CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Little popping sounds may be the only clue that any of us are about to become involved in a life-or-death shooting situation in the workplace. What happens next?
That survival-driven concern was brought before the Cleveland/Bradley Safety Council on Tuesday in a presentation by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, a security consulting firm.
"[Workplace violence] is a terrible thing to have happen," said David O'Boyle, chairman of the Cleveland/Bradley Safety Council. "We want to wake industries up to the possibilities in today's society."
"Become a stakeholder in your own safety," said Margie Strub, chief learning officer for the consulting firm. The number of workplace shootings has increased, and businesses need to train their employees how to react to those situations, she said.
In conjunction with a viewing of "Active Shooter," a training video dealing with survival planning for shooter scenarios, Strub discussed key points for improving one's odds of survival. Most active shooter incidents occur in under 10 minutes, giving law enforcement little time to stop a shooter before he harms victims, she said.
"You need a survival mindset," said Strub, who told the audience that everyone should make emergency exit plans. "The difference between the trained and untrained is the untrained slip into panic, disbelief and inaction after the initial shock passes."
It is essential to be cognizant of warning signs and prevent the situations from occurring, if possible, Strub said.
She said underlying factors of workplace violence are not limited to employees who are disgruntled with disciplinary actions or termination. Long commutes, long hours and a lack of privacy also can lead to high stress levels. Beyond that, dangerous personal relationships involving stalkers and abusive spouses also can intrude on the workplace with explosive results, she said.
The key elements of any survival plan should include knowing how and when to escape a workplace under fire, Strub said. If unable to escape a facility under fire, employees need to know how to effectively hide. As a last resort, they need to be able to confront and overtake a shooter.
Overtaking a shooter requires resolve, but spreading out, throwing things at the shooter's face and rushing can be successful tactics, according to the "Active Shooter" video.
Requirements for emergency planning and training for workplace violence are only Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines for now, but we should expect them to become compliance matters in the future, Strub said.
As Cleveland grows, its industries need to be mindful of the possibility of workplace violence, said Lisa Pickel, director of existing industry programs for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.