Safety at work isn’t just about being careful with sharp instruments or watching out for objects on the floor. With the news constantly bringing frightening reports of school bomb threats, workplace shootings, and other reports of violence, you have to make sure you are prepared for an active threat scenario.

If a threat happened at your school or your workplace, would you know what to do?

Here are a few pointers.

1. Get the Alerts

Many schools and workplaces offer an alert system to people in those communities. Contact the local security office or police to get your cell phone number, your home phone number, and your email address put on a list so you’ll be alerted to any immediate threat. Load any police or security phone numbers into your autodial as well.

The sooner you have that kind of information, the more time you have to get to safety. Don’t ever assume an alert isn’t your top priority. Take each one seriously.

2. Know the Plan

What is the plan if you’re at school or work and are under an immediate threat or security alert? Do you know how to evacuate or to shelter in place? Again, many places have emergency plans for an active threat.

Familiarize yourself with your organization’s plan so you know what to do and continue to refresh your memory by reading the plan every month or so. When you are in a classroom, a lab, a lunchroom, an office, a gym, or even in a parking garage, constantly look around to plan your escape route. Will you take the stairs? How many doors are nearby? Where is the closest exit to get out? Eventually, the thought will become your instinct in case you ever need to move quickly.

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3. Take the Training

If your workplace or school offers a safety plan training session, take it. If they offer self defense classes, sign up and do it, even if it takes time you don’t have. Being prepared is all about thinking ahead and knowing what to do. Active threat trainings often prepare you by getting you to consider all your options and introduce some you didn’t even know you had.

4. Stay Alert

Being aware of your surroundings at all times is just plain good advice, but it doesn’t mean you are always looking for danger. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the faster you’ll notice when something appears off. Maybe it’s a person who has been hanging around an entrance or appears especially agitated. Maybe it’s a backpack without an owner that seems odd. Or maybe it’s just that your gut feels like something appears out of place.

The more familiar you are with the norm, the quicker you can pick up on something that’s not quite right. Then call that information into the authorities.

5. Share Your Information

Encourage your classmates or colleagues to be prepared as well. When a threat happens, an organized, orderly group response will keep everyone safer than a panicked reaction. Talk about the best steps to take and the plans everyone should know about.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to think about an active threat in anything more than a “what if” scenario. But if something happens, your safety can depend on your preparation.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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