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You want to be ready for all kinds of emergencies, like tornadoes and fires, that can disrupt your workplace.
Unfortunately, you should add “active shooter” to your emergency preparedness plans. This year alone, more than 120 people have been killed and 380 injured in mass shootings, including the shooting in March at a Boulder, Colorado grocery store.
A few years ago, I collaborated with the Milwaukee Police Department to implement an active shooter policy with a local nonprofit organization using the “Run. Hide. Fight.” protocol. The request came following mass shootings across the United States. The employees wanted to be prepared.
In a crisis, you too want to have a plan.
John Mathews, author of “Mass Shootings: Six Steps to Survival,” says: “You have to be prepared. You have to practice. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to implement the plan effectively.”
Here are my experiences developing an active shooter “Run. Hide. Fight.” procedure from two perspectives: preparing the general staff and preparing the leadership team.
Preparing your general staff
Employees were surprised to learn these tips during their active shooter training:
Run. Always evacuate the premises if possible.
- When leaving, raise your hands above your head for law enforcement to see.
- Understand your exit plan and how you should notify your employer when safely out of the building.
- Answer police questions. Only designated leaders with media training should comment to the media.
Hide. When running is not an option, hide silently in a safe place.
- Know where designated places are located.
- Turn cell phones off, including the vibration mode.
- Understand the risks of prematurely opening the door to your hiding place.
Fight. Fight the attacker as the last resort when you cannot run nor hide.
- This requires full commitment to do everything possible “to cause severe or lethal injury to the attacker.”
- Consider offering a self-defense program, such as martial arts, for your staff. Or, Delta Defense in West Bend offers self-defense firearms training and conceal carry insurance.
Preparing your leadership team
As a lead person, I collaborated with local police and insurance company agents to create the formal procedure. The logistics included identifying escape routes, safe rooms, off-site shelter locations for medical assistance and police check-ins. My local police department then evaluated our “Run. Hide. Fight.” procedure for my specific business setting.
The health insurance agent helped incorporate mental health assistance plans for staff and affected family members.
Internally, we updated the crisis plan around handling communications for staff members and their families, police and the media.
“You don’t want your company’s worst moment to be your first moment in front of the media,” says Katrina Cravy, an Emmy award-winning Milwaukee journalist and co-founder of CharismaQ, a coaching and training company.
Cravy shares these five crisis planning rules:
Rule #1 - Know your audience. During an active shooter situation, one of your first audiences is your employees and their families. No family member should ever hear about the loss of a loved one through the media. Your HR department should have an emergency contact list with cell phones and emails to push out an immediate message.
Rule #2 - Own the story. Have a plan in place before you need it. Assign your executive team to different audiences. Create some simple press release templates to prepare for any crisis. You’ll save a lot of time when seconds count.
Rule #3 - First impressions matter. When the media arrives, know which leader has the proper training to go on camera and deliver the company’s message with the right look, tone and confidence when emotions are high.
Rule #4 - Be human. No one wants to hear “our hearts and prayers go out.” Say something that truly matters and doesn’t sound like corporate-speak.
Rule #5 - Stay focused. Only answer the question you were asked. Don’t speculate or release more information than you intended.
There is no perfect plan for every situation.
Training your staff and leadership in active shooter procedures prepares them for possible workplace scenarios but can also save lives in general public settings such as malls or restaurants.