Active shooter incidents have instilled fear and concern among employers, employees, students, and stakeholders of businesses, malls, schools, houses of worship, healthcare centers and manufacturing facilities. Headlines describe these incidents, which often cause reactions of shock, disbelief and anger.
Fortunately, active shooter incidents are low-frequency events. Realistically, there are many more types of active intruder incidents where the perpetrator is either an opportunistic criminal, an angry customer/ client, disgruntled employee or domestic partner coming into the workplace to cause harm.
Whoever the potential threat is, employers have the responsibility under OSHA's General Duty Clause to maintain a safe workplace. Consequently, OSHA and the Department of Homeland Security have been suggesting guidelines and preparedness strategies to protect employees and customers.
Companies have been developing all-hazard planning activities to further enhance their workplace violence prevention programs. Preparedness for active shooter incidents are a component of these planning actions.
The Department of Homeland Security describes active shooter plans as effective when they describe:
- Proactive steps, including training that can be taken by employees to identify individuals who may be on a trajectory to commit a violent act.
- A preferred method for reporting active shooter incidents, including informing all those at the company or who may be entering the company.
- An evacuation policy and procedure.
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments (e.g., floor plans, safe areas).
- Lookdown procedures for individual units, offices, and buildings.
- Integration with the facility safety officer and the external incident commander.
- Information concerning local area emergency response agencies law enforcement, and hospitals including internal phone numbers and contacts.
An effective active shooter preparedness and response system would therefore include all of these components.
Contributed by Dr. Kenneth L. Wolf.