Running Your Business

Host an Active Shooter Drill Without Scaring Your Employees


  • If you want to host an active shooter drill, focus on making the experience as positive as possible and part of the overall culture of workplace safety

  • Don't just show videos, actually act out a drill

  • Sometimes hiring a defense company to host the drill is the best option, so you can make sure it's done right

Posted by December 20, 2017

Hosting an active shooter drill at work is important, even if the thought of a shooter coming to your business alarms some of your employees. Here’s how you and HR can cooperatively approach the subject with your staff in a way that’s more reassuring than distressing.

Create a Culture of Safety

Although you can never be fully prepared for violence in the workplace, you can develop a disaster plan that your employees understand. The first step comes before a drill is ever planned.

As the Society for Human Resource Management points out, it’s important to create a culture where employees can come to you with their concerns. Whether they are worried about domestic violence or they’re having issues with a coworker, make sure you (and HR) have an open door policy. Be ready to respond with kindness and advice, including offering time off for counseling or talking to law enforcement about legal options.

You also want to make sure your business is secure, whether that’s by having swipe-card access so people only enter the office with permission, installing security cameras or creating office maps with evacuation routes. In addition, it’s a good idea to establish lockdown procedures that workers can follow if there’s an off-site threat. These may include locking exterior doors, continuing to work while not allowing anyone inside and contacting police.

Frame the Drill as a Positive Experience

When talking to your staff about hosting a drill, frame it as a positive experience. Perhaps you’ll want to call it a “safety drill” or “workplace violence drill” rather than an “active shooter drill.” Explain that the purpose is to help employees feel safer and have a procedure to fall back on, rather than figuring out what they should do in the moment. Stress that the likelihood of something happening is very slim, but it’s always best to be prepared.

How to Host a Drill

Reading guides and watching videos can be helpful. In fact, Homeland Security and FEMA offer tools that you can use in an active shooter drill. But simply watching videos isn’t enough; you need to actually act out your actions, so your employees have real training to fall back on.

This includes making sure employees know the closest exits, stairwells and evacuation routes. They should be aware of good hiding places when appropriate (such as rooms that lock from the inside or doors that can be blockaded). And they should be taught the best way to contact police during a situation (such as using a silent alarm). You’ll also want to teach your staff that in a robbery, employees’ lives are far more important than business property. They should focus on keeping themselves safe—not protecting the business.

According to Guardian Defense, the drill should teach the concept of Run Hide Fight. Run and evade if there’s knowledge the threat isn’t nearby. Hide securely if evacuation isn’t feasible. And finally, fight if there’s no other option. If you don’t feel qualified to teach a drill yourself, you can contact your local law enforcement for ideas on who you can hire to stage a drill. Sometimes police offer free drills, or you can hire local defense companies to train your employees.

Remember: these drills are important and shouldn’t be avoided just because they’re uncomfortable. They’re best implemented in an environment that stresses workplace safety overall, and are ideally taught by professionals who can create options uniquely tailored to your business.

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