According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7% of all workplace fatalities are the result of intentional homicide. While active shooter scenarios in the workplace are relatively rare, they result in fatal injuries more often than fires and explosions, getting caught in equipment or machinery, and exposure to hazardous substances combined. The latest statistics for full year 2014 indicate there were 403 workplace violence homicides, with 307 or 76% classified as intentional shootings. Nearly 17% of the victims were women, 83% were men. It’s true that armed robberies make up about half of all work-related homicides, but attacks by coworkers, students and relatives make up the rest.
Some incidents of extreme workplace violence are spectacular and receive wide media attention. The recent mass killings at a San Bernardino, California, office party and the August 2015 on-camera shooting of two journalists by one of their former colleagues come to mind. And it happened again just last week. Three people were killed and another 14 injured on February 25 in Hesston, Kansas. The gunman was a disgruntled employee.
Although it is hard to believe and probably the result of how incidents are categorized, the event widely described as one of the first workplace violence shootings in the United States occurred in 1989, when a disgruntled worker brought an AK-47 into the Standard-Gravure printing plant in Louisville, Kentucky and killed eight employees, then himself.
Although not a complete list, below are some other major workplace violence incidents which have occurred just in the past two years:
• November, 2015 – Colorado Springs, Colorado – Planned Parenthood shooter kills three.
• October, 1015 – Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon –Student shoots and kills eight students and a teacher, then himself.
• July 16, 2015 – at two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee – Assailant shoots and kills five people and wounds three others before being killed by authorities.
• February, 2015 – Morristown, New Jersey – An employee of an armed security company kills a fellow employee and then himself. The incident was the result of a “continuing domestic situation”.
• February, 2015 – Lennox, South Dakota – Truck driver argues with his supervisor. He later returns, shoots and kills the supervisor and wounds a fellow employee.
• September, 2014 – Hoover, Alabama – A man returns the day after he was fired and kills his supervisor.
• September, 2014 – Birmingham, Alabama – Fired UPS employee kills two supervisors, then himself.
• August, 2014 – Chicago, Illinois – A demoted executive shoots and wounds the company CEO, who later dies. The shooter then kills himself.
Hundreds of articles have been written about workplace violence, active shooters and the best ways to react in those situations. Below are some basic guidelines to deal with an active shooter incident issued from the Department of Homeland Security:
1. Know how to “dial out” of your work facility. Some systems require dialing a 9 or other code first. Dial 911 when it is safe to do so.
2. Evacuate if there is time and an accessible escape path
• Have an escape route and plan in mind
• If it’s safe: get out, get out, get out, even if others refuse to follow
• Leave everything behind – take nothing
• Help others, if possible
• Prevent others from entering an area where an active shooter might be
• Keep your hands visible
• Follow police instructions
• Do not attempt to move wounded people
3. If evacuation is not possible, hide out somewhere the active shooter is not likely to find you.
• An enclosed office or room is best
• Lock the door
• Barricade the door with heavy furniture or file cabinets if possible
• Silence your cell phone
• Disconnect any source of noise – phones, radio, TV, printer
• Remain totally quiet
• If you can dial 911, but can’t speak, leave the line open to allow the dispatcher to listen.
4. If evacuation or hiding out fails and you feel your life is in imminent danger, a last resort is to take action against the active shooter.
• Act as aggressively as possible against the shooter
• Throw items and improvise weapons
• Yell and scream loudly
5. How to respond when law enforcement arrives: Remember, it isn’t always immediately possible for law enforcement to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
• Follow all instructions from officers
• Keep your hands empty and clearly visible
• Raise your hands and spread your fingers
• Avoid making quick movements
• Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling
Remember, workplace violence incidents involving active shooters are statistically rare. However, everyone should be aware of the basic actions and behaviors recommended to improve the odds of surviving such an incident.