Today’s (Nov. 6) shooting in an Orlando office high rise and yesterday’s Ft. Hood tragedy spotlight the increasing threats from gun attacks in the workplace. Since the Virginia Tech mass killings, for example, there have been 52 incidents of multiple gun-related killings in the United States with 221 deaths.

A gunman, who turned out to be a former employee of an engineering firm in the Orlando high-rise, murdered one person and wounded many others. The Ft. Hood incident involved more deaths and injuries. Still, overall most workplace violence incidents are in more typical office environments, often in urban settings.

While not commenting on any specific incidents, Sean Ahrens, project manager with Schirmer Engineering, an Aon Global Company, has commonsense advice. He tells Security Magazine, “How an organization deals with people, terminations, and lay-offs could be a deciding factor if a person acts violently. People don’t just snap. There are precursors to an event. Awareness and training are proactive steps to mitigating an incident before an occurrence.”

No matter the tragedy, in the vast majority of situations, there were warning signs viewed by colleagues, friends, relatives or other tenants and building owners that something was not right.

Ahrens continues, “Building owners have to rely on a security program, which involves operations, technology, and architecture to initially deter an incident from occurring. However, that same security program will continue to affect a determined aggressor in the form of delay. A robust, tested security program is the first and last line of defense to preventing someone who is determined to commit an incident.”

Ahrens, as well as other top security experts, believes that everyone has a security role to play. “Although we won’t talk to someone on a plane, we have no problems holding a door open for someone we don’t know or have never seen before. That in itself is a common issue that affects most building owners, and essentially can dismantle the security program. The number one issue that I identify when doing an assessment is outdated, untested or the general lack of security policies and procedures.”

Adds Louis Caravelli, senior security consultant with Schirmer Engineering, “The key to preventing and/or handling an incident of workplace violence (in a high-rise setting) is mutual cooperation and communication. The tenants in a multi-office building need to understand that they are part of the overall program and cannot isolate themselves.

“Within a high-rise, there must be an effective and reliable method to communicate to tenants that a shooting has occurred, so they can activate their individual plans. High-rise building management should train tenants to lock-down their floors in the event of an active shooter incident.”