It Never Hurts to Ask
One of the first steps you can take is to go to your HR or Risk department and ask if they have plans to implement a workplace violence program. It is possible that with everything else they have their plates, this initiative simply hasn’t become a priority yet. If one or more employees bring this request to their attention, you may find that that is all it takes to get the ball rolling on addressing safety within your organization. For your question to have the best possible response, do some research on what companies should be doing to address workplace violence. We suggest that you ask if they have, or plan to have the following:
Emergency Operations Plan (sometimes referred to as Emergency Action Plan or Crisis Management Plan) that includes a Workplace Violence and Active Assailant section
Policies on Domestic Violence, Workplace Violence, and Weapons
Training on Active Assailant response within the workplace (check out this article [HYPERLINK to last week’s blog] for more details on what a comprehensive training includes)
Mass Notification System to enable easy communication to all employees in an emergency
Any physical security measures added to the building
Download Safety Apps
Using ride share apps like Uber and Lyft can come in handy if you find yourself needing a ride in a strange town. When using one of these apps, always be aware of your surroundings, and look up the navigation silently if possible to ensure the driver is taking you to the right place.
A great app to use if you're walking alone is bSafe - an app that can help you feel safe with features such as a siren, an "I'm here" alert, and an SOS call. Another app, Life360, allows family and friends to monitor location, send messages, and alerts.
We also recommend having your emergency contact information on your phone set up, just in case.
Be Your Own Hero
If these efforts are not successful, or it seems like it will take a long time for a new program to reach the employee level, take your safety in your own hands. There is nothing stopping you from being prepared for an active assailant, even if your workplace is not. There are multiple training options out there that you can choose from but do be aware that they are not all created equal. There are no standards or requirements a company must meet to create and offer a training program, so you will find a wide variety of methods and quality available to the average consumer.
Depending on where you are located, you may have a local company or your local police department that offers in-person sessions to the public. While police departments are trying to provide a good service, we don’t often find that they are able to offer the depth of training that you should receive on this topic. In the same way that you would go to a specialist rather than your general practitioner for brain surgery, companies that focus solely on safety training programs will generally be better suited to train you than a police department that is stretched thin with all their responsibilities. One additional aspect to consider when looking at in-person training is whether that type of training is sustainable. We all naturally forget information over the course of time, so we strongly advise that you find a training program that you will be able to retake on an annual basis so that you are routinely exposing yourself to this essential education. That will greatly increase your chances of those survival skills being there for you when you need them.
If finding a satisfactory and sustainable in-person session isn’t compatible with your location or schedule, there are online training options available as well. This type of training allows you to take the training on your own time, at your own pace, and from the comfort of your own home. Some online training provides you with an interactive experience, while others are exclusively video or simply a recording of a live training session. Consider your learning style and determine what is best for you. We find that the interactive training style increases your learning retention as it doesn’t allow you multi-task in the same way that you can when pressing play on a video (and promptly picking up your phone to check your email!). While there are some free options out there, you do often get what you pay for, and free is not necessarily the best choice when this is a training that may literally save your life someday. That’s not to say that you have to break the bank either. For example, our online training program is only $49 per person. This article, offers some more thorough guidance when choosing a training that is a good fit for you.
The most important thing to take away from this article is that you are never powerless when it comes to your own safety. You do not need to wait for your employer to do the right thing. Take control of your own well-being and find a training solution that empowers you to be prepared.