GREENVILLE — The Darke County Chamber of Commerce brought together human resources professionals Friday during a meeting of the Darke County HR Council for a presentation and discussion on the importance of training employees on how to handle active shooter situations in the workplace.
“It’s relevant. It’s timely, and it’s unfortunate,” said Sharon Deschambeau, Darke County Chamber president, while introducing Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker of the Darke County Sheriff’s Office.
Whittaker showed a presentation on the history of mass shooting events in the United States and provided some tips on how employees should prepare themselves for the possibility of such an event occurring where they work.
“(Employees) really are the first responders,” Whittaker said, explaining that most active shooter events are over within just a few minutes, often before law enforcement professionals are even able to respond to the scene. He said that in Darke County, law enforcement arriving at a location within five minutes is “extemely reasonable,” but “in an active shooter situation, five minutes can be a lifetime.”
“To ignore (the threat of an active shooter situation occurring), is setting yourself up for significant failure,” Whittaker added.
Whittaker said that thinking a small, close-knit community is safe from such threats is false.
“We like to think it won’t happen here, but you can’t operate that way,” Whittaker said, recounting that such a situation did occur just a few years ago in a Versailles manufacturing operation.
“Statistically speaking, we’re more likely (in a small to medium size community), to have an active shooter than the city of Dayton,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker outlined some of the typical risk factors faced by various kinds of workplaces, but he noted that those risk factors, while higher in certain types of businesses, applied to every area.
The highest risks he noted for types of businesses were:
-Health care: drug seeking, mentally ill, disgruntled patient/family/employee;
-Manufacturing: domestic/workplace romance gone bad;
-Government (courts, politicians, public office, public health): anti-government or anti-enforcement sentiment.
Whittaker shared the chilling statistic that homicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the workplace. In 2014, there were 4,679 fatal work injuries and 403 of those were homicide. For female victims, the greatest share of assailants were relatives or a domestic partner. For male victims, the most assailants were robbers.
But even those employees who are not the immediate intended target of a shooter’s ire are at significant risk in an active shooter situation.
“Their goal is maximum death,” Whittaker said, adding that negotiation rarely defuses such a situation.
Whittaker stressed the importance of developing an active threat plan in the workplace, and he pointed out that the most important part of having a plan is not the final document that is developed but the interaction among employees in its development.
“You need to get the employees involved,” Whittaker said. “The people doing the work should be part of the decision-making process.”
Whittaker noted the importance of not only establishing a plan but also actively training employees on handling these situations, with clear instructions but flexibility available because active shooter situations are dynamic and quickly evolving.
The Darke County Sheriff’s Office and Greenville Police Department offer free training for area businesses to educate their employees on the best ways to protect themselves and their fellow workers in these situations and how to recognize the risks.
“HR professionals are often approached by employees regarding issues of workplace safety,” said Darke County Human Resources (HR) Council Chairman Peggy Schultz, vice president, human resources, Wayne HealthCare, on planning the topic for discussion. “Information contained in employee handbooks and business policy and procedure is regularly updated by human resources professionals. We asked Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker of the Darke County Sheriff’s Office to customize a presentation for the Darke County HR Council regarding safety and security in the workplace, including active shooter. We wanted to know the most current information and learn what we can do to develop an emergency action plan.”
“Chief Whittaker’s presentation was straightforward,” Deschambeau said afterward. “It is chilling to think that how you or your employees act during an event will be the difference between life or death. Having a plan and communicating it to your employees is crucial.”
The Darke County HR Council is a council of the Darke County Chamber and meets monthly. The Chamber organized the HR Council in January 2012 for Human Resources Professionals whose business is based in Darke County. Phelan Insurance Agency, Inc., represented by Jeff Francis, is the sponsor of the HR Council and HR Seminars.
The purpose of the HR Council is:
– To establish personal and professional communications between human relations personnel within commerce and industry.
– To share growth oriented and problem resolution successes and ideas in “roundtable”.
– To provide a forum to address human relations issues and concerns of mutual interest.
– To provide training and educational programming to promote sound human relations management.
– To conduct and compile an annual wage and benefits survey for the benefit of Council members.
Whittaker will present a program “Workplace Safety/Security and Active Shooter” to the Darke County Safety Council at its regular meeting on Jan. 28.
Contact the Darke County Chamber at (937) 548-2102 for more information about the Darke County HR Council or the Darke County Safety Council.