We live in a world where bad things happen in the workplace. Yesterday shots were fired near the White House and less recently a lone gunman created havoc at the Navy Shipyards. As much as we fear the acts and despise the perpetrators, the reality is that these events have become commonplace. In addition to these acts of terror, the safety of your team can be at risk due to natural disasters and other unexpected events.
And yet few people ever really think it will happen to them. As a leader, you are responsible not only for your own safety, but for the security and safety of those you lead. To help you lead safely at work, here are seven very important thinking points:
1. Come to terms with reality. It can happen in your workplace. A perpetrator can be someone you know or a complete stranger. Living in denial is the riskiest strategy of all. Post-tragedy interviews prove the point: "I could never imagine it happening here," you'll often hear.
2. Be aware and teach awareness. Criminals use the element of surprise. By paying closer attention to unusual or suspicious behavior and challenging it, you can reconfigure the odds. Don't be afraid to inquire or report, and make sure you're people aren't afraid either. Be polite but assertive in challenging anyone acting unusual.
3. Get expert advice. Law enforcement officials are usually willing to offer suggestions and even courses, and private enterprises can teach and provide security. Find someone in your community who is a proven expert in workplace safety. What is safest and most effective isn't always intuitive, but an expert will know what works best.
4. Develop a plan. Make sure every employee understands what needs to happen should there be a crisis, whether by a violent person or a natural disaster. A written plan of action should be included in your policies and procedures manual. It is a good idea to vet this plan with your legal counsel.
5. Do the drill. It isn't enough to have a plan others can't implement. Every quarter or at least every six months, alert your employees to a drill and practice it so people know what to do and where to go in case of specific emergencies.
6. Find leaders within your team. These individuals can serve as captains to help coordinate and take additional responsibility in case of an emergency. Make workplace security a team effort.
7. Consider providing a basic self-defense and safety course to all employees. It's an employee perk that will not only be appreciated, but could potentially save lives.
Many alarm systems are purchased only after a break in. You need to be ahead of the game. Don't put off doing what needs to be done to assure the safety of you and your team.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.