Working Safely with High Risk Populations - Part 2

Sep 17, 2019 2:28:06 PM

A Conversation with Wayne Spees, WGI Executive Consultant

We are continuing with Part 2 of our blog series, Working with High Risk Populations: A Conversation with Wayne Spees, WGI Executive Consultant. To recap, this series was influenced by employers who need training for their employees who work with potentially angry, aggressive and difficult individuals within the scope of their jobs. In this portion of the interview, Wayne gives his insight and expertise about how to prepare for a potentially violent incident, such as an active shooter event, and what type of training he recommends for the workplace.

Blog #2 of 3: Active Shooter Events and Personal Safety

  1. While still statistically rare, active shooter events have been on the rise, and are now a cause for concern among many people. What thoughts do you have about being prepared for any type of violent event that may occur in public, at work or in a school environment?

For the average person, being involved in a violent event would be terrifying. Most people would rather not think about it. As a result, when something like this happens, people tend to go into denial. 

This denial robs them of precious moments when they should be reacting. Minimally, you should develop an emergency plan for work and at home. Steps as simple as 'what is the best evacuation route and what space will provide the best shelter?' can make a tremendous difference when facing an emergency.  If you don’t know how to answer these questions, you should seek help from an expert.

  1. During an active shooter event, what is one “go-to” skill that everyone should have?

Hands down, the most important 'go-to' skill is having good “situational awareness” of your surroundings. The sooner you recognize a potential threat, the more time you will have to react to it. Awareness extends to what types of events are happening currently in your community. For instance, what kinds of attacks are being highlighted in your local news and where are they occurring? Are you going to be in a similar environment? What precautions are you taking?

  1. “Run, Hide, Fight” is a widely-circulated video that is often used to train individuals to protect themselves during an active shooter event. Is there anything else that you think is important in terms of personal safety and protection during such an event?

Conceptually, “Run, Hide, Fight” makes sense. But you have to consider the reality of each of these words and ask yourself, 'am I capable of these actions'?  You need to be aware of any limitations you and the people around you may have when considering how you will respond.

Tips for Using the Run Hide Fight Video

Another vitally important consideration is the environment that you are in.  Do you know the best evacuation route available to you? Will the room you are hiding in offer adequate protection? Will it protect you from gunfire or just conceal your presence? Is there another way out if the threat comes close to your location? The more familiar you are with your surroundings, the easier it will be to effectively use the environment in an emergency.

  1. Should organizations train their employees to be prepared for active shooter types of events? If yes, what is the most important focus for the training?

Organizations should be able to provide the safest environment possible for their employees.  You can bet that every time there is a workplace shooting in the news your employees are thinking about their safety. Providing training and preparation for an emergency can give employees the confidence to take action when facing such an event. It also demonstrates that the organization cares about their safety.

I’d also mention that it is important to select a training program that suits the culture of your organization. I have seen many employers inadvertently create more anxiety for their employees by choosing a program that is inappropriate for their culture and work environment.  For example, we’ve seen situations where employers have simply emailed a link to the “Run, Hide, Fight” video without any context. In our experience, showing the video as a stand alone tool, without proper background can leave employees with more questions than answers. Providing professional training along with the video is important – the training should be realistic without scaring employees, it should consider the limitations of the employees and should also aim to instill confidence in its workforce.

Finally, there also needs to be a strong focus on prevention. The best way to survive an active shooter event is to do our best to prevent it from ever happening.  Organizations need to have Workplace Violence Prevention training as part of their emergency policies and procedures. Training all employees about how to report concerning behavior as well as establishing a robust threat assessment process is crucial to preventing violence.

For more specific information,  click here to read our blog "Situational Awareness in a Post-Las Vegas World". 

We will conclude our three-part blog series with Blog #3: Working with High Risk Populations.

Stay Tuned!