The Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012, which gives more resources to law enforcement for violent crimes, enabled the FBI to conduct the first-of-its-kind study of active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013.

The results of the study are both enlightening and terrifying. There were cumulatively 160 known active shooter incidents resulting in 1,043 casualties. In the 63 incidents where the duration of the active shooter incident could be determined, 44 ended in five minutes or less and 23 ended in two minutes or less.

It’s easy to think that this can’t happen to you or your business, but the study underscores the need for businesses and employees to be prepared and trained.

The first step in preparation is understanding the underlying reasons for the behavior.

Active shooter incidents happen for a range of reasons. There are, however, trends and pre-incident indicators that can help individuals recognize and stop active shooters.

Employees typically do not just “snap,” but rather display indicators of potentially violent behavior over time. This behavior isn’t typically isolated. It occurs repeatedly and in clusters. Warning signs an individual could display may include:

  • Increased and unexplained absenteeism.
  • Noticeable decline in appearance and/or hygiene.
  • More withdrawn from work activities and co-workers.
  • Overreaction and/or resistance to changes at work.
  • Noticeable mood swings and emotionally unstable responses to others.
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage.
  • Unfocused behavior that appears to be due to alcohol or drug use.
  • Discussions of personal or financial problems, suicide, paranoia, violent crimes and/or firearms.

If these behaviors are recognized early, the company may be able to provide the needed support and resources to help the employee cope with his or her issues and get the right treatment.

Open communications are critical to provide a safe outlet to voice concerns and issues. Intuitive co-workers may notice characteristics of potentially violent behavior in an employee. Don’t ignore the signs—give employees an easy and safe way to alert the HR department or senior management if they believe an employee or co-worker is exhibiting potentially violent behavior.

For HR departments, it is essential to train employees about what to do not only if they see warning signs, but also in the event an active shooter situation unfolds. Learn about emergency preparedness and employee training in our next blog on this topic next week.