Workplace Safety in the Time of Active Shooters


Whether the motivation is terror, revenge or simply the wrath of a disgruntled worker, workplace shootings are on the rise. According to figures from the FBI, the majority of mass shootings (80%) take place not at public events or locations, but in the workplace. A mass shooting is defined as four or more injuries or casualties in a single incident; the recent shooting in San Bernardino is an example of this type of attack.

According to the FBI and Homeland Security, the first few minutes of a workplace shooting are the most critical times – how employees react during this period can have a huge impact on the outcome. By regularly monitoring your office or facility for security issues, creating emergency plans that include an active shooter and teaching employees to recognize a threat you can reduce your risk and empower your staff.

The FBI, Homeland Security and many local level police departments offer advice on dealing with active shooters in the workplace. While the actual details may vary, all levels of law enforcement agree that employee training is a must and that the best ways to deal with an active shooter include running or escaping, hiding or fighting back as a last resort. How can you protect your workplace — without making everyone panic or feel overly afraid? A careful review of your layout and security coupled with an emergency plan designed to address the issue of a workplace shooter can help.

Create a Workplace Shooter Plan

Look at your own office or facility layout and make sure that all possible exits are identified and that all employees are aware of the quickest routes out of the building. Having a plan in place helps in several ways. By visiting the issue and coming up with strategies specific to your layout and workplace give your employees the practical knowledge they need to survive a deadly event and you offer them a proactive way to deal with fears. Active emergency drills or exercises on a regular basis can reinforce knowledge and make it easier for your staff to learn how to recognize and respond to an active shooter event.

The FBI recommends the following courses of action when your business is faced with an active shooter; creating a drill or exercise that covers these will boost awareness and improve your employee’s response time, too.

Leave the Area

Depart the danger zone by any means necessary. If that means running out the door when the path is clear then evacuate right away. If there is not a clear path to the door, exiting through a window will get you to safety and away from the active shooter. You don’t have to take the traditional exit or worry about property damage, any route that allows you to safely leave the building will work.


If you can’t leave the building or are trapped between a shooter and any exit, then you should find a secure hiding place. A windowless room with a locking door is best, but any room that can be barricaded closed will give you an added level of protection. Any obstacles you can put between you and the shooter will cause delays and give help time to arrive.

Fight Back

Police departments across the country recommend fighting back as a last resort when you are faced with an armed shooter in the workplace. Law enforcement and security experts recommend pouncing on the gunman as he enters a room and attacking in a group with maximum force; targeting sensitive areas like the eyes, throat and groin are recommended. In other words, forget your manners and playground rules, fighting dirty is a must when you are fighting for your life. 13% of the mass shooting incidents chronicled by the FBI in 2000-2013 ended when the shooter was attacked by unarmed individuals and potential victims.

Thinking about how your business could cope with an emergency like a mass shooting and giving your employees the tools and knowledge they need to survive is a must in today’s increasingly dangerous workplace. BY offering the right education and thinking about the safety of your facility now, you not only boost morale and wellbeing, you could prevent your workplace from becoming a statistic.