On Wednesday January 7, 2015 two brothers, dressed in black clothing, coerced their way into the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and began firing their AK47 type automatic weapons. They made their way up into the office building and into a conference room full of employees at a staff meeting where they began shooting. Before they finished and made their escape, the shooting spree took the lives of 12 people including five cartoonists, two police officers and the editor-in-chief. In addition to those gunned down, another 10 were seriously injured.
The shooters made their way and barricaded themselves inside a supermarket across town in Paris where they took and killed 4 hostages. In the end, 17 people were dead and 3 gunmen were killed over three days of attacks.
We may never understand the reasons for the gun shed, but you should use this as a wakeup call to understand how to be prepared for such an event should it occur in your live.
Individuals, employers, facility managers, human resource managers and everyone should prepare. Emergency plans and procedures should be in place and reviewed and practiced on a regular basis. It should be implemented just like fire drills are taught and practiced at most employers.
I have attended meetings at Fortune 500 companies like Southern Company at their corporate headquarter building where at the start of each meeting they have a safety review. It goes something like this.
The person that scheduled the meeting first identifies who in the meeting knows CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in case it is needed. They then go on to identify to all meeting attendees the CPR trained employees, who the safety warden is in the meeting, the location of all the exits on the floor, the location of the nearest ADF (automated external defibrillator) in the event of cardiac arrest, the location of the floor plan with the escape paths indicated and first aid kit and fire alarm locations.
Similar training for an active shooter needs to be implemented into every company’s training for employees and guests, like fire drills should be.
Workplace shootings occur more times than you think.. Faded from our memory are the Fort Hood shootings, Columbine and Sandy Hook just to name a few of the school shootings, the more recent angry employee shooting in the UPS Alabama workplace where 2 supervisors were killed, and the angry employee shootings that have occurred at postal facilities, small business locations and larger corporate offices all across America. No place or person is immune to the potential of an active shooter.
The Paris shootings and other office killings is a wake up call to learn more about an active shooter. The facts know are;
- 397 to 475 people have died due to homicide at work over the past 4 years.
- 98% of the time it is a lone shooter.
- 97% of the time the shooter is a male.
- 36% of active shootings involve more than one weapon.
- Victims are often chosen at random.
- Average incident lasts 12 minutes.
- 40% of the time the shooter commits suicide.
- 43% of the time the shooting is over by the time the police arrive.
A mentor of mine, a former CIA Agent, trained us on how to physically and mentally prepare for an active shooter situation. We offer this and other safety and escape live training. The basics of the training are:
- Always study and know your exits.
- Know of at least two ways to get out of your office and other buildings.
- ESCAPE if you can.
- Do not freeze.
- Fight back if you cannot escape – rush the shooter
- First responders on the scene will not help you. They are there to take the shooter out
The US Department of Homeland Safety and Security similarly recommends on how to respond in the event of an active shooter. Their direction to protect your life is; Run, Hide, Fight. Their ‘good practices’ for coping with an active shooter situation include.
- Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
- If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
- If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
- As the last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.
- CALL 911 when it is safe to do so!
Bottom line is you need to have awareness, have a plan, train, prepare and take away lessons learn from the past work place violence events.
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