Your credit union is faced with risks and threats every day. Some like active assailant incidents are difficult to predict since they often occur without warning and are typically over within minutes. However, you must rise above the risk by preparing, anticipating, and communicating throughout your organization.
Tragic events in our communities involving active threats are forcing all organizations, including credit unions, to prepare for unthinkable situations. The reality is that it can happen anywhere. Places such as schools, campuses, military bases, and even businesses have been impacted. These unfortunate and traumatic events are unpredictable and evolve quickly. In fact, national averages indicate a situation lasts only 10 to 12 minutes. And just in these few moments, it can leave an indelible mark on your organization.
Responding to an active assailant situation is very different than those such as robbery and a hostage situation. Instead, your response will be determined by the specific circumstances of the encounter. The key to your safety lies in having an awareness of your surroundings and the understanding that you have the authority to take immediate action to protect yourself — typically following run – hide – fight protocols.
Preparing for these events requires a different plan and approach. Employees need to be able to think on their feet and react. It is a lot like trying to teach instinct.
Since there is little to no advance warning, it is important for employees to be able to sort through confusion to recognize that an incident is taking place and distinguish the need to take action. Don’t take valuable time to investigate, but instead act and assess as the situation develops. Empower yourself and your employees to make the personal choices that increase the ability to survive.
Prioritizing violence prevention efforts is not only the right thing to do, but it is also required under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. In addition to compliance with hazard-specific standards, the clause requires that all employers provide a work environment “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” This unquestionably includes workplace violence and active assailant incidents.
This checklist of 12 things to know is a good way to prepare employees and your organization for active assailant situations.
- Establish policy, procedures, and guidelines.
- Continuously review, update, and drill procedures.
- Inform employees of courses of action. Make sure that they have a clear understanding that they have the authority to take immediate action to protect yourself.
- Set realistic emergency plans for all credit union locations.
- Identify strategies to safely exit or hide within the building.
- Have employees consider objects that might aid in an employee’s defense.
- Know what information to provide 911.
- Know how to recognize the sound of weapons. This can help employees respond quickly and move away from an unsafe location.
- Identify who within the credit union needs to share incident details and when, such as the media.
- Address how to share info with employees and their families.
- Buffer employees affected from post-event stress, and
- Bring in crisis response professionals to assist.
When an active shooter is in your vicinity, your first priority should be to get away, ideally by running and exiting the building. You should run even if others don’t. Make sure you have an escape route planned in your mind and don’t just follow the crowd. If you’re not near an exit you should run in the opposite direction of where the shooting is coming from and look for another means of escape.
If you cannot safely exit the building you should hide. Hiding places can vary. Ideally, it is a lockable room without a glass door or window. No matter what type of room you find, once inside you should barricade the entrance with large items such as copiers, desks, chairs or any other pieces of furniture. If you don’t have access to a room, get under a desk, cubical, a closet, or a restroom and remain quiet. Do whatever it takes.
If you are in a hiding place and the active shooter is approaching the location remain quiet. If it appears they are going to enter the location, doing anything you can to distract the shooter can potentially minimize risk.
As a last resort you should fight back if your life is in imminent danger. Take physical action against the shooter in hopes to disrupt or disarm them. If you decide fighting is your only option:
- Act quickly without hesitation.
- Throw items to distract, disorient, or disarm the shooter.
- Yell and wave your arms to startle the shooter.
While it is recommended that you follow the run/hide/fight approach, know that you may need to hide before you can run and you may run and then find the need to hide. However, fighting should always be your last resort.
Remember, all actions are justified when it comes to stopping the intruder.
When safe, contact 911, silence your phone and keep the line open so the operators can hear what is going on. Provide info such as location; number of shooters; physical description; type of weapons; direction of movement, and number of potential victims.
Law enforcement is there to neutralize or eliminate the immediate threat; not to provide medical care. When law enforcement arrives:
- Remain calm and follow officers’ instructions immediately.
- Put down any items in your hands like bags or purses.
- Raise your hands and spread your fingers. Always keep your hands visible.
- Avoid quick movements toward officers, such as holding on to them for safety.
- Avoid pointing, screaming, or yelling.
- Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating.
- Proceed in the direction that law enforcement is entering from or where they direct you.
When law enforcement has determined that the incident is under control, the assigned credit union official should account for all individuals at your designated rally point.
When it comes to active threats, you’re either prepared or unprepared and that’s something that needs to be prioritized. The first seconds are critical. Employees need to be prepared and able to act decisively. The first time an employee considers how to act and respond should not be during an active threat. Be prepared with a mental rehearsal plan that includes different scenarios regarding how to respond in the event of a variety of crises. Follow a mental prompt like “If this happens, then I will do this.”
While it is somewhat like trying to teach instinct and adopting a survival mindset, there are several safe training exercises that allow staff to talk through plans, ideas, or concerns in an informal and stress-free environment.
Our goal is to help credit unions like yours manage risk and give you the confidence that you can know what’s around the corner, quantify the potential impact, and keep your leadership team apprised and aware so you can safeguard your employees and members.
Thanks again for partnering with TruStage to manage emerging risks. If you would like even more risk insights, simply contact one of our experienced risk consultants.
For additional credit union manager and employee resources to help your organization prepare for an active threat, visit our Responding to active shooter incident page.