Kathleen L. Kiernan 2017-07-15 01:22:27
A New Paradigm for Maximizing Workplace Security Workplace violence is an all-too-common factor in modern society. Consequently, facility managers face an array of challenges to maximize safety and security of personnel. Although practical solutions must be customized to meet the needs of each particular organization, useful insights can be obtained from conceptual frameworks crafted by experienced practitioners in the security space. A recently formulated concept, known as Preparedness Without Paranoia (PWP), emphasizes the importance of understanding the current threat environment, recognizing telltale signs of an evolving threat and empowering people to take effective action on their own. The notion that security is a personal responsibility based on knowledge and confidence, not fear, and that proactive individual action can change the outcome of an incident and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim, is foundational. The sole reliance on the arrival of law enforcement to mitigate an incident does not constitute a security plan, especially since — depending on the scenario — many fatalities may have already been caused. TODAY’S WORKPLACE THREAT ENVIRONMENT The first element of PWP involves understanding a workplace’s particular threat environment. Four types of workplace violence exist: TYPE I Criminal intent TYPE II Customer/client TYPE III Worker-on-worker TYPE IV Personal relationship External threats can be mitigated by limiting access to a facility using a variety of measures, ranging from the simplicity of assigned key cards to the sophisticated use of biometrically enabled access requiring multiple levels of security and continuous vetting. Internal threats can be much harder to prevent, in part because of the familiarity of coworkers and a reluctance to report a problematic colleague even after anomalies in behavior or work responsibilities. The fear of being wrong or being perceived as a troublemaker often prevents early warning that could enable early intervention or identification of the behavior that seemed different at the time. In a study of 152 fatal shootings attributed to workplace violence, analysts at Kiernan Group Holdings (KGH) determined 68 percent were committed by workers on other workers.1 With appropriate planning and preparation, at least some threats can be mitigated or even prevented, especially with an understanding of a potential attacker’s pre-incident pathway to violence. Fatal workplace violence incidents have declined in the past decade, but they continue to threaten the safety and livelihoods of many employers. In 2015, the latest year for which data is available, 8.6 percent of workplace fatalities were caused by homicide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workplace homicides rose by 2 percent to 417 in 2015 over the previous year, with shootings up by 15 percent.2 Incidents such as former Major Nidal Hasan’s 2009 attack at U.S. military post, Fort Hood, in which he deliberately targeted his fellow military personnel, highlight the prevalence of workplace violence as a major concern. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued general guidance to employers about preventing workplace violence, it does not require employers to comply.3 OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe work environment; however, employers are not strictly liable under the statute, according to the American Bar Association.4 Given that a significant percentage of workplace violence is worker-on-worker, businesses and organizations of all sizes and sectors are vulnerable. Most incidents examined in the KGH study include a disgruntled employee taking out a perceived grievance against supervisors, usually after disciplinary action has been taken. In many cases, the employee has left the premises and returned with a weapon. In others, the employee has come to disciplinary meetings armed. In at least one incident in the study, a fired employee returned and fatally shot the security guard (who had been informed to watch for the employee) to gain entry to the building and kill former supervisors. The access provided to these individuals to enter the venue for an intended attack, even when limited, exacerbates the challenge in preventing such violent actions. TAKING EFFECTIVE ACTION The third element of PWP stresses that when those in immediate surroundings hear or observe an individual’s ideas and plans for violence, understanding how to pick up this “leakage” is critical to preempt violence at the earliest stage possible. Facility managers might draw some inspiration from lessons implemented at colleges and universities following the April 16, 2007 massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) that resulted in the murder of 32 people and wounding of 17 others. The tragedy served as a catalyst for institutions of higher learning to boost security throughout the risk cycle. Many U.S. campuses now arm their police departments, according to a National Public Radio report,5 and some states allow college employees and even students to carry concealed weapons. Virginia Tech itself has led the way in improving campus security, according to the Collegiate Times.6 When a university police officer was shot on campus in December 2011, Tech officials notified stakeholders via multiple communication channels. The school also implemented threat assessment teams to coordinate warning signs of potentially violent behavior, a model that has been copied elsewhere. These teams coordinate information among various sources, such as professors, administrators, security officials and behavioral professionals, to identify and mitigate potentially threatening behavior. Sometimes, despite an organization’s best preparatory and preventative security efforts, it will be targeted by an active threat incident, resulting in loss of life, injuries and damage. Staff and employees are often unprepared for the stresses and uncertainties that emanate from such critical incidents, once the immediate scene is cleared. To achieve post-incident resilience, organizations must be able to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption caused by the emergency. The tasks associated with recovery can include providing psychological first aid to those affected, managing legal and insurance liabilities, retaining personnel, establishing an alternate facility and regaining reputational branding. Such resilience can be achieved during the immediate aftermath of an event through effective response and recovery actions viewed as a series of “waves.” • Day 1: Response Wave—involves stabilizing an emergency situation in the immediate hours after an attack. • Days 2 to 7: Mitigation Wave—entails lessening the near-term impact of the critical incident. • Day 8 and onward: Recovery Wave—involves restoring pre-incident operational functioning and the well-being of those affected by the incident. Numerous tasks need to be accomplished during the three transitional waves to ensure resilience and recovery. Each wave has its own tasks, and other tasks overlap multiple waves. The key is to have a game plan for each wave, listing each task and assigning them to specific officers in the organization. Many of the tasks have been identified through after-action reports produced by those who have been affected by and recovered from incidents. The value for facility managers and the emergency response community will be to identify and provide the sequence of tasks to help organizations anticipate and respond to all possible scenarios and shorten response and recovery time. Adapting insights from the PWP paradigm when formulating more specific plans for responding to potential and actual workplace violence could prove helpful to facility managers charged with ensuring the safety and security of their organizations. These lessons are important to individual employees outside of work environments as well, reducing fear and increasing individual confidence and resilience. TELLTALE SIGNS OF AN EVOLVING THREAT This leads to the next element of PWP: Identifying and recognizing the signs of an evolving threat to counter. The progressive escalation of risky mindsets and behaviors culminating in a violent attack can be portrayed in a model composed of seven stages. The first three stages generate significant externally observable signs manifested by the individual’s problematic psychology. • Stage I (Cognitive Opening) describes the individual’s mental predispositions that can foster either an adaptive or a maladaptive response to a particular set of stressors and traumatizing events. • Stage II (Triggering Events) entails the experience of a traumatizing event — a failure at the workplace or in a personal relationship. • Stage III (Violent Ideation/Fantasy) includes concrete thoughts of committing homicide, suicide or both. It’s important to note that, in a majority of cases, individuals who feel strongly aggrieved will keep such feelings to themselves and not follow up with a violent physical response. It is only when the threshold is crossed that the subsequent four stages come into play. • At Stage IV (Planning an Attack), violent thoughts are translated into active steps toward a violent act. Some potentially observable activities during the planning stage include social withdrawal, research on target selection, researching and sympathizing with or glorifying past mass murderers, deciding the type of weapon to be used, threatening communication against the target and, in some instances, surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals (who may share one’s sense of grievance). • Stage V (Preparation for Attack) commences when the potential attacker begins preparing and is signified by a monetary and/or time investment in attaining such capability. The shooter will attempt to obtain the weapons, ammunition and supplies necessary to carry out the attack. The weapons will be obtained legally or by theft and may require modification for the attack plan. The weapons will usually be hidden in a designated place. The shooter will attempt to become proficient in using the weapons, and surveil the target, if necessary. Some potentially observable activities at this stage may include collecting elements of an attack day “costume” through purchasing symbolic clothing (such as battle fatigues), practicing at a shooting range, weapon/ammunition acquisition and last resort behaviors such as preparing a will and giving away personal possessions. Conducting physical surveillance of the potential target location may also attract scrutiny, however, so it is likely to be done surreptitiously. • Stage VI (Approach Target) is the most immediate, compressed and threatening timeframe prior to the actual attack. It may take several days (e.g., traveling from another city to the location of the intended target) or a matter of a few hours or minutes. The attacker will be armed, unless the weapons have already been positioned close to the attack location. • Finally, at Stage VII (Conduct Attack), the attacker will breach and penetrate the target and execute the attack, whether through a shooting, knifing or bombing tactic, with the attack occurring indoors or outdoors. REFERENCES 1) Maxwell, Sally. “Workplace Violence: What You Should Know.” Active Threat Intelligence Digest. November 2016. kiernan.co/sites/default/files/Active%20Threat%20Intelligence%20Digest%20Vol.2%20November%202016.pdf 2) Bureau of Labor Statistics. “National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2015.” December 16, 2016. www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf 3) Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Workplace Violence: Enforcement.” www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/standards.html 4) American Bar Association. “Workplace Violence (Practical Law Practice Note 7-505-7511 (2014).” www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/events/labor_law/am/2014/1g_workplace_violence2.authcheckdam.pdf 5) Kaste, Martin. “Many Colleges Have Armed Police Squads, But Are They Worth The Risk?” July 30, 2015. www.npr.org/2015/07/30/427806790/many-colleges-have-armed-police-squads-but-are-they-worth-the-risk 6) Crizer, Zach. “Virginia Tech Leads Campus Safety Revolution.” Collegiate Times. April 15, 2012. www.collegiatetimes.com/news/virginia_tech/virginia-tech-leads-campus-safety-revolution/article_4b577132-3984-541f-8f0f-8fcc3aa42e5d.html KATHLEEN L. KIERNAN, Ed.D. is CEO and founder of Kiernan Group Holdings Inc. (KGH). She oversees KGH’s work as an intelligence, law-enforcement and national security consulting, training and problem-solving firm that provides tailored solutions to today’s most complex challenges.
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