I can't even keep up with the number of incidents involving workplace violence lately. While there are a number of themes that apply to most security professionals, preparing for and preventing workplace violence is one that seems to cross all sectors and should be at the top of the list for everyone charged with security. And, for the most part, I think it is. However, there is only so much one can do.
I just read a series of articles about the frightening attack at the Discovery Channel headquarters, where a man stormed the building with firearms and explosives strapped to his body. He took several hostages during the four-hour standoff, in which he was eventually shot and killed by the SWAT team.
Apparently, this man had threatened the television channel before over the quality of its programming and in February 2008 he had been charged with disorderly conduct for staging a protest. From that incident he had been ordered to stay away from the headquarters, but that restraining order ended two weeks ago. None of the hostages were hurt.
However, the extreme nature of this incident should certainly be concerning for security professionals. While I think most organizations have addressed violence in their policies and procedures, to what level should they go to be prepared?
I recently posted what I thought was a really interesting article about AutoZone's effort to prepare for an active shooter in its facilities. They have even gone so far as to designate "safe rooms" that can be barricaded from the inside and are stocked with medical supplies and food and water for those who can't evacuate the building. They also have an extensive training program for employees including a game they refer to as the "what if?" game. Basically, it's an exercise to get employees to think about how they would react if, for example, an armed shooter came down the hall right now. What would you do? Where would you hide? Where are the closest two exits? Actually, it's something I've started doing regularly myself and coincides with what my grandfather taught me as a kid. He was a Cincinnati firefighter and I remember him quizzing me when we'd go out about what I would do if there was a fire. He said that if you're in a restaurant/bar always go out through the kitchen. There's always an exit back there and a better chance you'll get out quicker than trying to fight through the crowd to go out the main entrance. Thanks for being so on top of it, Grandpa.
But I wonder: Is AutoZone's approach to workplace violence over the top? I'm guessing most organizations don't go this far, but should they? What are you doing to make sure that in the worst case scenario your organization and its employees are truly prepared?