Workplace Violence & Active Shooter Guidelines

July 15, 2019

In 2018, the FBI designated 27 shootings as active shooter incidents. These incidents spanned 16 states and resulted in 213 casualties (85 individuals killed and 128 wounded, excluding the shooters.) Given the prevalence of these incidents, it is important to plan ahead to keep those in your organization safe.

Active shooter incidents are unpredictable. They often occur without warning and are over within minutes. There is no definitive profile for an active shooter; a potential shooter could be a current or former employee, an acquaintance or family member of a current or former employee, or a random individual with a perceived grudge to settle or a wrong to right. Immediate deployment of law enforcement is essential to interrupting the shooter and mitigating harm to victims. Developing and practicing an active shooter emergency plan can further lessen the probability of harm until law enforcement arrives.


An active shooter may be a current or former employee. Individuals may display indicators of potentially violent behavior over time. If these behaviors are recognized, they can often be managed and treated. Potentially violent behaviors by an employee may include one or more of the following:

  • Increased and/or severe mood swings
  • Uncharacteristically emotional responses (crying, sulking, or temper outbursts)
  • Increasingly talks of personal stress (marriage, child custody, financial problems, etc.)
  • Social isolation
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism or tardiness
  • Increasing or escalating work performance issues
  • Noticeable decrease in attention to personal appearance and hygiene
  • Becoming argumentative or unreasonable
  • Exhibits paranoia concerning co-workers and others
  • Resistance and over-reaction to changes in policy and procedures
  • Increased distraction or nervousness
  • Increased complaints of unfair treatment at work and/or complaints about boss/company
  • Increased addiction behaviors – alcohol / drugs / obsessive romance
  • Verbal or written threats (direct or veiled)

Recognition of one or more of these indicators should trigger referral to your organization’s Human Resource department or other professionals for action to avert a potentially hazardous situation.

While the majority of active shooter events involve a perpetrator with a professional or academic relationship to one or more of the victims, active shooter risk is not limited to current or former employees. Organizations should perform a realistic and comprehensive risk assessment to determine and identify vulnerabilities of the organization and individual facilities to an active shooter event. Attributes to consider include the following:

  • Nature of business operations/public notoriety of the business
  • Public venues/assembly of large groups (stadium, arena, convention center, theater, etc.)
  • Likelihood of disgruntled customers, vendors or visitors
  • Access to offices or facilities to authorized or unauthorized persons


Expanding your organization’s Emergency Action Plan to include active shooter response measures is a vital step in preparing for a workplace violence event. The Emergency Action Plan should reflect the nature of your organization, the design of your facility, and the level of threat from an active shooter event.

Development of the plan should combine input from across the organization for a comprehensive response to an active shooter scenario. Plans should address individual responsibilities at all levels of the organization and should be updated regularly. Key components of an active shooter response/action plan include the following:

  • Notification processes – how employees and guests will be alerted to an active shooter situation
  • Contact information – for local law enforcement, fire and rescue, local hospitals, and others
  • Responsibility for contacting first responders – designated individuals to report emergency conditions
  • Evacuation procedures and routes
  • Floor plans – to help employees and guests understand best escape routes and rally points
  • Periodic verification of clear exit access
  • Safe areas – areas that can be used to safely hide during an active shooter event
  • Post-crisis procedures
    • Accounting of all individuals at a designated assembly point to determine who, if anyone, is missing and potentially injured
    • Determining a method for notifying families of individuals affected by the active shooter, including notification of any casualties
    • Assessing the psychological state of individuals at the scene and referring them to healthcare specialists accordingly
    • Identifying and filling any critical personnel or operational gaps left in the organization as a result of the active shooter situation, including alternative worksite(s) resulting from a restricted crime scene and/or repair and cleanup of the affected areas.
    • Analyzing the effectiveness of the existing EAP and plan for making improvements (if needed)

Additional consideration within the Emergency Action Plan should be given to accommodate employees or guests with disabilities or other special needs.


Employee training is an essential step to assuring the effectiveness of the active shooter response plan. Periodic active shooter drills are suggested to allow employees to act out their roles and imbed response procedures to support appropriate action in the event of a real-life active shooter event. The level of detail and frequency of recurring training will vary based on the nature of the organization and likelihood of an active shooter threat. General guidelines for active shooter training including how to recognize an active shooter or sounds associated with an active shooter and how to respond to an active shooter or sounds of an active shooter.

Coordination with local law enforcement agencies in the development of active shooter response plans and conducting drills will help ensure effectiveness. Local emergency responders may be open to partnering with your organization for joint active shooter training exercises.


Department of Homeland Security | Active Shooter – How to Respond

Department of Homeland Security | Active Shooter Event – Quick Reference Guide  

Federal Bureau of Investigation | Active Shooter Event Quick Reference Guide

Occupational Safety and Health Administration | Emergency Action Plan Checklist

Download the Workplace Violence & Active Shooter Guidelines here.

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a guarantee of coverage and should not be used as a substitute for an individualized assessment of one’s need for insurance or alternative risk services, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice, which should only be rendered by a competent attorney familiar with the facts and circumstances of a particular matter. Copyright Beecher Carlson Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved.