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updated: 4/17/2019 2:37 PM

Active shooter incidents: More common than you think

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  • Jessica Eunseon Chang

    Jessica Eunseon Chang


On Feb. 15, 2019, Gary Martin fatally shot five people and wounded five officers at an Illinois warehouse. According to the authorities, Martin was called into a meeting at the Henry Pratt Company warehouse on Friday, which he attended with a hidden gun. After he was told he was being fired, he began shooting, killing the three employees who were at the meeting and two others who were nearby. Martin had worked for the company for 15 years, and was a member of the union.

What is an active shooter?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; In most cases, active shooters use firearms, and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims."

Active shooter incidents and workplace violence

For companies, an active shooter incident represents one of the worst-case scenarios of workplace violence. According to an FBI study, active shooter incidents have increased every year since 2000 with an average increase of 11.4 incidents a year. Based on statistics, you are 18 times more likely to encounter workplace violence and an active shooter situation than a fire. As these tragedies continue to occur more regularly and with increased severity, the concern of a workplace violent act or the likelihood of an active shooter must be seriously considered.

Is workplace violence more prevalent in certain jobs?

Workplace violence and active shooter scenarios, while more prevalent in higher density urban populations centers and commercial environments, can happen anywhere and at any time. This dynamic rise in incidents of violence makes it necessary for business and community leaders to put proactive measures in place that decrease the likelihood of an incident from occurring and reduce the impact if it does.

What can employers do?

Employers should be prepared by implementing plans and policies that can detect and prevent violence before it happens, such as:

1. Recognize workplace risk and vulnerability factors. Organizations should perform a realistic and comprehensive risk assessment to identify the security vulnerabilities of the business and facilities to an active shooter event.

2. Implement security measures. Providing a secure and physically safe workplace is part of any sound approach for preventing workplace violence.

3. Create a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy. Cultivate a culture of respect and trust among employees and management and eradicate a bad culture of bullying or harassment by creating a zero-tolerance policy.

4. Develop a workplace violence prevention program. The workplace violence prevention program can stand alone or it can be integrated into your injury and illness prevention program

5. Provide routine workplace violence prevention training. Simply put, it's every employer's duty to strive toward protecting and safeguarding their employees by training them to respond appropriately to active shooters. 70 percent of active shooter incidents occur in businesses versus campuses. If your workforce is not trained on how to respond responsibly in this type of situation, they might not know how to escape alive. Training them before such an incident actually occurs will help to bolster prevention protocols at your workplace.

6. Conduct an active shooter drill. Despite the uprise of active shooting incidents, companies still do not perform active shooter drills. Active shooter drills should be established and conducted in such a way so as not to frighten or alarm employees. They should have an educational focus and be designed to aid employees in retaining information that may save lives.

• Jessica Eunseon Chang is an associate with Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC in Rolling Meadows. Contact them at (847) 253-8800 or This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.