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Published: March, 2020; Vol 16, Num 10

Tips for Employers Developing Active Shooter Plans

The potential for an active shooter situation is an unfortunate reality in today’s workplaces. In our June 2018 article, “Preparing Your Employees for an Active Shooter Situation,” we covered the “Run, Hide, Fight” response recommended by the Department of Homeland Security and many other law enforcement agencies. 

LHSFNA Management
Co-Chairman
Noel C. Borck

Although active shooter situations are not as common as many other forms of workplace violence, there are many steps employers can take to reduce risk for workers on site and prepare for the unfortunate circumstance if it occurs. “It’s important to remember that ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ is only the recommended response during an active shooter situation,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Like so many other hazards in construction environments, much of the work to create a safe workplace happens before the workday ever begins.”

Employers should consider the following steps when building and implementing a plan to address potential active shooter situations on site: 

  1. Perform a risk assessment for each worksite. Gather details on entry/exit points and ease of access to both the perimeter of the site and individual buildings. Use this information to create evacuation routes that will be shared with employees. This assessment is especially important in construction environments, where jobsites aren’t typical office settings. For example, a bridge project and a highway work zone have very different layouts and ingress/egress zones. 
  2. Increase/improve security measures. Start with physical controls to limit and control access, such as door locking systems, fencing and surveillance cameras. Other improvements may include warning systems or silent alarms throughout the site, procedures for handling visitors and the issuance of keys, especially master keys. 
  3. Train workers. Communicate policies and procedures so workers will know if something is amiss, such as seeing a visitor in an unauthorized area. Train workers on safe areas, evacuation routes, the types of behavior they should be looking for, when to report it and how to respond if necessary (e.g., “Run, Hide, Fight”).  
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Host practice drills with workers to test and refine the active shooter plan and familiarize workers with what to do. Tell employees what to expect from police if a situation does arise. Research shows that in a crisis, trained employees act, while untrained workers are more likely to panic or freeze.

The ASSP technical report, How to Develop and Implement an Active Shooter/Armed Assailant Plan, contains more detailed information about the individual steps described above. 

In addition to these practices, there are other steps employers can take to improve the situational awareness of workers on site and give them the tools to help prevent and identify workplace violence before it starts. 

  1. Create a healthy safety climate on site. Employers would be well-served to invest in their employees’ mental health alongside their investments in physical security measures like fencing and improved door locks. A balanced approach to workplace violence also addresses the bullying, harassment and physical violence that is far more common on today’s job sites and can lead to escalating violence.
  2. Know the signs. Warning signs alone don’t mean someone is planning violence; an accumulation of signs over time may signal a path toward violence. With all of these signs, pay attention to significant changes in behavior patterns and their frequency and intensity, particularly if they disrupt the work environment.
    • High stress levels
    • Attendance issues, such as arriving late or missing work
    • Dealing with personal issues, such as a divorce or financial problems
    • Argumentative or has major mood swings
    • Poor personal hygiene, appearing disheveled or unkempt when that’s not normal 
    • Change in quality of work (e.g., previously high output, now frequently making mistakes)
  3. Involve workers at each step. Workers are often more aware of social dynamics than supervisors, and may have more insight into ongoing issues in the lives of their co-workers. They are also naturally on the frontlines of everyday conflicts. Creating an environment where all workers feel respected – and giving supervisors and workers the tools to diffuse conflicts through communication skills – can encourage workers to engage in prevention and report critical information when it matters most. 

Any active shooter prevention plan should be incorporated into the site’s overall emergency response plan and include details on contacting local emergency response resources when necessary. These plans should also include information on how the company will respond in the aftermath of a critical incident.

The Fund’s Critical Incident Stress Management publication provides more information about the importance of debriefing with workers following a critical incident. This publication, as well as the Fund’s Workplace Violence Prevention toolbox talk and Workplace Violence Prevention manual, can be ordered through our online Publications Catalogue. LIUNA signatory contractors and affiliates can also access the Fund’s Webinar Archive and view our webinar, Workplace Violence in Construction: Recognition & Prevention.

[Nick Fox]