"I never saw it coming,” is one of the most common phrases Jack Jackson hears from organizations that experienced an active shooter event.
“In today’s society, the threats of workplace violence can happen anywhere at any time,” said Jackson, a senior safety consultant with SafeStart, speaking at the National Safety Council’s annual conference in San Diego on Sept. 10. “Sometimes we get stuck in our own little world and we start to think, ‘It can’t happen here’… We can’t be so complacent.”
In the United States, active shooter incidents are becoming and more and more frequent. In all of the 2000’s, only 28 incidents occurred, compared to 34 incidents between 2017 to present day, Jackson revealed, who is based in San Antonio, Texas.
While we often hear about these deadly attacks in the U.S., Canada is not immune. Shooters have opened fire across this country in locations such as a school in La Loche, Sask., Parliament Hill in Ottawa, a trailer park in Moncton, N.B, a mosque in Sainte-Foy, Que. and a busy shopping mall in downtown Toronto.
To protect your organization from the threat of an active shooter, employers need to put a plan in place.
“All workplaces need to develop a course of action for survival,” Jackson said. “No matter how big or small you may be, any employer’s best course of action is to hope for the best and plan for the worst.”
As a best practice, employees should leave the building if they can. While they are exiting the building, they should look for things to hide behind, such as steel doors. They should leave their personal belongings behind, help others to escape and tell those who are trying to enter the building to stay away, said Jackson.
If employees cannot escape from the building, they need to hide. They should barricade the doors, silence their cellphones (vibrations can be heard), turn off the lights and spread out (do not hide in groups).
Having a comprehensive plan in place and conducting lockdown drills can help prevent the natural human reaction of freezing in life or death scenarios.
“I’d like to think that every one of us in here would rise to the occasion in the event that one of these events did occur, but the reality is that we fall to the level of our training,” Jackson told the conference attendees. “If there’s no plan in place, this creates a huge problem for us.”