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Ensuring the safety and security of employees has become paramount in today’s unpredictable world. The tragic rise in active shooter incidents in every US state serves as a stark reminder of the need for preparedness. As organizations strive to create safe environments, the importance of active shooter drills in the workplace cannot be overstated. However, this sensitive topic raises debates on effectiveness, trauma, and the appropriateness of such drills. In this guide, we will explore the essential components of conducting active shooter drills while taking into account the mental well-being of employees and the unique dynamics of each workplace. 

To gain insights from nearly 800 security leaders on active shooter preparedness and best practices, download the 2023 Active Shooter Preparedness Report

Defining and understanding an active shooter threat 

An active shooter event refers to a situation where an individual engages in violent acts, typically using firearms, with the intent to harm and kill as many people as possible. The FBI defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area,” and they go on to say that “recent active shooter incidents have underscored the need for a coordinated response by law enforcement and others to save lives.” These incidents unfold with terrifying speed, demanding swift and informed responses to minimize harm and save lives. As unsettling as it may be, acknowledging the possibility of such a scenario and preparing for it is a responsible approach in today’s world. 

Should your organization run active shooter drills? 

The decision to conduct active shooter drills in the workplace is not without controversy. Some argue that the likelihood of such an event unfolding is low, leading to unnecessary stress and trauma for employees. This perspective contends that the focus should shift toward preventative measures and crisis communication readiness. 

While the likelihood of an actual active shooter event occurring in any given workplace may be statistically low, the potential consequences of not being prepared can be catastrophic. Therefore, organizations must carefully consider the need for drills as part of their broader safety and security strategy. 

One aspect to consider is the mental stress and trauma that active shooter drills can produce for employees. These drills often simulate real-life scenarios, which can be emotionally distressing for participants. However, this stress should be weighed against the potential benefits of preparedness. To address this concern, organizations can take a trauma-informed approach to drills, ensuring that employees are provided with support and resources to cope with any emotional impact. Moreover, the decision to conduct drills should be made with sensitivity, and employees should be educated about the purpose and goals of the drills to alleviate unnecessary anxiety. 

For organizations embracing a remote-first work model, the need for physical drills may appear less applicable. However, it’s essential to recognize that employees may still face potential risks while traveling or attending events, such as conferences and tradeshows. In such cases, training in crisis communication and preparedness remains crucial. Equipping employees with crisis communication apps, such as the Everbridge Mass Notification platform, can provide them with a lifeline to safety information and support, even in remote or off-site situations. While the debate around active shooter drills continues, a proactive approach to safety and preparedness, tailored to the organization’s unique circumstances, remains essential. 

A three-step guide to running effective active shooter drills in the workplace

If your organization chooses to run an active shooter drill, a comprehensive approach is key. Here are the three components to incorporate when running these drills. 

Develop a comprehensive response plan

This plan should be tailored to your specific organization, considering all security and safety considerations. Collaborate with security professionals and law enforcement to ensure that your plan aligns with best practices and accounts for the unique dynamics of your workplace. Include detailed procedures for different scenarios, such as lockdowns, evacuations, and communication protocols.  

Run a practice drill

Once your response plan is in place, it’s time to put it into action through a practice drill. These drills can range from tabletop exercises to full-scale simulations, depending on the resources and expertise available. Simulating a realistic active shooter situation is crucial for preparing employees to respond effectively and confidently during a crisis. Always start a drill by stating clearly ‘This is a drill’ to minimize confusion or concern. 

Review and debrief post-drill

After the drill concludes, it’s essential to conduct a thorough review and debriefing session. Assess what went well during the drill and identify areas that need improvement.  

  • Were communication channels effective?  
  • Were evacuation routes clearly marked and followed?  
  • Did employees understand their roles and responsibilities?  

In addition to the operational aspects, consider the emotional well-being of participants. Active shooter drills can be emotionally stressful, so provide support for stress, anxiety, and potential trauma. Regular debriefs should be part of your drill program, allowing you to fine-tune your response plan and improve preparedness over time.  

Tips to foster workplace safety 

Ensuring the safety of your workplace during an active shooter event requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some essential tips to keep your workplace safer in the face of this critical threat: 

Implement a comprehensive workplace safety program

The foundation of a secure workplace begins with a robust safety program. Such a program should encompass various safety measures, including active shooter preparedness. Regularly review and update your safety program to align with best practices and the evolving threat landscape. 

Educate all employees on “Run, Hide, Fight”

Every employee should be familiar with the “run, hide, fight” concept—an essential mental framework to navigate an active shooter situation. 

  • “Run” encourages individuals to escape the danger zone if it’s safe to do so. 
  • “Hide” means finding a secure hiding place and silencing devices. 
  • “Fight” should be a last resort, when there’s no other option, and it involves taking actions to incapacitate the shooter. 

Leverage emergency communication tools

Emergency communication tools play a pivotal role in keeping employees informed and safe during an active shooter event. Public warning systems can alert individuals in and around the workplace to potential threats, while mass notification platforms enable rapid dissemination of critical information. Having these tools in place ensures that communication remains uninterrupted, facilitating swift responses to evolving situations. 

Demonstrate your commitment to resilience

Everbridge offers a Best in ResilienceTM certification program that can benefit your organization by ensuring employees, assets, resources, and communities are better protected from any type of critical event such as active shooter situations, inclement weather, cyberattacks, and more. Becoming certified highlights an organization’s dedication to building resilience in the face of disaster and can help employees feel confident in their safety and security while at work.  

By incorporating these tips into your workplace safety strategy, you create an environment where preparedness and vigilance are paramount. While it’s impossible to predict when an active shooter event may occur, proactive measures empower employees to respond effectively and maximize their safety in a critical situation. If you’re ready to get started on making your workplace safer, here are eight actions you can take today. 

Navigating a complex landscape with preparedness 

In an era where workplace violence poses a real threat, organizations must navigate a complex landscape with preparedness and empathy. The decision to conduct active shooter drills should be well-informed, accounting for the psychological well-being of employees while striving to ensure their safety. While debates exist, the urgency of proactive measures cannot be understated. A comprehensive approach, ranging from meticulous planning to employee support, is key. By fostering a culture of preparedness and vigilance, organizations can create safer work environments that protect employees and empower them to respond effectively in the face of adversity.

To learn more, download the 2023 Active Shooter Preparedness Report.  

In an era marked by unprecedented challenges, ensuring campus safety and security has never been more critical. Across K-12 and university institutions, the well-being of students, staff, and visitors stands as a non-negotiable priority. Recent incidents underscore the urgency to fortify campus safety measures. According to a report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2021, 93 school shootings with casualties occurred at U.S. public and private elementary and secondary schools from 2020-2021. This is the highest number reported in two decades.  

Campuses should be sanctuaries of learning, growth, and community. Unfortunately, the increasing frequency of safety incidents has highlighted the urgency of enhancing campus safety measures. The Washington Post tracks school shootings and “the number of [school shooting] incidents has risen rapidly in recent years.” This reality emphasizes the necessity of fortified safety measures and proactive solutions. School officials, at K-12 and college campuses, need to implement solutions that can help prevent or mitigate the impact of these events. Especially because “K-12 schools and higher education institutions are the second most common location, after businesses, for active shooter incidents in the U.S.”  

Gain valuable insights from nearly 800 security professionals on key initiatives and actionable recommendations inside the Everbridge 2023 Active Shooter Preparedness Report

5 ways to bolster school and campus safety 

Emergency plans

Strategize with emergency plans and drills. A resilient campus safety strategy starts with meticulously crafted emergency plans. Institutions must outline precise protocols for various scenarios, ranging from natural disasters to active threats, with each demanding a distinct approach. Natural disasters demand swift evacuation and sheltering protocols, while active shooter scenarios necessitate lockdown and evacuation strategies. These plans aren’t merely documents; they translate into tangible actions through drills. Conducting regular practice drills allows the entire campus community to familiarize themselves with protocols, ensuring that reactions become instinctual in the face of crises. Such preparedness minimizes chaos, streamlines communication, and underscores the commitment to safeguarding every member of the campus family. 

Safety and evacuation training

Empower students and staff with safety and evacuation training. Rapid responses during emergencies hinge on swift and informed action. Equipping the campus community with knowledge of evacuation routes, safe zones, and assembly points is paramount. The active shooter protocol at George Fox University is an example of a clear, actionable safety plan that empowers individuals with the tools to react swiftly. Conducting regular safety drills, discussing escape routes, and providing information on self-defense techniques can significantly enhance safety and readiness. 

Safety and security technology

Leverage safety and security technology. By embracing cutting-edge technology, institutions can redefine campus safety. The Everbridge active shooter preparedness solutions exemplify this shift, facilitating swift communication and coordination during critical incidents. Real-time communication, coordination, and guidance during critical incidents reshape the way campuses manage crises. This technology facilitates instant alerts to designated individuals, enabling swift dissemination of crucial information. Moreover, these solutions offer real-time updates and two-way communication, ensuring the campus community is always informed and equipped to respond effectively. The integration of this technology into existing campus security strategies streamlines emergency response efforts, elevating the overall level of safety and security. With advanced technology solutions, campuses transition from reactive to responsive, ensuring that in the face of adversity, every second counts. 

Physical security

Implement tangible physical security measures. The essence of effective campus security is translating strategy into reality. This involves implementing access control systems, deploying security cameras, and maintaining a visible security presence. Elements like ID entry systems, panic buttons, fortified entrances, strategically placed lighting, and vigilant campus security officers collectively contribute to deterring threats and fostering a secure environment. By minimizing vulnerabilities and maximizing protection, physical security measures play a crucial role in maintaining campus safety. To help security teams, Everbridge offers solutions that can enhance real-time situational awareness through a single common operation picture, as opposed to isolated systems and data. This helps teams more quickly and easily identify security risks without the need to toggle between disparate applications.  

Annual risk assessment

Commit to an annual risk assessment. Safety is an ongoing commitment that requires periodic evaluation and refinement. Conducting thorough annual risk assessments is pivotal to identifying vulnerabilities and potential areas for enhancement. Assessments drive continuous improvement, from assessing emergency plans and training effectiveness to scrutinizing access points, visitor management, surveillance coverage, evacuation routes, and illumination adequacy. By systematically evaluating all aspects of campus safety, institutions can adapt and enhance their security measures as needed.  

Demonstrating a commitment to safety and security

Students and staff need to feel safe in their places of learning. Educational institutions are responsible for building a nurturing environment that prioritizes security without compromise. This requires taking a proactive approach to ensure a safe learning environment. This benefits both students and institutions because campus safety factors into students’ decision on which school to attend; according to a BestColleges survey, “The majority (60%) [of respondents] also say that campus safety was a factor they considered when choosing their college.” Campus leaders must prioritize safety and demonstrate what action they are taking to do so.  

Everbridge offers a Best in ResilienceTM certification program that can help educational institutions: 

  • Benchmark against peers.  
  • Validate planning. 
  • Drive strong return on resilience investments. 
  • Formalize recognition.  
  • Reward individual achievements.  

This signifies a school or institution’s focus on applying best practices that assure campuses are prepared to protect, adapt, and prosper. Becoming certified highlights an institution’s dedication to building resilience against active shooter situations and any critical event that occurs on or around campus. 

By integrating emergency plans, rigorous training, cutting-edge technology, tangible security measures, and vigilant assessment, campuses can shield against vulnerabilities and respond adeptly to crises. These proactive steps protect individuals and contribute to the quality of education offered by the institution. The solutions Everbridge offers can help schools foster an environment where learning flourishes and safety is a priority. 

Increase your campus’s resilience by preparing now. You can find actionable insights from nearly 800 security professionals in the Everbridge 2023 Active Shooter Preparedness Report

Resilience is more than just a goal that organizations strive to achieve. With an increased number of critical events, including cyber-attacks, extreme weather and violent crime, resilience is vital for the short-term and long-term success of any operation. Everbridge and Atos sought out to find the links between resilience and success, with a report from Dr. Stefan Vieweg, Director of the Institute for Compliance and Corporate Governance (ICC) at the Rheinische Fachhochschule in Cologne, Germany.

The study comprised responses from 226 businesses across Europe, with a range of employees anywhere from under 3,000 to over 100,000, and across numerous industries. Our most recent blog discussed the importance of resilience and the steps organizations can take to achieve their goals. Dr. Vieweg’s research identified seven key aspects of resilience:  

  1. Resilience has a significant impact on the bottom line.  
  2. Money is not everything in resilience.  
  3. Talking is easier than execution.  
  4. There is a reason for resilience among top performers.  
  5. An excess of spending does not necessarily help.  
  6. There is a sweet spot of resilience investment.  
  7. Digitalization and automation matter.

These seven findings can serve as the guide for organizations to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and map out the policies and procedures they need to implement to improve their resilience.

1. Resilience has a significant impact on the bottom line 

Prioritizing resilience means taking proactive measures to reduce the impact of critical events and recover quickly. Resilience directly affects financial stability, and the data tells the whole story. The most resilient companies suffered only a 7% loss in annual sales revenue due to critical events, compared to 145% of annual sales revenue for underperforming companies. The difference is 20x greater losses.

2. Money is not everything in resilience

According to Vieweg’s research, organizations of all sizes showed a similar trend: underperforming companies almost always spent more on risk and resilience measures than the top performing ones. The biggest reason for this is the cost savings of a unified, automated solution compared to putting out fires with disparate systems each time a new critical event occurs.  

The top performing companies spent an average of 10% of revenue per year on resilience, but the least resilient companies spent over 18%. Rather than spending on piecemeal solutions or spending as critical events occur, investing in integrated, automated solutions pays off financially and in terms of greater preparedness.  

3. There is a sweet spot of resilience investment

That leads to another constant, which is that the optimal financial commitment is between 10-25% of revenue. Companies in this range allowed approximately 30% damage aversion, with companies under 50,000 employees performing slightly better. Spending more is not as important as spending wisely, namely with digitization and automation.  

4. An excess of spending does not significantly help 

While investing in resilience is critical to success, Vieweg’s research found that spending beyond 25% of annual revenue on resilience has diminishing returns. Organizations need to make careful plans for future investments to maximize return on investment.  

Similar to the reasoning in the finding that money is not everything in resilience, some decision makers may feel that spending on specific solutions to solve for risk management, digital security, employee communication, and other aspects of resilience is beneficial, when in reality, investing in one platform that provides an integrated solution for organizational resilience will save time, effort, and money.  

5. Digitization and automation matter

Dr. Vieweg’s research found a direct positive correlation between the degree of digitalization and preparedness for a critical event, particularly in terms of identifying risks. Among the top performing organizations, 46% have an early-warning system established, but only 29% of those surveyed reported very high levels of automation across processes.  

Dr. Vieweg concluded that there is a significant potential to improve resilience across organizations of all sizes with automated, integrated risk management processes.  

6. Talking is easier than execution

Over 60% of the organizations in the study acknowledged that critical events have become more frequent, more unpredictable, and have had a larger impact. But less than 50% have explicit resilience goals operationalized.  

While Vieweg’s research showed that top performing companies consider and follow through on specific goals more often than lower performing organizations, there is still an industry-wide need for growth, particularly when it comes to developing risk and resilience strategies.  

7. There is a reason for resilience among top performers

The most resilient organizations not only implemented resilience measures and risk management solutions at a higher pace than others, but these methods proved effective, were used continuously, and introduced avenues of mitigation. Over 50% of the top performers have an established risk management process.

Overall, Dr. Vieweg’s findings show that organizations who take a proactive, consistent approach to meeting established resilience goals are among the most successful. Even still, most organizations have potential for improvement in terms of digitalization and automation, and he concluded that digitalization would pay off quickly for all businesses. To learn more about these seven findings and read further analysis from the study, download our eBook “The Research Behind Resilience: Why Prioritizing and Investing in Resilience Matters.”

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