Preparation, Training Critical to Surviving an At-Work Shooting

Preparation, Training Critical to Surviving an At-Work Shooting

In the event of a violent shooting emergency, managers must know how to respond quickly. The most obvious thing to do is call the police, but, a very specific plan for evacuation and safety should be made ahead of time, including escape routes and hiding places, according to the University of Alabama.

Planning the evacuation

The Department of Homeland Security advises companies to have an escape route in mind. DHS encourages leaders to take a pro-active response to shootings by having a prepared plan. 

A shooter may randomly target a place of business without being a member of the company, so even if companies are looking out for signs of a disturbed or disgruntled employee, it may not be enough to prevent a disaster.

When planning an escape route, companies should consider the fastest way to leave a building away from where a shooter potentially might be firing. In its publication, “ACTIVE SHOOTER: How to Respond,” the DHS states that because shootings often last around 15 minutes, the police may not respond to a 911 call before the shooting stops. Therefore, those in the office must be able to respond appropriately.

One way to plan an escape route is to follow the advice of the National Fire Protection Association and use the emergency exits (provided the shooter is not somewhere close). Practice is key to a proper escape from a dangerous building. Employers may want to create surprise shooting drills to help people remember how they are supposed to escape the building.

Hiding if escape is impossible

Hiding from an attack also may be an option if the attacker is blocking emergency exits. Employers may want to consider planning for this scenario. The DHS recommends that hiding places be out of view from potential shooters and provide protection via a locked door. At the same time, doors should not trap employees from potential escape.

To keep shooters out of the office, the DHS suggests locking all entrances and blocking them with heavy furniture. Remain as quiet as possible, if the shooter is nearby. Do not confront the shooter unless there is no option. The DHS recommends acting as aggressively to the shooter as possible; throwing items and improvising weapons, yelling and attacking the individual are potential options of last resort.

When law enforcement arrives

According to the DHS, officers responding to an active shooter will arrive in teams of four. They will wear their uniforms and have bullet-proof vests and other equipment. They may be armed with weapons – either guns, pepper spray, tear gas or any combination of these.

Employees may be in a state of extreme anxiety and be unable to distinguish the police from the attacker or attackers, but police likely will look very different from any shooters, so staying calm will help employees distinguish the difference.

When employees spot the police, the DHS encourages workers to follow law enforcement’s instructions. Employees should put down anything in their hands and raise their hands and fingers; they should keep their hands visible; not make quick movements; not yell or scream; or ask officers for help. 

If possible, employees should tell the police officers as much information as possible, such as the location of the shooter, the number of attackers if there is more than one and provide a physical description if possible.


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