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Emergency Response Guide: Acts of Violence


Active Shooter

  • Most “active shooting” incidents result from the shooter’s obsession for revenge or retribution.
  • Workplace related shootings are usually preconceived and planned as opposed to being impulsive or spontaneous acts of violence.
  • Don’t ignore threats, irrational behavior or other warning signs that can lead to violence.
  • Depending upon the circumstances, a lockdown or shelter-in-place strategy may be the safest option to protect employees.
  • If lockdown is not an option and shooting starts in your work area, look for cover or protective shelter.  Consider escape, a quick exit or retreat from the scene if the opportunity presents itself.  (It’s a judgment call).
  • Active shooters usually stay to fight until dead, seriously wounded, or out of ammunition.
  • Prompt notification of security and/or law enforcement (dialing 911) and their quick response can limit loss of life and neutralize the shooter.  Most active shooting incidents are over in the first 20 minutes.
  • If possible, provide responding law enforcement with the best possible intelligence regarding the shooter’s location, type of weapon and number of shots fired.
  • Police will most likely look to identify an evacuation site for the safe exit of employees away from the shooter.

Workplace Violence

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, one in six (6) violent crimes occur in the workplace. Violence in the workplace can have serious consequences regarding employee morale, decreased productivity, litigation, employee replacement costs, increased insurance premiums, enhanced security expenses, OSHA citations, as well as the reputation of the company.

Workplace violence can take on many forms and characteristics; disgruntled employees, domestic related situations, sexual harassment, stalking, physical attacks and threats of assault. The threats can be internal, employee related or external, such as robbery, rape, assault, homicide, etc. External threats often come without much warning. The source might be a contractor, vendor, ex-employee, family member, customer, visitor, and/or stranger. Effective security camera coverage and access control can be a deterrent to external threats.

  • Pre-employment screening may help to identify an individual who has had an unstable and questionable past.
  • Conduct criminal checks, verify education and past employments. Look for gaps and inconsistencies on the employment application.
  • A thorough interview of a job applicant may disclose certain personality traits and behavioral characteristics that can easily lead to anger and hostility.
  • Recognize warning signs of potential violent behavior; loner, bad temper, affiliation with radical/extremist causes, anti-government, racist, fascination with guns/weapons, as well as incidents of violence. Does the individual have issues with anger management, difficulty accepting criticism, a distorted perspective of job responsibilities, unrealistic expectations, low self-esteem, extreme negativity, suicidal tendencies, sense of hopelessness, persecution complex?
  • Be alert to events that can trigger workplace violence. Ex: Unsatisfied grievance or complaint, divorce, separation, death of a family member, being fired, “laid-off” or downsized from the job, being passed over for promotion, teased or harassed by other employees, receiving public reprimands.
  • Be sure to document any incidents or unacceptable behavior at work.
  • Company policy should be made known to all employees, that there is “zero tolerance” for any threats or acts of violence in the workplace. All employees should be required to sign an acknowledgement of this policy, indicating that they are aware that any violation of its provisions will be grounds for dismissal.
  • A “Threat management Team” should be trained so that they will be prepared and know how to respond to a potential threat or workplace violence incident. Team members should represent experienced personnel from Human Resources, Security, Legal, and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  • Encourage the development of employee awareness programs regarding: sexual harassment, stalking, intimidation, physical threats or assaults.  Employees must know that management is committed to preventing workplace violence and that they can and should report any threats of this nature to the appropriate supervisor and/or company official.
  • All threats should be taken seriously and acted upon by management in an expeditious manner.
  • Careful screening and hiring are one of the most important deterrents to preventing a potential incident of workplace violence.

Suspicious Packages

What constitutes a suspicious parcel (envelope or package)? Some typical characteristics Postal Inspectors have detected over the years that may trigger suspicion are unexpected parcels that are not familiar to you, such as unusual weight/size, no return address or an address that cannot be verified, protruding wires, strange odors or stains, etc.

  • Do not try to open the parcel.
  • Avoid handling, keep it isolated.
  • Ensure that all persons who have touched the letter or package wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Immediately dial 3540 or 718.636.3540 for the department of safety and security who can help to make a determination regarding the specific law enforcement agency responsible for the identification and handling of the parcel in question.
  • If the package contains a suspicious powder, identify all persons who may have touched it.
  • What does Anthrax look like? The spores are microscopic and not visible to the naked eye. It may be sent in the form of a white powdery substance.
  • What are the symptoms and effects of Anthrax? Possible symptoms include: fever, malaise, fatigue, cough, mild chest discomfort followed by severe respiratory distress usually within one to seven days.
  • What are the clinical features of Anthrax? It is an acute bacterial infection of the skin, lungs or gastrointestinal tract. Infection occurs most commonly through the skin.
  • What is the treatment for Anthrax? Treating with antibiotics beginning one day after exposure to Anthrax has been successful.
  • What if you think you have been exposed? Call your local health department or emergency room. They can help you by using standard criteria to decide whether you should be further tested or treated.

Bomb Threat

Any bomb threat should be taken seriously and acted upon immediately. Although bomb threats can be received in writing, most threats are made over the telephone. Upon receiving a telephone bomb threat, some suggested steps to follow are set forth:

  • Remain calm.
  • Keep caller on the line as long as possible (check caller ID for incoming number).
  • Ask the caller to repeat the message. Note time of call and length of call.
  • Does the caller sound credible and knowledgeable about explosives?
  • Document as much information regarding the threat as possible. Try to write down the exact wording of the caller, or if possible, record the call.
  • Try to determine the location of the bomb, type of bomb, description, time it is set to explode, what will cause it to explode, and how can it be prevented from exploding.
  • Pay attention to any background noise that may help to identify the location of the caller, as well as voice quality, accents, speech patterns, impediments, gender, and the approximate age of the caller.
  • The threat should be reported to security. If it is a credible threat, law enforcement should be immediately notified to determine if evacuation is necessary.

Hostage Situations

  • Statistics reflect that once negotiations begin, trained “hostage negotiators” are generally successful in obtaining the safe release of the victim or victims.  The following are some guidelines that may be helpful in a hostage situation:
  • First and foremost, Immediately dial 3540 or 718.636.3540 to notify the Institute Department of Safety and Security 911 who will notify law enforcement of the hostage situation.
  • Provide security or law enforcement officials responding to the scene with floor plans, locations of hostages and as much background information as possible.
  • Follow the directives of security or law enforcement officials for the evacuation of people who may be in the area or in close proximity of the hostage location.
  • Coordinate with security or law enforcement any interaction with the media.

If you have the misfortune of being a victim in a hostage situation, the following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Be assured, law enforcement has extensive experience in these cases.
  • Avoid extremes in behavior; do not be confrontational or overly compliant. Try to maintain a low key demeanor, a quiet confidence.
  • Remain calm; your reaction to being a hostage could have a calming effect on the “hostage taker,” helping to diffuse the situation.
  • Escape may be risky, depending upon the circumstance (it is a judgment call).
  • Think ahead about a “survival plan.” If shooting starts, look to a location for shelter.
  • The more time that passes, the better the chance for a peaceful resolution.


Law enforcement recognizes kidnapping as a very serious crime that should be investigated as a high priority. Kidnappings can take place at home, business, in transit, at an ATM, wherever the kidnappers believe they will have a distinct advantage along with the element of surprise. Kidnappings generally fall into four categories: professional criminal; opportunist, (i.e. ATM thefts/express kidnappings); politically or religiously motivated terrorist; mentally deranged.

  • Alert family members not to provide any personal data or information about the family to strangers who call on the telephone. Limit access to your personal information.
  • Do not allow strangers into your home.
  • Use common sense and your instincts; if a situation or an individual appears to be suspicious, treat it as such.
  • If you feel a situation or individual is threatening, notify the authorities.
  • Vary your routine, your schedule and your travel routes.
  • Be alert to your surroundings, any suspicious vehicles or individuals.
  • If possible, use ATMs in well-lit areas that are not isolated.
  • Maintain a low profile, be conservative in appearance, and avoid flaunting expensive jewelry.
  • Most kidnappers are looking for a ransom payment and recognize it is more profitable not to harm you.
  • Escape is a judgment call, depending upon the circumstances.
  • At the outset of the abduction, the kidnappers generally have the advantage because they have the element of surprise and will probably outnumber you.
  • Try to remain calm; your demeanor can have a calming effect on the kidnappers.
  • Don’t make threats, don’t be argumentative.
  • Know that family members/business associates will be working to gain your release.
  • Remember, law enforcement has an expertise in handling kidnapping cases.
  • The initial contact with the kidnapper is generally through a demand letter or by telephone. Upon receipt of a call from the kidnapper, try to remain calm and get all the details regarding the instructions and demands.  Repeat them for clarification.
  • Write everything down, take notes, do not try to rely on memory.
  • Note mood, speech characteristics, and if there are any accents regarding the caller making the ransom demand.
  • Remain alert for any background noises or sounds that could help identify a possible location from where the call is being made.
  • Attempt to authenticate the abduction by asking to speak the victim. It is logical to ask if the victim is safe and unharmed.
  • If possible, record the call being made by the kidnappers.
  • Some corporations utilize the services of a “Response Consultant” working with the Crisis Management Team to help manage the crisis and to assist with the negotiations regarding the kidnappers, especially when an event occurs overseas.