This is the fourth and final blog in a four-part series focused on the analysis of an active shooter prevention program. This post concentrates on management and recovery in the event that an active shooter incident has occurred in the workplace.
As we enter the fourth and final blog in the active shooter series, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss recovery. The active shooter incident may have ended, but the event is not over. We are now faced with helping our organization move past the losses and restore operations. For many companies, the occurrence may not be survivable. After all, we have seen evidence which shows companies that suffer a significant crisis and fail to properly respond, average an 11% loss or more of share value. From this group of organizations that did not recover, many saw a cumulative loss of over 15% a year later, as explained in The Impact of Catastrophes on Shareholder Value produced by The Oxford Executive Research Briefings.
Based on these statistics, let’s consider what separated the companies that survived versus those that failed. Many factors can contribute to such a downfall:
- Loss of shareholder confidence due to a poor crisis communications strategy
- Abnormal trading of market shares resulting in consumer concerns
- Hardship on resources due to the magnitude of loss
- Reduction of employee productivity with low return-to-work ratios and unmanaged emotional stressors
- Litigation for negligence, duty of care, etc.
The first failure in the above list should be easily mitigated. Take the time to create a crisis communications strategy and exercise it. Neglect in properly considering how to manage the media blitz along with shareholder and employee inquiries can easily leave the company image tarnished. As suggested by the Oxford study noted above, a crisis presents an opportunity for a firm’s leadership to demonstrate their strength and capacity and potential growth could occur because of a crisis, if managed well.
The other aspect of loss is productivity – this truly occurs because of an organization’s lack of preparedness for a crisis. Certainly, some people will have a hard time coping and may never recover from such a horrific experience. But many could come back to work sooner and return to a productive life if the company builds a comprehensive plan. This plan should include the availability of crisis counselors with experience in violent incidents. Taking the time to brainstorm about what partners you need can quickly flush out the holes in the plan. Your partner list might include:
- Cleaning services: Partner with a company that has experience in crime scene cleaning and restoration. Last thing we want to expose employees to is remnants of blood from the event.
- External crisis communications team: While your internal communications team may be quite capable, they likely don’t have experience managing crises on a regular basis. Find someone who does this day-to-day and can enhance the strength of your communications team.
- Crisis counselors: Think beyond remote counseling and find a partner that can deploy personnel to your facilities, a local hotel or other environment.
- Alternative facilities: It is certainly possible that your company’s offices may be inaccessible for a period of days, weeks or months and therefore it is critical to verify that your continuity team has considered this potential outcome.
- Benefit specialists: Claims from employees for injuries, disabilities, personal counseling, etc. may go through the roof, well beyond the capacity of your in-house benefits manager to assist or guide people. Where would they turn for help if they were overloaded? You don’t want employees experiencing delays in recovery due to an influx of work therefore consider an outside partner for this.
- Physical security specialists: After an active shooter crisis, your facilities may be damaged and employee fear will be at a high-level. If for no other reason than to restore a sense of safety, you may need to deploy additional security personnel. Have this discussion with your security partner earlier rather than later. What is your backup plan if your security partner encounters a manpower shortage due to multiple events occurring simultaneously, such as a mass shooting impacting several facilities? Will you be their priority?
- Close protection specialists: Following a tragic event, certain key members of your leadership team will draw automatic attention in the media spotlight. Deploying close protection personnel isn’t as easy as calling “Bodyguards-R-Us”. Or perhaps you may find them, but you won’t get what you ordered. Proper deployment of close protection requires significant planning and logistics and early assessment and relationship building are important.
As with any resource, the relationship should be tested and evaluated and not just checked off on a list and filed away. This is especially true with respect to your internal and external partner(s) that may tell you “we have a plan in place” but seem to never be able to produce the plan.
Many forms of liability can crush a company; however, a few are manageable if the organization meets or exceeds industry standards and best practices, including:
- Conducting an initial assessment
- Acting on the findings and recommendations of the assessment, including documented determination on whether you will ignore, accept, transfer or mitigate recommendations
- Leading a training program for your threat assessment team, security team and general population – be sure to document this training
- Administering exercises to test the effectiveness of your program and responsiveness of your teams
- Reviewing the program periodically, if necessary through the eyes of a third-party
As we have explored over the past few blogs in this active shooter series, the threat is real but the outcome is not necessarily set. If we can collectively agree to take the risk seriously, assess the program and build a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, we have a significantly greater chance reducing the risk of loss of life from violent attacks.