Ensuring your worksite's preparedness for an active shooter incidentEnsuring your worksite's preparedness for an active shooter incident

By Jeff Kuester, Risk Control Manager, CRM

February 2017
Employers today must thoroughly plan for a variety of crises that can significantly disrupt business, from natural disasters to data breaches. One crisis for which all employers need to be more adequately prepared is an active shooter incident.
In 2012, a soon-to-be-fired employee went on a shooting spree at a small employer’s facility in Minneapolis, killing six people before taking his own life. In a subsequent lawsuit filed by one victim’s family, prosecutors alleged that the company should have been better prepared. Prosecutors said management should have known that the employee was potentially dangerous and should have had extra security and cameras in place on the day the shooter was to be fired. After a judge allowed two negligence counts against the company to proceed, the company settled the case in September 2014 for an undisclosed amount.1, 2
Active shooter incidents such as this comprise a relatively small percentage of workplace violence, but the number of incidents has been steadily increasing. According to the FBI, there were 20 active shooter incidents in 2014 and again in 2015 – an increase from 17 in 2013.3 An earlier study from the bureau reported more than 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, with more than 1,040 casualties as a result of those incidents.4
Despite their relative infrequency, it’s imperative for employers to be prepared for a potential incident and its aftermath. This includes having proper policies and procedures – along with a well-developed plan for business continuity and risk financing – which are actively supported by management (see below for best practices).

Risk financing and insurance

As tragic and horrific as active shooter incidents are, employers often give little thought to a significant part of an incident – the aftermath. For a company and its employees, picking up the pieces after an incident has significant emotional and financial impacts. These include medical and funeral costs, lost wages, business interruption, potential liability, and potential lawsuits. Employers need to review their risk financing to consider how they will pay for these potential expenses and recover any lost revenue.
What you should know:
  • One of the most common misconceptions many employers have about insurance related to an active shooter incident is that their property and casualty policy, or general liability policy, will respond. This may not be the case. Traditional insurance policies were never intended to cover active shooter incidents. The industry has not agreed on what an incident is and what is covered. There is very little case law precedent.
  • Even with a terrorism endorsement on a policy, an employer still may not be covered, because not all active shooter incidents are considered terrorism
  • Due to the increased frequency of active shooter incidents, the insurance market has begun to recognize this gray coverage area and offers stand-alone policies addressing attacks using deadly weapons.
    • These policies typically include pre- and post-incident services, such as risk assessments, crisis management and public relations consulting, incident response, and post-incident counseling services.
    • Policies include coverage options into the millions, if necessary, but will offer lower limits to maintain affordability.

Best practices to help prepare your organization

  1. Have a written workplace violence policy in place:
    In many active shooter incidents, telling signs of the impending violence were likely present prior to the incident. A policy is a preventive measure that may stop an active shooter long before an incident takes place.
  2. Develop an emergency action plan (EAP):
    An EAP should include specific written, predetermined responses to different types of emergencies, including an active shooter scenario. Employers should review and test the EAP at least annually.
  3. Perform a threat analysis/security assessment:
    A comprehensive assessment and analysis should include a physical assessment of the facility and surrounding areas. This includes reviewing:
    • Crime data for operational locations
    • Access and controls
    • Previous incidents
    • Existing employee behaviors
  4. Develop a Human Resource policy on workplace violence:
    Policies regarding hiring, firing, and employment should include background checks for new hires, workplace violence reporting procedures, workplace violence investigation policy and procedures, alternative dispute resolution procedures, and high-risk termination procedures.
  5. Train supervisors and employees:
    Training programs should include reviewing policy and reporting procedures, signs and behaviors leading to potential workplace violence, active shooter scenarios including the sound of gunshots, response to active shooter incidents, and post-incident procedures. This training would include instruction for employees on the run, hide, fight concept, outlined in a Department of Homeland Security bulletin.5 Ideally, employers should conduct live practice drills for all likely emergency scenarios in their EAP, including active shooter incidents.
  6. Assess coverage gaps:
    Have your broker review your current policies to determine whether there are coverage gaps you need to address.
1. Pioneer Press: “In Minneapolis Accent Signage shooting suit, settlement reached,” Sept. 21, 2014.
2. Minnesota Lawyer: “How to fire someone: Case prompts review,” Feb. 8, 2013.
3. FBI: “FBI Releases Study on Active Shooter Incidents,” September 2014.
4. FBI: “Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015,” June 2016.

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