The near-constant prevalence of workplace and school violence shootings or mass attacks—occurring in the United States about every 4 or 5 weeks, according to the FBI—should give security and HR professionals the motivation they need to regularly train and remind employees and students about warning signs and how and who to report them to.
Whether it’s a school violence incident on a K–12 or college or university campus, a workplace threat made by a former or current employee, or a domestic violence crossover threat from home to work, even in this enlightened time of more incidents made public by the media, employees and students still need to know whom to tell, what to tell, and when to tell. Their impetus to do that comes from training programs and awareness-building, not to make them afraid to come to work or go to school, but to empower them.
As an example, for a K–12 school district, it makes sense not just to train the teachers, counselors, and principals, but to educate the school bus drivers, crossing guards, lunch helpers, and janitors to pay attention to what they see and hear around campus, around students, and what they see around the perimeter of the facility. Training the maintenance and facilities employees is just as important as training the administrative or counseling staff at a college campus. And reminding all employees about the possibility of a domestic violence-related threat can help improve the response by the HR, security, and law enforcement professionals.
Johnny Lee, founding director of Birmingham, Alabama-based Peace At Work discusses the prevention methods he sees that work most effectively for school violence and workplace violence prevention:
“Access control is a key element as you can control your battlefield. This is a challenge for public venues as well as retail and service establishments. In terms of prevention, I do believe that [information] ‘leakage’ is a common phenomenon and that much can be predicted using social media. I can think of a handful of cases where something disturbing was posted, someone reported it, and it was prevented. I believe the best way to utilize this method is through crowdsourcing. This is giving the general population or constituents an easy and trusted reporting methods, i.e., giving students [or employees] a simple means to report concerns about a threatening post. There are filter monitoring programs in use and they may have value but again, raises concerns about civil liberties (i.e., the NSA wiretap scandal). For low level concerns and for early detection of growing lethal threats, more training on conflict resolution, de-escalation and mediation are key. Mass shootings are about the shooter carrying out justice as they see fit. Let’s give them another option first.”
When it comes to adding to their existing workplace violence policies and company training programs, Lee has these thoughts:
“Improving communication skills and offering de-escalation/mediation trainings can help get to the root of the problem. However, I want to expand on the concept of training to go beyond watching some mandatory online PowerPoint with a multiple-choice test at the end or even going to some two-hour workshop. There needs to be repeat, multiple avenues for people to know about the company’s program and reporting methods. Flyers on breakroom billboards, notes in paycheck envelopes, blurbs in the company newsletter can all help educate employees at all levels. As an example, there is a great domestic violence prevention program in a hospital that pushes at every opportunity to let employees know about their services. This increases their reporting rates.
Finally, make sure that your policies, procedures, and training match your specific risk. Every location, industry, profession, and organization have their own unique vulnerability that be determined through audit, comparing to similar entities, and crime maps.”