In the past few weeks we have seen high-profile mass shootings in Buffalo, NY – at a Tops supermarket – and in Uvalde, TX – at Robb Elementary School. Although neither mass shooting occurred in a corporate workplace or against a CEO or other protectee, from decades of experience in behavioral threat assessment I know these mass shootings will have residual impacts on corporate security operations and executive protection operations for workplaces as well. Here are three likely impacts and suggestions for how to be prepared in the days, weeks and months following a mass casualty event such as these:
1. Expect increases in fear and anxiety among employees and managers. It is human nature for people to be fearful of potential violence – and/or more concerned about workplace safety – in the wake of any mass shooting or other incident of mass violence. You may see this as increases in any of the following:
a. Requests for active shooter training or questions about workplace safety protocols;
b. Reports of suspicious activity;
c. Requests for security escorts to/from vehicle parking;
d. Requests to work remotely or an increase in employee absences.
You may even see this behavior among your security personnel. Even though they are security professionals or executive protection professionals, they are human too and may be experiencing their own increased fear. Or, responding to anxiety from loved ones and children who fear for their safety when they are at work. The biggest challenge we have seen in situations like this is when high-level managers are impacted by fear to the point that their performance – and ability to lead – suffers. Sometimes those managers will recognize the impairment and opt to take some time off; but other times they want to stay in a position to lead their personnel, albeit poorly. In such a circumstance, it may be necessary to bring in auxiliary managers – e.g., someone who previously served in that position or who knows the operations of that location well – to allow the manager to stay in place but will provide knowledgeable assistance until the manager can return to their previous high-performance level.
2. Be prepared for an uptick in the number of threats reported. Whenever there is a mass shooting or other violent event that garners significant, multi-day media coverage, we tend to see an uptick in the number of threats reported to corporate security departments, as well as to law enforcement. This may be the result of increased fear and anxiety that essentially lowers the threshold so people are more willing to report. But it also may be the result of increases in threatening behavior. We tend to see people under stress be less able to “keep it together” and end up making threats, whether they mean them or not. High-profile mass shootings can be a factor that increases that stress, and in some cases may even prompt copy-cat behavior. Whatever the reason for the threats, make sure your organization is prepared to take each threat seriously, using their threat management team and/or an outside expert to follow best-practice procedures in behavioral threat assessment and threat management. These threat assessment and threat management procedures should be followed to determine if someone is actually intending or planning to engage in violence and if so, to implement a plan to mitigate the threat and get that person off the “pathway to violence” and onto a better path. This is the procedure used by and recommended by the U.S. Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Department of Defense and the American National Standard for Workplace Violence and Active Assailant – Prevention, Intervention and Response, among others.
3. Be a resource for employees, managers and C-suite leadership on how to talk about mass shootings, especially to kids. Your workforce may be parents and have children of a wide range of ages. By virtue of your position within a security department or executive protection detail, you may get questions about how to talk with children about school shootings or other high-news mass violence incidents. We’ve listed below several resources from reputable organizations on how to have these conversations, so you can just pass them on if you receive such requests. You may also opt to send out this information proactively to C-suite leadership, managers, and/or the entire workforce. Doing so may help position the corporate security department as an internal resource that employees can turn to when they have questions about safety and security, outside the workplace as well as in.
a. Talking with Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers (from National Association of School Psychologists).
b. Talking to Children: When Scary Things Happen (from the Center for Resilience & Well-Being in Schools).
c. Going Back to School After a Tragedy (from the Child Mind Institute)
Interested in implementing a threat management program that helps you better protect people and assets, maintain business continuity, reduce financial harm and protect corporate reputation? Learn more about Ontic’s Threat Assessment and Management Services.