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Active shooter training: The next workplace safety issue

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After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, businesses, city and county governments, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and the like throughout the county ramped up external and internal safety and security measures.

We now live with and accept concrete barriers, airport screenings, security badges and checkpoints. Do you feel safer?

With all these new safety measures in place, according to a recent article in the The Washington Post, by Dec. 2 there already had been 355 mass shootings in only 336 days, meaning we are experiencing over one mass shooting every day somewhere in America.

With the horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, America once again is also faced with the prospect of some shade of terrorism invading our everyday life. While there is some uncertainty about what triggered the San Bernardino mass shooting — a workplace dispute or a carefully planned and orchestrated attack, it has elevated the awareness and call for businesses to consider and implement active shooter training programs and policies.

According to a 2013 FBI study, over 80 percent of all mass shooting incidents in the U.S. occurred in the workplace.

The FBI defines a “mass shooting” as when an individual(s) kills or wounds four or more people in the same incident. According to the FBI, the mass shooting incidents that occurred in business environments resulted in 482 people killed (including 18 company owners, managers or supervisors).

The FBI study points out the importance of businesses needing to be proactive by conducting regular workplace safety and security audits, implementing workplace violence emergency protocols (even for offsite meetings), and training employees on how to help identify risk factors which may lead to workplace violence, along with how to respond, through active shooter emergency drills, to incidents of mass shooting in the workplace.

How individuals react during the first few minutes of a workplace shooting can make a difference.

Homeland Security has website dedicated to dealing with a variety issues associated with active shooter incidents. Among the many resources is a manual entitled “Active Shooter: How to Respond.” According to Homeland Security, on the most basic level there are three options in responding to a threat: run, hide, or fight (the last resort).

In light of the recent incidents in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Savannah, Ga.; and San Bernardino, Calif., there is increased interest and urgency in businesses partnering with local, state and federal agencies to create and provide active shooter training for the business community.

As mass shootings continue to occur, it becomes paramount that all businesses, if not already in place, should consider developing and implementing emergency action plans.

As new and vital component of those plans should include “active shooter” training for all employees. Such training should include active exercises (like fire drills in schools) that can assist employees in effectively recognizing, reporting, responding and aiding in minimizing loss of life in the event of an active shooter.

Thus, businesses should contact local law enforcement officials to find out what types of active shooter trainings are available in our community.

Gil Sparks is an attorney in the Wenatchee offices of Ogden Murphy Wallace, PLLC. His practice focuses on employment and labor law representing both private and public sector management clients.