UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Risk Management

Surviving an Active Armed Assailant Incident

Statistics and How to React

Acts of violence can happen in any work setting; some of the deadliest, most high-profile incidents involve an "active armed assailant."

An active armed assailant, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is a person "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."

FBI studies show the number of active armed assailant incidents in the U.S. has increased, from 6.4 per year in 2000-06 to 16.4 per year from 2007-13.

Between 2000 and 2013:

  • 160 active armed assailant incidents were reported in the workplace
  • More than 80% of all active armed assailant incidents occurred at a workplace
  • Not including the assailant(s), 486 people were killed and 557 were wounded
  • 45.6% of incidents occurred in commercial businesses, 24.4% in school settings and 10% on government property
  • Most females shot in the workplace were attacked by a relative or domestic partner

Usually, victims are selected at random. Being alert and aware of your environment is key.


Who is Most at Risk?

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health , more than half of workplace homicides occur in retail and service industries. Many incidents are motivated by robbery; areas where money or prescription drugs change hands are higher risk. Employees working alone, in isolated areas, late at night or where alcohol is served also are at higher risk.

Employee Training


A "survival mindset," which involves awareness, prevention and rehearsal, is key, according to the FBI. That means taking the time to understand any changes in the workplace environment, being ready to do whatever it takes to survive the incident and planning mentally
and physically to gain confidence and reduce response time.

With proper training, employees can learn to spot concerning behaviors in their co-workers, become more aware of their surroundings
and, in the event a shooting takes place, learn how to stay alive. Include local police in your training if possible.

Create an emergency action plan that includes an evacuation procedure, contact information for all employees, information about local hospitals and an emergency notification system to alert law enforcement and others

Conduct a mock training exercise with local law enforcement to learn to recognize the sound of gunshots and how to react quickly, as well as what to do when police arrive; customers and clients are likely to follow your lead

Assemble crisis kits that include radio, floor plan, staff roster, first aid kits and flashlight

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence that covers workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors and anyone on premises

Profile of an Assailant

What makes a person walk into a place of business and begin harming innocent people? Often they are motivated by revenge, robbery
or ideology, with or without a component of mental illness.

There is no single pattern of an active armed assailant, and certainly not all are employees of the business they attack. But you can be aware
of behaviors in coworkers that might be a warning sign of future violence:

Stressful life situations

  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • Unexplained absenteeism
  • Physical complaints
  • Sloppy or dirty appearance
  • Depression or withdrawal
  • Resistance to changes at work
  • Violation of company policies
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional responses
  • Suicidal comments
  • Paranoia
  • Financial problems
  • Empathy with violent people
  • Comments about firearms and other weapons in conjunction with violent crime

Employee background checks can turn up a history of violence.

You Can Learn to Protect Yourself

You may wonder if we are living in more dangerous times than our parents and grandparents, or if our perception of violence has increased.
In the end, it really doesn't matter. While human behavior is not always predictable, all employees must become stakeholders in their own safety and security.

Other Resources for Employers

The Occupational Keynote at the National Safety Council

Congress & Expo will discuss this issue

DHS Booklet: Active Shooter: How to Respond DHS Active Shooter Webinar FEMA video, Active Shooter: What can you do?

Safety+Health article: Armed & Employed NIOSH course for healthcare workers, "Violence on the Job"

Bureau of Labor Statistics:
National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2014

National Safety Council,
1121 Spring Lake Drive, Itasca, IL 60143-3201

Active Shooter - How to Respond (13 page Booklet from US Department of Homeland Security) Also, contact Risk Management at x.3344 if you would like to borrow the 20 minute video "Shots Fired on Campus" to share at a department meeting or other venue. Discussion Guide

The UW-River Falls Police Department recommends this training video on active shooter response. Watch it so you are aware of the immediate actions you should be focused on to maximize your personal safety until police are able to stop the threat.





Run, Hide or Fight

A lot can happen in the chaotic minutes before police arrive. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it is imperative to stay calm and exercise one of three options: run, hide or, as a last resort, fight. Get more information, about how to react.

Contact Us

Risk Management
Email: risk@uwrf.edu
Phone: 715-425-3344
Fax: 715-425-4980
25H North Hall

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