“Active Shooters” in the workplace — it can happen to you

December 9, 2015

In recent years, a new term has emerged in law enforcement’s lexicon: “Active Shooter.” It’s typically used to describe someone engaged in killing or attempting to kill people, most often with firearms. Active Shooter incidents make headlines, which can lead to copy-cat behaviours by other unbalanced individuals. Given this, organizations should include an Active Shooter scenario in their emergency response plans.


No warning. Like most emergency situations, Active Shooter incidents happen without warning. Although perpetrators are usually aggrieved in some way, real or imagined, their grievances can have many sources: loss of a job or loved one, financial issues, extremist ideologies, mental breakdowns, criminal intentions, etc.

In many cases, the active shooter is — setting himself up to be killed by police, but taking as many innocent lives as possible before being killed.

Businesses beware. While Active Shooter incidents can happen outside the workplace, business owners and managers need to be ready should one take place on their premises. You never know when layoffs could push some employees over the edge. Disgruntled employees, or even customers, can also seek deadly amends in the workplace to settle scores for perceived wrongs they have suffered.

Horrendous and unthinkable as an active shooter scenario might be for your business, you need to consider it in a layered approach to securing the safety of your people and assets. You also need to make an appropriate response as part of a formal emergency plan.

Security basics. Businesses large and small must consider their various defenses to protect against crime and workplace violence, including shootings. Here are six basics every business should have:

  • Effective access control – Only authorized employees and invited, escorted visitors, including customers and vendors, should be allowed on premises. Badging systems are common, but employees and managers should watch out for “tailgating” by strangers to slip into an entrance just opened by an employee. When employees are terminated, voluntarily or not, their access to premises must be removed immediately afterwards. They should also be escorted out.

  • Comprehensive video surveillance – Video cameras can deter many rational criminals but not unstable individuals who are bent on destroying others’ lives and their own. Nonetheless, advanced video technologies – especially facial and license number recognition as well as video analytics – can help alert responders, possibly before a grave incident can begin.

  • Trained security guards – Highly important are the critical judgment and skilled vigilance of professional security guards, who are trained in a company’s policies and procedures, including proper response and escalation of emergency situations to the appropriate public safety resources.

  • Staff screening, development, and recognition – Hiring qualified people with collaborative instincts, good references, and clear background checks is the foundation for building a workforce and culture that respects both individual and team contributions. Post-hire, businesses should provide regular and fair performance reviews, opportunities for professional development and advancement, and recognition and rewards for work well-done.

  • Policies, procedures, and emergency plan – Businesses should have a written set of security policies and procedures that define and describe which security measures are in place and how to respond to emergency situations, including an active shooter scenario. In effect, these should also provide an emergency plan that outlines specific measures and escalation paths for various emergencies related to health, environment, and safety.

  • Good communications – Woven through most of the preceding protections should be good communications among all workplace stakeholders. These can include building or facility owners and their managers; tenant key contacts, if a lease arrangement exists; employees; and last but not least, local public safety authorities. Responsible individuals onsite should be identified and their response roles clearly defined and understood in case an emergency situation arise.

While much more could be written about these basic safeguards against workplace violence, including an Active Shooter scenario, they can serve as a checklist for a conversation business owners and managers should have periodically.

GardaWorld offers online Active Shooter training that can help anyone learn how to react in an Active Shooter incident and improve their chances of survival. Click here to find out more.

For more information on how to improve your security, contact your local GardaWorld representative or visit