Active Shooter Events in the Workplace

Virginia legislation placed on notice following the active shooter event in Virginia Beach.

Victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

In what has seemed like a death from a thousand cuts, the mass active shooter event that occurred on Friday, May 28th at a municipal building in Virginia Beach has inspired action on the part of state leadership. According to USA Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has ordered a legislative session devoted to exploring the current climate of gun violence in the United states. At a news conference, Northam said, “The nation is watching. We must do more than our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve.”

It was a public works employee who killed 12 people last week—another senseless tragedy in a long line of mass shootings that have spiked in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, shootings accounted for 79% of all workplace homicides in 2016. Statistics from the Office of Victims of Violent Crime indicate this number has not only risen dramatically but will continue to rise. The number of mass shootings was nearly 2.5 times greater over the last ten years—greater than the mass shootings that occurred between 1998 and 2007.

This infographic displays the number of active shooter events in each state in 2018, per 1 million individuals.

While the governor of Virginia has put the legislation on notice, businesses throughout the nation have put themselves on notice as well, with interest in active shooter training programs for businesses increasing exponentially with each new report of gun violence in the workplace. What’s chilling is OSHA estimates 25% of workplace violence goes unreported.  Yet, many businesses believe events like the ones that transpired in Virginia Beach cannot happen to them.

Many businesses not only believe an active shooter event is unlikely, but that they are, in fact, prepared for one. If you happen to be reading this at your desk, or on a break at your job, do you know the evacuation protocol for your business in the event of an active shooter? Evacuation procedures like these are often explained in personnel materials like handbooks and manuals. But the average employee is not regularly engaged on the topic, let alone received comprehensive education & demonstration of these protocols. It is a morbid, serious subject, and it is not uncommon for management or leadership in a business/organization to be uncomfortable with addressing it, and certainly struggle with addressing it comprehensively.

This downloadable graphic reflects statistical information pertaining to the 220 FBI-designated active shooter incidents that occurred in the United States between 2000-2016. This graphic depicts incidents broken down by location category.

Companies who have decided that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure are investing in contracts with independent investigators to perform risk assessments on their headquarters and locations of business. These investigators consider factors such as the total volume of personnel, layout of the worksite, and security protocol to determine what is needed to keep the employees safe and secure.

These horrific crimes are also placing a heavy financial burden on businesses. Lower & Associates estimates businesses across the United States will lose more than $55 million in employee wages each year due to violence in the workplace. They experience direct losses in the form of medical expenses, workers’ compensation, litigation fees, and indirect losses such as breakdown in operations due to arrested productivity, record-low morale, and public relation nightmares. Not to mention the fact that a business’s preparedness for an active shooter event is literally a matter of life and death.