Emergencies can occur in the workplace. However, in as much as people expect weather-related emergencies to occur or for fire to break out, they tend to be caught more off-guard when emergencies and crises occur because of other fellow human beings.
In today’s world, acts of terror are now commonplace. On average, an active shooter situation lasts a mere 12 minutes. That leaves very little time to react and respond, while assessing the information that is available, warn employees, follow safety protocols, notify first responders and monitor developments after the incident.
While the window of time is miniscule when it comes to acts of terror and violence, remember to make active shooter preparedness part of your policies and procedures in as much as you do weather-related and medical emergencies. Utilize your alerting system in order to inform those who need to be informed of the situation, and make sure to keep these other tips in mind:
1. Prepare for the unforeseen, unthinkable and unfortunate.
Time is vital when it comes to emergency situations such as workplace violence and terrorism. When workers are confused and immersed in panic, they are left exposed and vulnerable. While workplace violence can be rattling and frightening as it takes people by surprise, preparedness for such events can certainly prompt people into moments of clarity. Being prepared helps people cope with and survive situations that are unforeseen, unthinkable and unfortunate.
Preparedness involves having an alerting system at place. An alerting system empowers employees as it gives this notifications that they might not get on time (or might not even get at all) during occasions wherein they need information the most. Staff members are able to receive messages that give them a clear course of action, and may help them avoid a dangerous event that is unfolding. For example, if an active shooter is in a particular area of the building, work staff can be immediately informed to take a particular route when evacuating the building.
Preparedness also involves drills and training seminars to help inform staff members on how to react and respond should these events happen. Make sure that they know what to do before these events occur.
2. Optimize your message.
Messages sent out by an alerting system regarding active shooter situations will have the same patterns as any other emergency. This means that for workplace violence situations, optimize your message with these three things: a clear understanding of the situation or threat, procedures for employees to take to protect themselves, and information regarding who they should contact for help.
An emergency communications plan should always be part of your procedures and policies. Make sure that the messages to be sent out during acts of terror and workplace violence situations have been prepared in advance so that notifying employees is immediate and efficient. However, since active shooter situations change and shift dramatically within seconds, templates can be used, filled in and updated as soon as information is available.
Remember to word your messages carefully as they can be the source of calm amidst a terrifying event. Do not overwhelm your employees with too much information, since people tend to react and take in information differently when under stress. Opt for simple and direct words instead of code words or symbolic language.
3. Attempt to calm the nerves.
While it is impossible to say how people will act when workplace violence occurs, drills and alerts can certainly help people become familiar with the messages to be sent out by your alerting system.
Since active shooter situations tend to be more complex, drills have to be designed in such a way that workers are able to adapt according to the situation they are in. Bad weather and fire may be more direct, and people tend to evacuate from one particular area. In the case of workplace violence and acts of terror, some workers may need to go into lockdown mode while others can be evacuated. Drills and training can help engrain these important details into their minds and can help calm their nerves should these incidents occur.