Businesses urged to consider shooter risk
By Tim Potter, MCTThe Wichita Eagle--It may not be something you want to think about: A violent person moving stealthily or bursting into your workplace, your business. A “pop, pop, pop” of gunshots.
September 24, 2013, 12:17 am TWN
What can you do to prevent it? How would you react?
Run. Hide. Fight.
Wichita police Sgt. Travis Rakestraw wants you to remember those words — in that order — if an “active shooter” enters your workplace.
Rakestraw, a team leader on the SWAT unit, said the first option is to escape if it is safe or possible to do so. The second option is to hide or set up a barricade. The last resort is to fight with whatever you might use as a weapon. That's a short version of his advice.
The options are sobering, maybe disturbing to consider, but if you don't do the mental exercise before an emergency occurs, you might not react correctly, Rakestraw said last week, three days after gunman Aaron Alexis killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
“I think now, as a country, we realize that we have to be more prepared for these kind of incidents,” Rakestraw said.
Just as workplaces hold fire and tornado drills, they need to prepare for the possibility of a violent attack, said Rakestraw, a Patrol North community policing supervisor.
“I don't want it to make it sound like we're pushing the panic button,” he said.
Still, he said, “By pretending it will never happen, we're not doing our employees a service. We have to realize that the potential is there.
“That's the first step — at least think about it: 'What am I going to do if?'”
Employers also need to be thinking about it, safety experts say.
“In this day and age, I feel like it's something, if not absolutely necessary, it's highly recommended ... that the company has a plan in place to deal with workplace violence,” said John Buselt, a safety consultant with CIG Insurance, a locally owned insurance brokerage. “And I would say for larger companies, it should be mandatory.”
Buselt estimates that at least half of the businesses around Wichita have adopted workplace violence policies and thinks that a higher percentage of the larger businesses — 80 percent or more — have policies in place. Training is probably less common or intermittent, he said.
Not having a policy could open a business to liability, especially if it has a lot of contact with the public, said Buselt, who has helped draft workplace-violence policies.
The policies range widely, from bare bones to sophisticated procedures in which employees are specifically trained, where key employees in reception areas have panic buttons, where a certain number is used to alert security staff, he said.
“I just think businesses have to do at least what's reasonable to protect their employees,” Buselt said. “You want a safe place to work, and you want to be perceived in the community as having a safe place to work. And your approach to workplace violence is a part of that. It is good business.”
Wichita lawyer Jay Rector, who counsels and advises employers, said he would tell a client that “the minimum is a policy,” including zero tolerance for violence or the threat of violence — “that you actually make employees aware of and enforce.”
Nowadays, the fastest way to get fired is to threaten violence or joke about it, Rector said.
“Ten or 15 years ago, you might have laughed and said, 'Oh, that's just Joe ... that's the way Joe talks,'” he said. “Today, Joe is gone.”
What the employer should try do is “not to hire the dangerous employee in the first place,” he said, which is why checking references and doing criminal background checks is important.