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The Situation Room: Active Shooter – What it Means for HR

The Situation Room: Active Shooter – What it Means for HR

The day in the workplace started out normal enough. You hear the hum of office noise. People are talking on active shooter trainingphones. Hallway conversations involve the results of the game the night before, the latest Hollywood gossip, laughter. The copier machine making its usual printing sounds. You can hear typing sounds on computer keyboards, and office doors opening and shutting.

Then you hear something odd. A gun shot sound. Then more gun shots… people screaming.

Your heart skips a beat and then begins to race. Your every breath becomes short. Fear grips your every thought. You are in the back of the workplace and have not seen the shooter or shooters. But your gut tells you they are still there.

What do you do?

  • A) Panic, because there is nothing to do
  • B) Locate and read the safety policy
  • C) Remember to run, hide, fight
  • D) Post something on Facebook

This alarming reality shattered our world with recent news reports of an active shooter situation in a health facility in San Bernardino, CA. Two active shooters went on a shooting spree killing 14 and injuring 21 people.

While we never really want to think about this reality, it seems the world has taken our workplaces into a required different level of thinking. Traditionally we have provided workplace violence training that deals with a possible disgruntled employee or angry customer. But this situation in San Bernardino goes beyond a single disgruntled employee workplace violence scenario. The FBI has confirmed the San Bernardino attacks are considered acts of terrorism.

It’s time HR professionals and business leader to revisit the workplace violence policy and training.

What this scenario means for HR and business leaders:

  1. Different dimension to workplace violence: Consider the possibility, that those with aggression may not just engage in random unplanned acts of violence, but also may do so with carefully planned attacks. As in the case with San Bernardino, the shooters wore body armor and had a house full of other destructive devices. The shooters in this case had a carefully orchestrated plan.
  1. Dust off your safety training manuals: Shift the training mindset from “fire” to “under fire.” For those workplaces that have a safety manual sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust, it’s time to update it. The risks in the workplace place obviously go beyond the ordinary fire risk. Assume nothing and account for every possibility.
  1. Take complacency seriously: What is striking about the San Bernardino incident is that the workplace engaged in monthly “active shooter” training. It’s hard to say if they had not engaged in monthly training what the fatality count would be or that safety was taken seriously. However, what comes to mind is the possibility of employee complacency. I’ve observed in workplaces fire alarms going off while employees ignore them and keep on working. The question to ask is if the real thing should happen, how would your employees react?
  1. Balancing act between diversity/inclusion and safety concerns: Safety concerns in light of possible terror inspired incidents will no doubt add much strain on diversity and inclusion efforts. HR professionals will need to grapple with a delicate balancing act between inclusion and workplace safety more now than ever.

Sadly, the incident in San Bernardino has brought about stark reminders for us in the workplace. Savvy workplace professionals should feel compelled to revisit workplace safety procedures. HR professionals will need to think through a strategy of balancing inclusion and dealing with safety concerns.

For you own safety: watch this 6 minute video, "Run, Hide, Fight."

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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite ( HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

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