Keeping your employees safe at work isn’t limited to fire drills and severe weather procedures. Active shooter situations are becoming more frequent and severe, threatening workplaces, healthcare facilities and public gatherings. A comprehensive workplace safety plan must include preparing your employees for the unthinkable.
According to the FBI, the number of active shooter events has increased over the past few years; 2021 showed a 52.5% increase from 2020 and a 96.8% increase from 2017. There were 61 active shooter incidents in the U.S. in 2021, which resulted in 103 fatalities and 140 nonfatal casualties. Nearly half (28) of those incidents occurred in business environments, and four incidents involved shooters who were current or former employees of the business. One incident occurred in a healthcare location.
While it’s important to train your employees to contact 9-1-1 as soon as possible in an active shooter situation, safety procedures must go beyond this initial step. According to the New York Times, there were 433 active shooting attacks in the U.S. between 2000 and 2021, and 249 (57.5%) of them ended before the police arrived. Your company’s active shooter procedures must tell your employees what to do while waiting for law enforcement to arrive.
How to react to an active shooter: Run, Hide, Fight
The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and many other law enforcement organizations promote the Run, Hide, Fight approach during an active shooter situation. While this strategy does have some downsides, it has many advantages, including giving employees a set of clear, easy-to-remember instructions.
If there is a possible escape path, take it and evacuate the area where the active shooter event is taking place. Every one of your employees should know where the two nearest exits are in every part of your office building. Here are other key facets of the Run step:
- Help others escape when possible, but evacuate whether others follow or not
- Do not attempt to move wounded individuals
- Leave personal belongings behind
- Try to prevent others from entering the active shooter area
- Call 9-1-1 when safe
- Follow instructors provided by law enforcement officers
If there is a way to safely leave the scene of an active shooter event, take it.
If it’s not possible to evacuate the area, the next best option is to hide. A good hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view and provide some sort of physical protection (e.g., a closed and locked door, a barricade of furniture). However, it’s essential to avoid hiding in a place that would restrict movement.
If the shooter is nearby, make sure to lock the door (if possible) and eliminate any noise sources (e.g., television, radio, computer). Set cell phones to silent and remain quiet. Hide behind furniture or other large items, if possible.
Even if it’s not possible to evacuate or hide, it’s still vital to contact emergency services. If speaking isn’t an option, make the call and leave the line open so the dispatcher can hear what is going on. A mobile panic button app allows employees to alert law enforcement and provide their location data in a single step without having to speak.
Experts and law enforcement agencies agree that fighting an assailant should only happen as a last resort. If fighting is necessary, the goal should be to either disrupt or incapacitate the shooter:
- Act aggressively
- Improvise weapons and/or throw items
Whatever action you decide to take, commit to it completely.
Run, Hide, Fight Pros and Cons
There are advantages and disadvantages to Run, Hide, Fight as an active shooter strategy.
The main benefit of Run, Hide, Fight is that it’s easy to teach and remember. It distills key information down into three simple steps and encourages people to take the safest course of action possible. By memorizing the basics of Run, Hide, Fight, people have a better chance of making a good decision even in a stressful situation when their mental faculties may be impaired.
Many experts believe the linear basis of this approach isn’t always applicable in an active shooter situation where conditions change rapidly. Some people believe that the “run” and “hide” steps may create a victim mentality, while the “fight” step may encourage people to risk their own lives unnecessarily.
Critics say Run, Hide, Fight doesn’t account for the common “freeze” reaction that many people experience in a state of shock. Some psychologists and experts on human behavior believe that this brain delay prevents people from being able to decide which course of action is best.
Alternatives to Run, Hide, Fight
While Run, Hide, Fight is the most common approach to active shooter situations, there are some alternatives. Some experts promote a similar strategy with different verbiage: Move! Escape or Attack. This language may help individuals think strategically about how they should move and whether hiding, escaping, or attacking is the best course of action in the situation.
Another method removes the concrete steps and instead encourages individuals to hone their intuition and instincts so they’re prepared to react to any given situation. With this strategy, employee safety training may include a wide range of diverse scenarios so individuals have the chance to assess various situations and determine what response would be best.
Preparing your employees for an active shooter event
If trends continue, active shooter situations will continue to become more frequent in businesses, healthcare facilities and public locations. It’s essential to proactively prepare your employees so they know how to respond in this frightening situation.
Develop an active shooter response plan
Teaching the Run, Hide, Fight method to your employees is an excellent first step in preparing them to respond to an active shooter. It’s also important to make sure your building has well-marked exits and escape routes.
Providing first aid training is important, especially if you can get a portion of your workforce certified. Finally, encourage your employees to stay vigilant, watch for signs of workplace violence and report any suspicious behavior.
Simplify the recovery process
It’s just as important that your employees know how to act after an active shooter event is over. Regardless of how the situation ended, recovery should start right away.
The first step of recovery is working with law enforcement and other security personnel. Encourage your employees to answer questions and provide as much information as possible.
Make sure your employees have a designated rendezvous location and that they know where it is. An active shooter muster point should be far away from the worksite.
Make sure your employees know to report to this location only if they receive information that it is safe and secure. A mass communication system facilitates two-way communication and makes it easy to initiate status checks.
A reliable mass communications tool can protect employees during an emergency
While the hope is that your employees will never experience an active shooter event, it’s essential to prepare them for one. The Run, Hide, Fight method is an excellent starting point to teach your employees how to respond in this type of situation.
Unfortunately, outdated procedures and alert systems can waste precious time in an emergency, delaying a 9-1-1 response and hampering vital communication between relevant parties. With Rave Mobile, you can give your employees the tools they need to quickly alert authorities of an assailant. Our mass communications software also ensures you can inform your workforce of an emergency and provide key instructions quickly via multiple channels, reducing the risk of leaving some individuals uninformed.
Learn more about how our critical communications solutions can help you keep your employees safe.