Can workplace violence incidents be prevented? The short answer is no but there are several ways the number of incidents can be reduced and/or the casualties mitigated greatly.
We all remember in April of this year when that lunatic estranged husband of San Bernardino teacher Karen Elaine Smith walked into her special education classroom and executed her in front of her students. He also struck two children, killing one, before taking his own life. There are no words to describe the tragic loss of life of that 8 year old boy, Jonathan Martinez, or the trauma the children in that classroom have suffered. The emotional scars will last forever for the family of Jonathan Martinez as well as the children that survived.
So we must ask ourselves, as we do after every tragic incident, how could this have happened? How did the systems and protocols in place at the time so greatly fail Karen and those children?
A spokesperson for the school said that it was common for family members to visit their spouses and that the staff recognized him as Karen Smith's husband. They further noted that he followed protocol by signing in at the office and said he did not appear agitated or upset. So where was the break down? It is unclear what type of specific training the school faculty had received at the time but it was potentially preventable by one simple act.
Had Karen simply told a co-worker or an administrator what was going on behind the scenes with her soon to be ex-husband then I venture to say there could have been a very different outcome. Had she told them about the specific threat he made about shooting her and her students, the school certainly would have had protocols in place to prevent his access to that school.
But two things prevented her from doing just that.
The first is she didn't take him seriously enough at HIS WORD.
The second is that she was either too embarrassed about what was happening in her personal life that she didn't want to share that with others, especially at her place of work, or she did not want to “bother” others with her problems.
Folks, the time for taking people at their word, especially threatening statements, is long past us. How often do we hear the common phrase, "I didn't think he would actually do it" or "I didn't think he was serious”? The answer is often enough that innocent lives are being ripped away because people fail to say something or take action.
Furthermore, we are often so concerned with what other people will think of us that we let it control our actions or in most cases inaction. It is often the case that others problems eventually become your problem whether you want them to or not. There is a simple phrase used by law enforcement and military instructors that “complacency kills.” I’m here to tell you, inaction also kills.
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