Washington state has sadly had its share of active shooter incidents in recent years. These receive lots of media attention and are just one potential type of workplace violence that can occur. Violence often occurs without warning, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk before — and even during — an attack.


If there is any good news, it’s that your chances of encountering an active shooter in workplace are low. According to Washington L&I, most acts of workplace violence are initiated by strangers, such as during a robbery. Attacks by co-workers or former employees aren’t as common as it may seem from news coverage.



The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that anyone caught in an active shooter situation should attempt to RUN, HIDE, or FIGHT, in that order. Running to safety is the best outcome, while those who cannot escape should hide, only fighting the attacker as a last resort.


post evacuation routes in conspicuous locations

DHS recommends that employers inspect their premises and job sites to ensure that at least two evacuation routes are present and then “post evacuation routes in conspicuous locations throughout your facility.” Remember to consider those with special needs and determine how you will alert individuals working in remote locations on your premises. These steps will help to ensure that as many individuals as possible are able to RUN from the shooter.


look for changes in employee behavior

Along with physical security, it’s also crucial to look for changes in employee behavior and consider the appropriate response. Washington L&I identifies “Five Warning Signs of Escalating Behavior” as:

  1. Confusion
  2. Frustration
  3. Blame
  4. Anger
  5. Hostility


HR professionals should be made aware of employees demonstrating these behaviors, with the primary goal of helping them feel better and seek treatment, if necessary. DHS states that most employees don’t just “snap” and that recognizing warning signs early on makes it easier to assist the employee before their behavior escalates.


Train Staff on Procedures

Finally, plans and procedures are only effective if staff are informed and trained on the guidelines and expectations. Be sure to share your workplace violence and/or active shooter policies with your team so that everyone is on the same page.


Workplace guides for preventing violence and active shooters