By T. R. Causey, blackdoctor.org
On December 2, 2015, there was not one, but two mass shootings. One in San Bernardino, CA killing 14 and wounding 17 at a social services center and the other, not as widely known, in Savannah, Ga. Where a gunman shot four people, killing a woman and injuring three men. Recently, in June 2016, 50 people were killed and more injured at a mass shooting in a club in Florida.
Unfortunately, this is the society we live in. People getting attacked on the job, in community centers, etc. It’s heartbreaking. But the most important thing that employers and leaders can do to strike back at workplace/onsite violence is to take proactive measures; have a plan in place, communicate that plan and train employees on what to do if the unimaginable happens. This may not stop violence from intruding on your work environment; however, it will give your employees a better chance of surviving.
According to the American Society of Safety Engineers & Homeland Security, what may surprise people is that most active shooters are not former employees, coworkers or even strangers. Historically, almost half of the active shooters in a work environment were customers and/or clients. These people usually have knowledge of the building, including areas where people tend to congregate, such as break rooms and conference rooms, and they know the planned escape routes.
With this in mind, employers need to be able to notify their employees that a situation is developing without alerting the shooter. One way to do this is to develop a code, similar to “Code Adam” used in retail stores for a missing child. This code should be communicated to all employees, be simple to use and sound like routine communications in the work environment. The code may be as simple as asking “Alice, please call Reception” or “Gerald, please report to the front desk” when there is no employee named Alice or a front desk. Higher-education employers have set up text mail systems where they can send out a mass text or e-mail to alert students and faculty to potential situations.
Once employees recognize the alert code, they need to make the decision. Here’s your 3 choices:
Run: Leave all personal items behind and watch for danger along the evacuation route (the shooter may be familiar with the routes and may be waiting for employees at the exit point). Leave your cell phone in your pocket. Keep your hands visible at all times so law enforcement can see that you are not hiding anything.
Hide: Turn off your cell phone, including vibration mode, and stay quiet. If you attempt to text family or friends to tell them to alert authorities, have a code word previously set up to let them know it is a legitimate emergency and not a hoax. This will also let them know that they should not call you back.
Block: Barricade yourself into a secure room if possible. The shooter may be after you, but you can at least try to slow him or her down by preventing them from getting to you quickly. Creating a block or a series of barriers between you and the shooter(s) is key.
Also consider that everything and anything can become a weapon in this type of situation. Do not worry about the possible harm to the shooter. There is safety in numbers; attack en masse whenever possible. Law enforcement agents responding to an active shooter call have only one thing on their mind: to stop the violence. If they see someone clutching a large bag or a cell phone (potential triggering device), they will treat that person as suspicious or as a potential threat since they have no idea what the shooter looks like or if the shooter is acting alone.
Remember, law enforcement agents are focused on stopping the violence. When they see people running toward them, they must make a split-second decision to determine whether or not those people are trying to harm them, and they may guess wrong, leading to unnecessary casualties. After the shooter is stopped, law enforcement will then begin to help the victims and to provide aid.