Have you noticed recently how the media, safety experts and government leaders are focusing on the failure of organizations to connect-the-dots and the failure to identify red flags prior to emergency and crisis situations occurring?
And have you noticed these failures have been going on for years? Virginia Tech administrators received warnings of Cho’s mental instability prior to the tragic shooting that left 23 students dead. The Fort Hood shooter revealed multiple red flags ignored in a failure to share critical information. Most recently, the University of Alabama professor revealed a past full of violent tendencies, mental illness and criminal activities.
Why are so many red flags ignored and missed? Is it easier for the media to point them out in hindsight than it is for organizations to identify and address them proactively before an incident occurs?
A study done by the USA Today revealed that over 80% of violent incidents have clear warning signs…so why aren’t bystanders reporting red flags and why aren’t threat assessment teams identifying red flags? According to the study, in an average week, one employee is killed and 25 are seriously injured in violent assaults by current or former co-workers. In 8 of 10 cases analyzed, killers revealed clear warning signs, such as:
- Showing guns to co-workers
- Threatening their bosses
- Talking about their plans to attack
- And many others…
But in the majority of cases, employers missed, ignored, downplayed or misjudged the threat.
So how can organizations encourage their employees and third-parties to pay attention to red flags and report them to the appropriate personnel before it is too late?
Organizations should establish, communicate and implement a workplace violence prevention policy at the individual-level and provide ongoing situational awareness updates for all appropriate individuals on the warning signs of aggressive or violent behavior. Employees, third-parties, students, faculty, etc. need to look for early indicators – behaviors and warning signs – that can lead to escalation (bullying, intimidation, threats, harassment, targeted violence, etc.).
By establishing and maintaining an ongoing workplace violence prevention program, organizations can improve awareness of red flags and encourage individuals to report suspicious behaviors, threats, etc. By proactively addressing red flags, organizations can take steps to prevent incidents from occurring – saving time, money, reputations and people’s lives.