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Workplace Safety

It’s unfortunate that as part of today’s society, the subject of workplace violence and safety must be addressed. However low the probability of it happening, the topic is one that must be broached because it can literally save your life. There is a saying in law enforcement; the body will not go where the mind has never been. The importance of planning and talking about workplace safety with your coworkers may be the difference in surviving an attack.

The first key to these events is stopping them before they start. The FBI has reported that in the overwhelming majority of these attacks, the shooter told someone their intentions before they committed the crime. A cryptic social media message or a text message saying not to come to work on a certain day have all been seen before. Tell someone if you have concerns. Your supervisor, your security officers or the police can be notified. If you see something, say something.

In the unlikely event of an attack occurring, survival can be broken down into three simple concepts: run, hide and fight. What would you do if there was an attack in your building? Do you know how to get out the back door? Where are the fire escapes? In an instance of workplace violence, knowing how to get out of harm’s way could save your life.

If running is your best option, safely get out of the area and warn others as you exit the building. Get to a safe location and then call 911. Be a good witness; try to report what is going on by including how many suspects, where they were last seen and if they said anything.

If you are unable to get to safety, the next option is to hide. Does your building have safe rooms? Try to get into a room with a lock on the door and no interior windows. If that is not possible, get into a room and barricade the doors and windows. Make it difficult for someone to enter the room. Turn off the lights and silence your cell phone. Get behind something that can hide you.

The last concept is to fight. Based upon the circumstances, the decision to fight might be your first, best option. Remember, there is no such thing as a fair fight – don’t abide by their rules! A gunman is expecting fear and compliance; don’t give it to him. That in itself might be enough to disorient him. Use improvised weapons – a chair; a fire extinguisher; a pen – if that’s all you have. Gang up on him; it will bolster your courage and overwhelm your attacker. The will to live is a huge motivator. Survival is 90 percent mental.

Law enforcement is on its way. However, it may take four or five minutes for police to initially arrive on scene and enter the building. In the San Bernardino incident, the first officers were on scene in three minutes. In the first hour, there were over 300 law enforcement officers present. Making it through that initial time is your goal. When police arrive, their first mission is to stop the threat. Shelter in place and try to point out the gunman’s location. If you can, exit the building in the direction the police came from. Do what the police tell you to do, keep your hands in plain view and try to remain calm.

Workplace safety can be a difficult subject to talk about, but it is the one conversation that could literally save your life.

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