and improved security program, which includes a shooter drill. Your workshop should also promote an open-door policy where staff are encouraged to ask for help with any safety issues at work or home. If you have an employee assistance program, remind your staff that the program provides confidential legal advice and counseling. Review safety protocols, such as procedures to follow if there’s an off-site threat, maps of evacuation routes, security cameras and protocols for visitors.

How to Host an Active Shooter Drill

Like a fire drill, it isn’t enough to provide active shooter training just once a year. Periodically reviewing the training is the best way to keep skills fresh. If you make it part of an overall safety workshop and inform them of the drill ahead of time, then employees are less likely to feel scared. Never make it an unexpected “surprise” event.

Though watching videos can be helpful, it’s best to stage scenarios where employees can rehearse what they would do. Review emergency lockdown procedures for before a threat enters the building, as well as steps to take if it does enter.

Talk them through evading and evacuating versus securing a door and hiding. Review hiding places and practice securing a door in your office. Do doors lock from the inside? Is it possible to block a door — if so, with what? Does the door have a large window that employees should avoid? Address self-defense and fighting back, along with whether or not employees are allowed to be armed.

Employees should also know the closest exits to wherever they’re at, along with stairwells and evacuation routes. They should be taught how to contact police, especially if your workplace has taken extra measures like a silent alarm. One strategy, called Run. Hide. Fight., trains employees to run and evade if there is time, hide securely if evacuating is not a practical option and fight if there is no other choice.

Before hosting a company-wide drill, try hosting a tabletop exercise with leaders from different departments. Utah.gov provides a thorough active shooter event example. This can be a good way to review different scenarios and uncover weaknesses in your drill. For example, what do you do when an employee appears disgruntled, if an employee runs into your office and tells you someone has a gun or if you call for your staff to seek shelter? Who is in charge and what will they communicate? Once you’ve completed a discussion exercise as a team, then you can host a company-wide drill based on your discussion.

Since active shooter training can be a complicated topic to teach, it may be a good idea to bring in an expert to help. Many security companies will come to the workplace and host defense drills, and some police departments will even offer free active shooter drills for businesses. Homeland Security provides active shooter resources for workplace workshops, including a FEMA course that teaches what to do when confronted with an active shooter, how to recognize potential workplace violence and how to prevent or prepare for a dangerous situation. The course could be part of your workshop or could just provide resources and ideas. Remember that active shooter training works best when it’s part of an overall safety and security program. Your employees will appreciate knowing that they’re safe when they walk into work each day.

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