Mass shootings and workplace violence: They catch and hold our attention not just for the gruesome nature of the crimes, but also for the feelings of helplessness they often induce. How can one prepare for such an unexpected violent attack? EHS Today has compiled some recent coverage – both from our own archives and from that of our sister publication, Fire Chief – to offer practical safety advice to help prepare workers, the public and first responders for these tragic events.
Fire Chief recognizes that more than the general public should be able to react appropriately and safely if a mass shooting occurs: first responders must be prepare to help minimize injuries and fatalities, help victims and get the situation under control. In “How to Prepare Your Department for Mass Shootings Like in Aurora, Colo.,” Fire Chief offers preparation tips:
“The issue with these mass-shooting events, as we've seen, is that they really can happen anywhere at any location. When you focus specifically on this threat, you have to recognize that it can happen in any community, big or small,” said August Vernon, operations officer with Forsyth County Emergency Management in Winston/Salem, N.C. “So first, meet with other [public-safety] partners. Know the people who work at your local emergency management office, as they already are running exercises and planning for these types of events, such as vulnerability assessments. Tap into that data, develop a plan and then exercise it regularly.”
Read the rest of this article in Fire Chief: “How to Prepare Your Department for Mass Shootings Like in Aurora, Colo."
When EHS Today spoke to personal safety expert David Nance, he stressed that while in a crowded public space, people should take note of the exits, keep their backs to the wall, visualize how they would respond in an emergency situation and flee the scene as soon as possible if an event does occur. Read his tips in full in “Know Your Exits: Safety Advice Following the Colorado Theater Shooting.”
In “Aurora Shooting a Tragic, Eerie Reminder of Columbine,” Fire Chief interviewed Bill Pessemier, who was the fire and EMS incident commander at the deadly 1999 Columbine school shooting and now is director of 911 dispatch for the Summit County (Colo.) Communications Center.
“Soon after Columbine, we were invited to speak at different conferences about lessons we learned from the incident,” Pessemier said. “We tried to be brutally honest with what went well and what didn’t go so well, and [provide] different recommendations for fire, law and EMS.” Each presentation, he said, emphasized the importance of collaboration among the public-safety agencies and of developing relationships before incidents.
EHS Today also covered the City of Houston’s new public service announcement video, which has been making the rounds online thanks to its dramatic enactment of a workplace shooting. The video explains in detail the three ways to respond to a workplace violence shooting: If at all possible, run from the situation; if running is not possible, then hide and barricade yourself from the shooter; and finally, as a last resort, improvise weapons and fight back against the shooter. Read the advice at length and watch the video at “Run, Hide, Fight: How to Respond to a Workplace Shooting.”
If you’re searching for a more in-depth look at workplace violence, including possible triggers and causes, the documentary "Murder by Proxy: How America Went Postal," sheds light on some of the U.S. Postal Service shootings in the 1980s and 90s. Read an overview of the documentary, including expert discussion of whether or not some employees are just “bad apples” and how employers should respond to a violent incident in “Workplace Violence and the 'Bad Apple' Myth.”
Workplace violence has long been a part of EHS Today’s comprehensive workplace safety and health coverage. Read one of our latest features on the topic, “When Words Fail: Workplace Violence and Communication,” or read “Workplace Violence Triggers, Warning Signs and Solutions,” “Managing Workers' Comp: Workplace Violence Can Put Your Company at Risk,” “The Warning Signs of Workplace Violence,” “Tragedy Turns Attention to Workplace Violence” and “Preventing Workplace Violence.”