Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Preparing for an active shooter situation at your agency

Annual National Preparedness Month observances urge us to review our family and workplace safety plans, but more often than not, people instead think of planning for natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and tornadoes. This year, the Child Support Report offers practical advice to help government offices prepare for issues surrounding workplace violence.

According to the Department of Homeland Security Active Shooter Pocket Card: “An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically through the use of firearms.” As a manager, your first step should be to draft an Active Shooter Emergency Action Plan or, if your office already has one, to review it and see if everything is still relevant.

Jeffrey Sypolt, the Chief of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says managers should keep these tips in mind as they develop a plan:

Watch: Ensure your employees know what to look for. They need to be aware of someone doing a suspicious or dangerous activity, such as putting down a backpack and walking away. If someone who was recently in your office for a difficult child support case made extreme or threatening remarks toward one of the employees or towards the office in general, that could be a danger sign.

Plan: An Active Shooter Emergency Action Plan includes instructions employees can follow in an active shooter event. Think: Run-Hide-Fight.

·       If possible, RUN to safety. Employees must know their best escape routes from their location and the predetermined central meeting place that is a safe distance from the building.
·       If escape is not an option, HIDE, and remember that part of hiding is remaining silent and still. Employees should lock their office doors and turn off the lights if possible. Immediately put all cell phones and pagers on silent—NOT VIBRATE. Don’t type, don’t make phone calls, and especially don’t peek out the door.
·       If discovered while hiding, defend yourself and FIGHT for your life. Employees can try to incapacitate the shooter by throwing items at the shooter, such as wastebaskets, staplers, or other small but hard objects.
·       Lastly, act decisively regardless of whether you decide to run or hide. Don’t get caught in between. If the choice is to hide, stay hidden until you get an official announcement.

Call: Dial 9-11 only when you can make the call safely. Employees hiding should remain in hiding until a pre-determined warning code or official notification is broadcast.

Inform: Employees must keep their eyes open and observe the situation. When law enforcement officials arrive, they will need to know where the active shooter is, whether there is more than one suspect, the type of weapon(s) the shooter has, what the person looks like, and how many potential victims could still be in danger.


Practice: It is critical that employees practice office Emergency Action Plans so they can do what is expected in an emergency.

Reprinted by Elaine Blackman, from the September 2013 HHS Child Support Report article <http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/programs/css/csr1309_final.pdf#page=7by Kim Danek.

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