Domestic Terrorism and Workplace Violence Planning
Security and Violence Management Consultant and Expert
Since Paris and San Bernardino, and now Orlando, I've been hearing questions as to what more should be done to plan for possible domestic terrorist attacks.
I've worked with several dozen facilities, including thirteen hospitals and clinics, following deaths by shooting or stabbing and elicited lessons learned and best practices.
With the foundation of a strong working relationship with local law enforcement and, as needed, state and federal law enforcement agencies, I believe that a comprehensive workplace violence program will still be effective, except for those facilities or sites that might be considered high risk terrorist targets including large public venues.
We must always keep in mind, of course, that there is never 100% secure. We still need to live our lives and do business, so we must accept some risks and must plan for those unlikely worst-case scenarios. After all, fear is what they most desire from us.
A comprehensive workplace violence program that will, in most cases, address the domestic terrorism threat should be composed of at least the following components:
- Perhaps above all, fostering a strong sense of vigilance, protectiveness, awareness, ownership and engagement by all employees. Even many on-site security staff will not see and hear everything. Your people are the true front line and all employees should be part of the Safety and Security Team. See more below on early warning indicators.
- Strategically planned and synergistic physical and procedural security measures that address your true risks, threats and vulnerabilities and that reflect the Layers of Protection approach. Security and violence vulnerability assessments can help determine those risks and vulnerabilities and evaluate existing and planned preventive, mitigation and response measures.
- Staff training including recognizing the early indicators of potential violence and terrorism as well as suspicious behavior, de-escalation techniques, how and why to report, safely managing confrontational and threatening behavior, fostering security and safety awareness and ownership, and safe response to active threats and attackers
- Management and supervisory training including the above as well as openly accepting and passing along employees' suspicions and concerns, assuring that staff understand their responsibilities, how and when to communicate the threat, safely managing the triggering or precipitating event, etc.
- Team-based mitigation and threat management processes to identify and safely manage the problematic and potentially violent employee, contractor, patient, family member, customer, resident, patron, etc. especially if they may be facing a precipitating event such as a termination, refusal of service or other bad news
- A blend of communications media to, as best as possible, assure all persons understand and hear what to do during an active threat that could include public address, intercoms, mass/blast texts/emails/calls, computer banners and pop-ups, etc.
- Physical response and protective systems that could include quick and remote lockdown capability, safe rooms/shelters (to buy time), panic/duress buttons, video surveillance, access control, competent and visible security staff, alarms, visitor management, etc.
- Consider: why would your facility be chosen over another? Planning in reasonable levels of deterrence, or making yourself less attractive as a target, is essential. Terrorists, like most criminals, are opportunists and choose targets they can most easily enter and compromise.
- Unified Incident Command considerations including how to and what to communicate in those critical first few minutes, the roles of law enforcement and other emergency responders, keeping all constantly informed and supported including those proximate to the event, the rest of the people in the building and all people in the organization. Note that the nature of threats can vary substantially and appropriate responses can vary which could include shelter in place, partial or full evacuations, partial or full lockdown, etc.
- Active Threat training and drills. Note that most violent events, including active shooters, take place in less than five minutes, seldom more than ten, so training and drills should mostly focus upon what to do before law enforcement responders arrive.
Early warning indicators of a potential domestic terrorist attack could include comments supporting Jihadist causes such as ISIS, Internet and social media browsing of Jihadist sites, "scoping out" a site or facility, noticeable changes in attitude, testing of existing security measures, etc.
It should be noted that the nature of the active shooter incident will vary by the nature of your organization. Typical attacks and attackers differ, for example, among schools, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, theaters, etc. There should be no cookie cutter response planning.
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