Active shooter events are devastating and unpredictable, says Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, a legal editor for XpertHR.

Unfortunately, she adds, the frequency of these incidents has increased, often occurring in a place of business.

"Due to recent events, I believe more organizations are seeing the need for policies to prepare their employees for such an unthinkable event," Boyce explains.

"While it may be an uncomfortable topic, organizations should implement measures to increase employee awareness of and improve the changes of preventing and responding to an active shooter event.

"HR executives should bring the need for active shooter policies to the table."

Boyce recommends a detailed six-step process for organizations to prepare for the "unthinkable."

Here are the basics:

1. Implement a zero tolerance workplace violence policy. Adopting a zero tolerance policy demonstrates an employer's commitment to violence prevention. The best policies define workplace violence and provide illustrative examples of prohibited behaviors as well as a list of objects considered prohibited weapons. To better enforce zero tolerance, companies also need to develop a process to report suspicious or threatening behaviors.

2. Create an emergency action plan. The effectiveness of any preparedness program is enhanced with the creation of an emergency action plan. The goal of any effective EAP is to better prepare employees to respond to an emergency, such as an active shooter situation, and help minimize loss of life.

3. Offer training to employees. The best way to prepare employees on how to react quickly and effectively in an active shooter situation and give them more peace of mind is to offer training.

HR executives should bring the need for active shooter policies to the table.
4. Conduct drills. Most workplaces have evacuation drills for fires, but few have exercises for active shooter events, Boyce says. "Active shooter drills are the best way to prepare employees on how to react quickly and allow employees to practice getting to escape routes."

5. Perform a safety and security audit. An employer should perform a comprehensive audit to identify and correct any gaps in security or other safety issues. Boyce recommends that employers seek the input of local law enforcement during such an audit.

6. Develop a plan to manage the aftermath of an incident. A key element calls for HR and/or management to conduct post-event assessments and activities in coordination with local law enforcement.

HR executives can be champions for such policies and measures, even though the odds of an active shooter event occurring are low, Boyce says.

"They should err on the side of caution and prepare their workforce.

“What's more, the failure to prepare the workplace for such a situation may prove devastating."

Government Resources

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security aims to enhance preparedness through a "whole community" approach by providing training, products, and resources to a broad range of stakeholders on issues such as active shooter awareness, incident response, and workplace violence.

In many cases, there is no pattern or method to the selection of victims by an active shooter, and these situations are, by their very nature, unpredictable and evolve quickly.

Through its Active Shooter Preparedness Program, DHS offers free courses, materials, and workshops to better prepare you to deal with an active shooter situation and raise awareness of behaviors that represent pre-incident indicators and characteristics of active shooters.