Steps for surviving an active shooter in the workplace
Imagine this: you’re at your desk, reading emails over a morning cup of coffee when suddenly a frantic co-worker appears in your doorway. She tells you that there is an intruder with a gun coming your way. What do you do? From 2020 to 2021 alone, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported a 52.5% increase in mass shooting attacks. Nobody ever expects to be caught in a life-threatening situation at work, but with the rate of public shootings on the rise, it is best to be prepared. The following emergency preparedness tips will help you protect yourself and others during an attack.
Run – Hide – FightIn an active shooter scenario, the FBI recommends following the “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol. Run – Immediately put as much distance between you and the armed person as possible. Leave your personal belongings behind but encourage co-workers to escape with you. If they won’t go, do not stay behind with them. Once you are safely out of the building, take cover and call 911. “Run” is considered the best-case scenario choice. Hide – If running away isn’t possible, find a safe place to hide until the shooter is apprehended. Locate a room with a lockable door and large furniture to barricade the entryway. Turn off the lights, silence your phone and deactivate any electronics in the room that might make noise. If there are windows, close them and pull down the blinds. Once the room is secure, hunker down and wait quietly for emergency personnel to arrive. Fight – If all else fails, you must be prepared to fight. Find a heavy object to use as a weapon, such as a lamp or fire extinguisher. You may only have one shot at incapacitating the attacker, so act with aggression and do not hold back.
Establish emergency contactsMemorize the phone numbers of at least two friends or family members in case your phone is lost or damaged during the event. News of the attack will spread quickly, so you should reach out to loved ones as soon as it is safe to do so. As an added measure, establish a family communications plan to make it easier for your family to contact you.
Plan your escape routeIdentify several ways to quickly evacuate your office building in an emergency. If your office is close to ground level, remember to include the windows as potential emergency exits.
Report suspicious behaviorIf the perpetrator is an employee, they will likely start displaying alarming behaviors days or even weeks prior to the incident. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has identified the following potential warning signs:
- Increasingly erratic, unsafe or aggressive behaviors.
- Hostile behavior based on claims of injustice or wrongdoing.
- Drug and alcohol abuse.
- Claims of marginalization or distancing from friends and colleagues.
- Changes in work performance.
- Sudden and dramatic changes in home life or personality.
- Financial difficulties.
- Pending civil or criminal litigation.
- Observable grievances and making statements of retribution.