Following the mass shooting in Orlando more companies and organizations are contemplating active shooter survival training (run, hide, fight) for their employees. While newsworthy, “active shooter” events (an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area) are actually very rare. Although the likelihood of such an abhorrent event is low, the impact is devastating to victims, loved ones, and the organization.
Why train employees? As the survivors in Orlando were describing their experiences one element is prominent: as soon as the shooting started, those who made immediate decisions to either run to safety or hide increased their probability of survival. For some, taking quick action may come instinctively. For others, it requires some form of training or preparedness.
Historically, mass shootings were thought to be an American phenomenon. In the past 18 months the Charlie Hebdo, Paris, and Brussels attacks have multinational organizations rethinking how they prepare their employees for work and travel overseas. Although the attacks in Europe were acts of terrorism, the individual responses to those caught up in such an attack are similar to an American active-shooter event.
Once an organization decides to conduct active-shooter training they must decide how to communicate their decision to employees without causing unwarranted fear and stress. Many organizations in the transportation, petrochemical and energy sectors already have a “safety culture” that enables them to more easily introduce the subject and conduct the training. Other organizations may require a more detailed rollout of the training that could include a number of valid reasons: the company’s duty of care to employees, integration into an existing workplace violence prevention program, or an enhanced safety awareness program. No matter the culture, it must be stressed that, with few exceptions, most organizations will not experience an active-shooter event.
In addition to focusing on individual safety, senior executives should look at the consequences of an active-shooter event: loss of employees, trauma to survivors and their families, impact on customers and suppliers, loss of an office space or facility, etc. These issues should be addressed in crisis management and business continuity planning.
Whether preparing for an earthquake or a horrific active-shooter event, organizations have a duty of care to their employees. The sooner they get started on such training, the better the organizations—and its employees—will be.
Ernest DelBuono, a crisis communications specialist, is a senior strategist at LEVICK.