workplace violence as either perpetrators
or victims: Customers, clients, visitors
and employees. Prevention and education are essential elements to mitigating
this growing risk.
Training for worse-case scenarios
“Active shooter training is so important
in preparing employees for many reasons
beginning with raising their awareness.
This seems like a simple idea but it cannot be underestimated,” explains Wendy
Evans, a former FBI special agent and
founder of the Security Impact Group
(SIG), an organization that develops customized safety training programs.
She continues, “The first thing you hear
when an employee is interviewed after a
tragedy is, ‘I didn’t think it would ever
However Evans says, “Training forces
employees to mentally prepare for the un-
expected and the shock that can paralyze
in an active shooter situation. It makes
them more observant for early warning
signs by colleagues or clients. Have they
heard any concerning remarks? Is the
person behaving in an odd manner?”
The training should reinforce the organi-
zation’s violence prevention reporting pro-
cedures and thus be preventative in nature.
“Training should emphasize how employees can report concerning conduct.
When reports are seriously regarded and
management immediately engages protocols established to handle crises, an
incident can possibly be averted before it
happens,” Evans states.
SIG’s Chief Operations Officer and
former FBI Special Agent Doug Evans
explains that if the worst-case scenario
occurs and an active shooter enters the
business, employees will need to fall back
on their training.
“Training reminds employees to consider their specific environment, such as
‘Where would I hide if a shooter came
into this room?’ and ‘What exit would be
best if I decide to flee?’” he says.
“It makes employees think in terms
of how they might fight back, if this be-
comes the best or necessary option given
the circumstances. Common items in the
office could be used if needed—from the
fire extinguisher on the wall to the gro-
cery bag full of water bottles from the
fridge,” explains Evans.
When faced with an active shooter, victims sometimes simply freeze. They become so terrified they do not know how
to react in a life and death situation when
the business becomes a war zone due to
the presence of an active shooter.
“Like an athlete who develops muscle
memory from regular training to prepare
for a major competition — employees
will similarly draw upon their training
when it comes to the unthinkable in their
work environment,” states Evans.
Employee to active shooter
When the active shooter happens to be
an employee rather than a customer, client or visitor, claims for negligent hiring,
supervision or retention may invoke coverage pursuant to Employment Practices
Liability Insurance (EPLI) or Directors
and Officers (D&O) policies.
At least three separate active shooter
episodes involving current or former employees resulted in multiple deaths in 2017.
Two workers, one in Pennsylvania and
another in California, each shot three colleagues dead before committing suicide
at their respective businesses.
In the third incident, a man returned
to his former workplace in Florida to gun
down five people including the supervisor who had reportedly fired him. Then
he turned the gun on himself.
Unlike situations involving unknown
persons bursting in to commit armed
robberies, employee-on-employee shooters are not always in it for economic gain.
Additionally, they are not strangers.
Several years ago, a man shot a
younger co-worker in Kentucky nine
times, firing eight bullets while his vic-
tim was down on the floor. A worker in
Texas shot his supervisor 29 times at
close range; and another man returned
30 months after he was fired from his
job at a Virginia news station and mur-
dered two former colleagues during a
live television interview.
Employee-on-employee violence can
be deeply personal, sometimes outra-
geous acts of violence. What is the source
of this fury?
According to clinical psychologist
Robert L. Tanenbaum, Ph.D., “Some peo-
ple become very attached to their jobs
and experience strong feelings, positive
and negative, in the work setting.”
Certain employees may feel threat-
ened, regardless of whether the threat is
real or contrived, and their sense of secu-
rity is affected.
“If a threat results in job termination,
strong emotions may be unleashed, in-
cluding anger and rage. When expressed
negative emotions run high, a person
may become activated, ready to pounce
and attack the source of that distress. Ex-
treme conditions may lead to an active
shooter scenario,” explains Tanenbaum.
The strong feelings are similar to those
in domestic violence situations. After all,
many employers refer to their work forces
When a “family member’s” relationship
ends through involuntary termination,
there may be a sense of betrayal. The former employee may believe that co-workers have turned and sided with the “ex”
– that is, the employer.
THE FIRST THING
YOU HEAR WHEN
AN EMPLOYEE IS
A TRAGEDY IS,
‘I DIDN’T THINK IT WOULD
EVER HAPPEN HERE.’