Man-made threats to public safety – including civil unrest, active shooters and cyber attacks – continue to rise in the United States. Are you ready to respond to dangerous events? Let’s look at the facts, what to expect for the future and how to prepare for crisis scenarios in your workplace.
Thursday, January 6, 2022 marked the one-year anniversary of the unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol, which killed five people and caused approximately $1.5 million worth of property damage. Since the start of 2021, more than 725 individuals have been arrested out of the estimated 2,000 participants. In addition, protests relating to COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, police reform and election fraud have led to violence in public spaces.
In fact, 2020 saw historic property damage costs directly due to riots and civil commotion. Losses were fast and dramatic, with over $240 million in losses to private and public properties. Illinois alone saw a 1,222,822 percent increase in the average amount of property damage between 2016-2019 (damages averaging $5,311) and 2020 ($64,946,337).
The FBI predicts that domestic terrorism will continue to rise in the United States in 2022. Factors contributing to an increased threat from civil unrest include:
- Conspiracy theories leading to mistrust of the government, including narratives of election fraud and perceptions of government overreach. These theories find traction online in social media, niche websites and encrypted chats.
- High-profile violent attacks, public support for perpetuators of violence and radicalization of individuals considered to be “acting for a cause.” Extremists are easily mobilized and have access to automatic weaponry, ammunition and body armor.
- The ongoing disruption of COVID-19 to daily life, including violence related to opposition of vaccine mandates and masking. Events may be isolated or organized.
One way to mitigate instances of domestic terrorism is to find it at its source. In a commissioned global study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of OnSolve, it’s recommended that organizations integrate HR and IT to identify and respond to instances of employees participating in extremist discourse using company technology. AI risk intelligence technology continuously scans data and can automatically trigger alerts with API integration if it discovers threats.
Active Shooter Scenarios
It’s clear that active shooter incidents can occur anywhere, at any time. There were 333 active shooter incidents from 2000-2018, according to the FBI’s “Active Shooter Incidents 20-Year Review, 2000-2019.” This report provides statistical data designed to aid law enforcement officers, organizations and the general public to prevent, stop and recover from active shooter events. Here are a few pertinent facts:
- The total number of shootings breaks down to 16.65 incidents per year on average, but the number of annual incidents increased each year. From 2000 to 2007, there was an average of eight incidents per year. From 2008 to 2013, that figure rose to 18 incidents on average annually. From 2014 to 2019, it went up to 25 per year.
- During this 20-year span, 2,851 people were wounded or killed in active shooter incidents, and 1,062 of these victims were killed. These numbers do not include the shooters themselves.
- Of the 12 types of locations delineated in the report, the three with the highest number of shootings were businesses, schools (Pre-K-12) and open spaces.
- Businesses had the highest number of shootings overall, with 41 percent, representing a total of 96 incidents.
- Ten incidents involved multiple shooters, half of which took place in businesses that were open to pedestrian traffic.
As a statistically significant location for shootings, businesses must make a greater effort to prepare for these events. It’s imperative that organizational leaders are ready to make instant decisions and are able to communicate quickly and effectively with crisis response teams and impacted individuals. Given this reality, the FBI promotes the use of prevention efforts and training to respond to active shooter incidents.
Numbers may be down in certain industries due to COVID, but the threat is still very real. For airlines, restaurants and other service industries, reports of physical violence have increased as a direct result of the pandemic. Unruly customers assaulting workers have led to the release of CDC recommendations on limiting workplace violence.
There were 4,764 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2020, representing a 10.7 percent decrease from 5,333 in 2019 and the lowest annual number since 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fatalities related to violence also decreased, from 841 deaths in 2019 to 705 in 2020 (-16.2 percent). Of these, 651 were categorized as intentional injuries by person.
Acts of violence and other injuries are currently the third-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States, as reported by OSHA. Keep in mind this only reflects the number of cases reported to OSHA. Among undocumented workers, the figures may be much higher. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites, including:
- Working with unstable or volatile people
- Exchanging money with customers
- Working in isolated areas
- Working alone
- Working where alcohol is sold
- Providing services and care
- Working late at night
- Working in high crime areas
Certain job types are more likely to experience workplace violence including:
- Law enforcement
- Healthcare professionals
- Customer service representatives
- Public service workers
The best way to prevent workplace violence is to enact a zero-tolerance policy toward such violence, according to OSHA. In addition, individuals and businesses should identify risk factors and minimize or prevent these whenever possible.
Cyber Security Threats
A cyber security threat can occur on several different levels. A data breach typically involves the theft or compromise of personal or confidential information. Hacking into a corporate, government or financial network generates a globalized intrusion. Cyber thieves are also responsible for elaborate financial schemes such as ransomware, which adversely affect businesses of all sizes. The annual report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) indicates losses exceeding $4.2 billion in 2020. In addition, scams exploiting the pandemic emerged as the IC3 received more than 28,500 complaints of fraud related to COVID-19.
Other types of cyber security threats businesses need to take seriously include:
- Business email compromise scams, or BEC scams, in which an attacker uses deceptively authentic emails to trick recipients into transferring funds to them. BEC incidents resulted in more than $1.8 billion in financial losses in the United States.
- Ransomware, in which a cyber criminal holds data hostage or threatens to release it to the public unless a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks caused more than $29.1 million in adjusted losses in 2020.
Proper training and planning are vital for an effective response to a cyber security breach. This includes understanding how to collect digital evidence and how to establish post-incident procedures. Organizations also need IT alerting capabilities to recover faster and mitigate risk.
Preparing for Man-Made Threats
Protecting people, places and property is one of an organization’s biggest responsibilities. Reacting swiftly and confidently is paramount in ensuring safety during dangerous events, and effective communications can mean the difference between recovery and disaster. With OnSolve Critical Communications, you can deliver geocentric, targeted alerts to those at risk.
Whether a disaster is natural or man-made, preparation is paramount in achieving the best outcome for your organization. Identify threats, manage response plans and deliver mass communications before, during and after a crisis with the OnSolve Platform for Critical Event Management.