It seems you can’t turn on the television these days without hearing news of another crazed gunman going on a shooting spree. Although big headlines appear whenever a shooting occurs at a school, more mass shootings actually take place at businesses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Shootings accounted for 78 percent of all workplace homicides in 2010 (405 fatal injuries). More than four-fifths (83 percent) of these workplace homicides from shootings occurred in the private sector, while only 17 percent of such shootings occurred in government."
Thankfully, there are several things business owners can do to make it less likely that their business will be the site of a mass murder.
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Have a Plan
Most businesses have plans in place for what they will do if a fire breaks out or a tornado touches down, but far fewer know what they would do if there were an active shooter in or near their place of business. Why not take the time to put a plan in place, even though, as with all other emergency plans, you hope you never to have to use it?
If you don’t know where to start, check out this class from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute. "Active Shooter: What You Can Do" was designed to teach ordinary citizens (not law enforcement personnel) what to do if an active-shooter situation is playing out near you.
Upon completion of the FEMA course, employees and managers will be able to:
- Describe the actions to take when confronted with an active shooter
- Assist responding law enforcement officials
- Recognize indicators of potential workplace violence
- Describe actions to take to prevent and prepare for potential active shooter incidents
- Describe how to manage the consequences of an active shooter incident
The Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has webinars, videos and booklets you can use to craft a plan.
If You See Something, Say Something
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but it seems that bystanders and acquaintances interviewed after a mass shooting often say that they knew something was not quite right. In retrospect, they should have spoken up. Being alert, and alerting the officials when appropriate, is an important deterrent to future violence.
What should you look for? DHS says most people don’t just “snap,” they often display indicators of potentially violent behavior over time, such as:
- Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
- Unexplained increase in absenteeism and/or vague physical complaints
- Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
- Depression and/or withdrawal
- Resistance or overreaction to changes in policy and procedures
- Repeated violations of company policies
- Severe mood swings
- Unstable, emotional responses
- Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
- Evidence of suicidal ideation (e.g. “putting things in order”)
- Words or actions indicative of paranoia (e.g. “Everybody is against me”)
- Increasingly discussion of personal or domestic problems
- Talk of severe ﬁnancial problems
- Talk of previous incidents of violence
- Empathy with individuals committing violence
- Increase in comments about ﬁre arms, other weapons, violent crimes
Employers should know what they are going to do when employees, clients, or customers report behavior that indicates there is a risk of violence occurring, particularly if the suspicious activity emanates from a current or former employee, or an acquaintance of one.
Business owners should note that they may be found liable for damages if a court determines that the owner failed to act when a shooting was foreseeable. An example of this is the case against the theatre where the shooting took place during the Batman movie.
At first blush, it is difficult to imagine how a theatre was supposed to prevent a madman from going on a killing spree, but the court allowed the case to move forward.
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Allowing Concealed Carry…Or Not
There is a raging debate over whether allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons deters or incites crime. As a business owner, you are going to have to think about how you feel about this—because—in all but a handful of states, businesses are one of the many public places where concealed carry is allowed.
This is both an employment law issue and a property owner issue since both employees and customers may bring concealed weapons onto the premises. It’s a complicated decision to make because safety, the Second Amendment, and risk of liability must all be considered.
Some of the most intense debate over the right to carry a concealed weapon extend beyond businesses and into the classroom. Texas, Florida, California, and several other states are all debating whether they should change their state laws to allow concealed carry on college campuses. Business owners can get a better idea of the arguments both for and against concealed carry by reading about the current policy debates in that context.
Don’t Become Another Tragic News Story
Gun violence is not going away, so it is important for business owners to be prepared should the unthinkable happen. Having an active shooter emergency plan in place, being vigilant, and managing risk by putting the concealed carry policy you deem best for your business in place are good places to start.