5 Things to Consider: Creating a Workplace Violence Response Plan

As the lockdown restrictions are lifted and the world begins to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, mass shootings are on the rise. Active shooter incidents have occurred where we shop and where we work.

In 2019, 75% of active shooter incidents happened at the workplace, including areas of commerce, education, government property and health care facilities. However, while workplace violence fatalities receive the majority of media attention, nonfatal crimes are significantly more common. 

You cannot anticipate an imminent act of workplace violence, but you can plan and prepare for it. In fact, your business may be under legal requirement. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) mandates that U.S. companies assess their workplaces to ensure they’re free of hazards, including violent acts. Employers also have a government-mandated “duty of care” obligation to their employees. A workplace violence assessment and action plan that emphasizes critical communications can serve as an invaluable defense against liabilities.

Five Considerations for Every Comprehensive Emergency Action Plan

The following are critical steps in formulating an effective workplace violence response plan:

1. Know who to alert and when.

If an unexpected emergency arises, you need to communicate with employees who are in or near that location quickly. Develop a system which lets you reach a group of employees in a designated area without notifying the entire company if necessary.

2. Create evacuation and shelter-in-place plans.

In some cases, evacuation is the best course of action. In others, remaining indoors offers a better form of refuge. Depending on the specifics of the situation, your crisis management team will play a vital role in determining which is the best scenario. However, because this decision will likely be made on-the-fly, it’s essential to have a firm plan for both scenarios in place long before the actual emergency situation arises.

Critical utility and emergency routes – including at least two ways in and out of the facility from varying locations throughout your building – should be established and made available to employees. These plans should also take into account people with disabilities, such as those who are hearing impaired, which may inhibit their ability to understand broadcast warning systems. Accessible routes out of the facility should also be put into place for those with mobility aids. Reaching non-English speaking individuals should also be taken into account.

3. Designate a safe assembly point.

Making sure everyone gets safely out of the building is only one part of the evacuation process. Establishing a predetermined assembly point along with an organized check-in process upon arrival ensures that employees are both accounted for and available to receive future instructions.

4. Document, document, document.

Taking the time to document everything in your emergency communication plan is not only valuable at the moment of a crisis, but also an important part of preparing all employees in advance, as well as reviewing what worked and what didn’t work following drills and real-life events.

Make sure all employees have reviewed the plan and fully understand emergency procedures. Additionally, keep a copy of the plan in an accessible location.

Your organization is not static; nor should your emergency action plan be. Review the plan regularly to make sure it’s current and comprehensive. It’s also helpful to have everything documented, including communications, so you can identify areas to improve during post-event auditing.

5. Communication matters.

Even the most careful plans are meaningless without the proper communication strategies in place to see them through. There are now more channels of communication than ever. Determining the most effective way to communicate emergency information in the event that violence occurs in your workplace is a critical part of ensuring optimal outcomes.

Best Practices for Crisis Communications

Communication plays a vital role in minimizing the negative impact of any crisis and should be a pivotal part of any emergency action plan. Your crisis communications plan should include everything from identifying your crisis communications team and training spokespersons to establishing comprehensive notification and monitoring systems.

A documented plan is an invaluable resource. It ensures operational responses will stay on track during a workplace shooting, terrorist act, or other type of workplace violence. A written plan also boosts stakeholder confidence, while simultaneously doing damage control against future liability.

There are multiple modalities through which to reach your team members, but their effectiveness is highly individualized. So, while the power is in your grasp to reach people quickly, doing so depends on how well your organization is able to leverage the available technology.

Critical Communications Advantages

OnSolve Critical Communications delivers time-sensitive alerts quickly to help keep employees safe during workplace emergencies, including workplace violence. Here are some of the key features that can help you mitigate the impact of a critical workplace event:

Desktop alerts: During active crisis situations, ringing phones may identify employees’ locations and increase the odds of being targeted. If an employee is engaged with work and not checking their phone, these silent alerts can flash on their screen.

Two-way communications: Alerts with response options enable you to receive immediate feedback from employees on their current situation, and whether they need assistance or are safe.  

Inbound message retrieval: In addition to outbound messaging capabilities, a dial-in number for alert retrieval ensures your crisis outreach plan and other up-to-date essential communications are within easy reach of team members. These messages can be continuously updated to provide employees with the latest information.

Translation capabilities: Convert your message into one of dozens of languages to reach those for whom English is not their first language. During times of crisis, you don’t want to risk any misunderstandings.

There’s no denying that active shooter events, terrorist acts and other forms of workplace violence are devastating. But with the right communications capabilities in place, they’re surmountable. Understanding the threats, forming a crisis management team, devising and sharing an emergency action plan and implementing a robust communications strategy are all crucial components in helping your employees – and your organization – survive tragedy.

Learn more about crisis communications and planning in this ebook.


OnSolve® proactively mitigates physical threats, allowing organizations to remain agile when a crisis strikes. Using trusted expertise and reliable AI-powered risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management technology, the OnSolve Platform allows organizations to detect, anticipate and mitigate physical threats that impact their people and operations.