WILLMAR — Along with conducting regular fire drills, Minnesota school students are now required to practice how to respond to an active shooter in the building.
Schools practice because of an increasing number of deadly events all across the county – including twice in Minnesota — where students have been victims of violence.
The latest incident happened Sunday when three people were killed in shootings at Jewish centers in Kansas.
So it only makes sense that if schools have a plan and students and teachers know how to implement it, that businesses and employees should also be trained and prepared for violence in the workplace, said Vikki Sanders, during a business presentation Thursday at the Minnwest Technology Campus in Willmar. Employment Plus sponsored the event.
Sanders, from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s workplace violence prevention resource center, said in the past government efforts to address workplace violence was considered a waste of taxpayer money.
That changed with the Oklahoma City bombing, she said, and public perception has continued to evolve as shootings have occurred in shopping malls, military bases, an Amish community and a movie theater.
In 2012, five people were killed at a Minneapolis sign business when a former employee returned with a gun.
But most businesses don’t have a plan to respond to an active shooter.
“It’s easier to roll the dice and say it’s not going to happen,” said Sanders. “If you ignore it you don’t have to do anything about it.”
Businesses are responsible for keeping employees safe, she said. Not having a workplace violence plan could be as derelict as not having fire alarms installed.
As part of a national effort to encourage businesses to develop a plan that was as easy to remember as the “stop, drop and roll” mantra for fire safety, Sanders said the Department of Homeland Security has developed a “run, hid and fight” campaign.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s a plan,” said Sanders.
She showed a six-minute video that depicted how quickly a gunman could come into an office and start a killing spree. It also demonstrated how employees could use the three tips.
This wasn’t the average cheesy employee safety training video.
The well-produced piece was chilling and to the point.
The first rule is to run and get out of the building or line of fire and call 911.
If that isn’t possible then hide, silence your cell phone and don’t make a sound.
The last resort, if you’re cornered with no way out, is to fight the assailant with whatever piece of equipment you can find.
Sanders said there’s been a change of perspective about workplace violence happening and now there needs to be a change in attitude about training and preparing for how to respond when it does happen.
“Unfortunately, this is not going away,” she said.
Part of the campaign also includes ways of preventing all types of workplace violence,
According to the state Department of Labor and Industry’s website, about 1,000 work-related assaults are reported in Minnesota each year, and is a “serious public health problem.”
Sanders said the key to preventing incidents from happening is listening to employees’ concerns and not to disregard any type of threat.
The government-funded run, hid and fight video can be seen on YouTube: www.youtube.com/