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Terrorism & Man-made Threats

Recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali, Africa serve as reminders that man-made disasters are real. Though infrequent in number, their impacts can be significant, leaving lasting marks on people’s lives and the businesses in which they work and interact.

Employers have a responsibility to prepare for all sorts of contingencies, including large scale violence. While the topic is sensitive in nature, business continuity, security and public safety professionals should proactively pursue strategies for preparing for, responding to and recovering from terrorist strikes or other violent workplace event.

Consider the following points related to terrorism and workplace violence preparedness.

Acknowledge the potential. Because large-scale violence is relatively rare, there is a danger in settling into an “it won’t happen here” attitude. However, like other business disruptions, resiliency professionals must prepare for the unexpected while also reminding other organizational leaders of real potential threats.

Establish event-specific emergency response plans. Along with acknowledging the potential, response plans should be developed that correspond with the unique challenges of a man-made disaster. These should include plans around an event that occurs within the walls of the business, as well as procedures for dealing with an event that occurs elsewhere, but disrupts a broad geographic area that includes the workplace.

Educate employees. While other threats may be more prevalent and deserve greater educational “air time,” resiliency managers should nevertheless consider ways to educate employees about what to do when faced with a terrorist act or other large-scale violence event. Active shooter discussions can be enhanced to include relevant conversations on employee response to terrorism.

Communicate effectively. As a part of any emergency response plan, resiliency managers should have in place procedures and technologies for enabling rapid and accurate communications. Such communications should be multimodal (through many different types of devices) and auditable to ensure information gleaned from employees can be used for decision making. Mass notification technology can be useful for small team-oriented alerts such as mobilizing a Crisis Management Team (CMT), or for large, company-wide notifications.

Establish employee accountability measures. Mass notification can also be used effectively for two-way interactions that help managers determine the health and well-being of workers. During or after an event, employees can be sent an “Are you OK?” message through multiple devices. Recipients can then indicate their status via any device, and responses can be tracked via real-time, online reports.

Man-made disasters are an unfortunate and tragic reality in today’s world. While we cannot be intimidated or live in fear, we can be prepared to deal with these threats in an effective way by acknowledging the potential, educating stakeholders and establishing sound communication practices.

Our heartfelt thoughts and support go out to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks.


Other Resources

Workplace Preparedness for Terrorism; Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress

Terrorism Preparedness; American Red Cross