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Active Shooter as a Terrorist Tactic

June 21st, 2016 Comments off

In March of this year, I wrote a blog on the possibility that our next 9/11-scale attack could be in the form of coordinated soft target attacks at the same time across the country. After the tragedy in Orlando, I am even more convinced that these types of soft target attacks will continue. Furthermore, the media blitz that surrounds these acts feeds the inevitable. Granted we cannot stop the media from covering these events; however, I do think that they should be aware of when reporting becomes sensationalizing and realize where the line is. (another matter for another time)

As I stated in March, symbolic government, business, and public infrastructure targets have taken steps to increase security. They have thought about terrorist/lethal attacker threat preparation and begun threat monitoring via social media and open source investigation. This is great and needs to continue. Unfortunately, in the eyes of attackers who wish only to lash out at the diversity and freedoms of western society, easier targets are now becoming equal in value. Whether attackers are religiously motivated, anti-capitalist motivated, or life style motivated, there does not seem to be a lack of groups, or very sick individuals, that will latch onto a cause and perhaps even align themselves with other radical groups that want to attack our way of living and believing.

What are soft targets? Shopping areas, theaters and clubs, restaurants, hotels, churches, schools and tourism locations – the list goes on! Many of these types of places have been targeted and attacked somewhere in the world already. No one wants to think about this but we must. Schools have. These types of attacks are difficult to stop and very effective if not planned for. Planning needs to be in three major areas:

  • Resources for preemptive intelligence gathering
  • Improving deterrent physical security
  • Anticipated emergency response and reaction guidance for occupants (Active Shooter Response Plan)

Whether a troubled individual or an organized group, social media and ‘dark’ websites are often used for communication, planning, and sometimes warnings by those who set out to conduct such attacks. I don’t care about privacy if violating it is what it takes to stop this! In my opinion, if the government or law enforcement in the community wants to monitor my emails, calls, social media posts and Internet activity, then do it. I have nothing to hide! We need to accept that this is what will be required to avert such attacks in the planning/warning stages. Supporting proactive law enforcement and intelligence gathering, and providing adequate physical security is the only chance these soft locations have not to become a target. I could site several cases where proactive intelligence has led to arrests before a tragedy could occur.

Physical security efforts can be a deterrent. Many ‘hospitality’ type businesses have always stated that they didn’t want to scare people away from their venues and establishments. Now the public might feel better seeing more security. They see what is happening at these potential target locations and may feel better having to go through metal detectors or seeing a few more uniformed security personnel. These proactive or deterrent measures need to become part of the cost of doing business to provide your customers a safe environment.

Finally, anticipated emergency response and reaction guidance for your occupants (employees or visitors) needs to be spelled out in your Active Shooter Response Plan. If you don’t have one, develop one, or call someone who can help you create one. The plan needs to address but not be limited to:

  • Emergency communications for both internal and local emergency responders
  • Reaction guidelines for occupants
  • Evacuation protocols specific to active shooter/lethal attackers
  • Emergency plans for internal security
  • Physical security /CCTV monitoring
  • Coordination with local emergency responders
  • Media messaging
  • Accommodations for mobility challenged
  • Post incident intelligence and counseling

AFIMAC is a resource for such assistance. Hit our website or call me if you would like some suggestions at 1 800.313.9170.

 

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Workplace Violence – The Denial in Small to Mid-Sized Companies

November 23rd, 2015 Comments off

With the horrific events of violence that occur now almost weekly, too many mid-sized companies still think it will only happen in larger organizations.  Violence is a critical issue for all employers to deal with regardless of size. The dynamics that drive this violence are human reactions to conditions that exist with any employer. One of the biggest mistakes that many organizations make is remaining in denial. Yes, it is an unpleasant topic to talk about, let alone make policy on, but you are taking a huge financial risk by not recognizing that it could happen in your workplace and failing to develop prevention strategies to reduce those chances. This risk is especially significant to smaller organizations that are less likely to be able to withstand the loss of a lawsuit should something happen. Your only defense against being found negligent and liable in court if something does happen is to have done the necessary risk assessment to overcome a reasonable foreseeability argument. You will also need to document that you have a workplace violence prevention program in place, even a simple one. Granted, larger companies have numerical probability working against them due to the number of employees they have. However, low probability of occurrence due to your limited numbers of employees is not a defense.

Maybe your organization doesn’t need to have a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. If you have never had:

  • Crime in your neighborhood
  • A domestic violence situation with one of your employees
  • Fired anyone
  • A crime happen in your business
  • One of your employees stalked
  • An irate customer threaten one of your employees
  • A bully in your ranks
  • An employee use aggressive, intimidating language or action against another

If your company hasn’t experienced any of the above, then maybe your organization is immune. But I don’t think that is possible! Yes, all of those things listed can lead to workplace violence and will be looked at in court as contributing to reasonable foreseeability. Furthermore, when you preach to your employees that they are your most valued assets, as so many smaller companies like to do, what message are you sending them when you do not address violence prevention?

All organizations need a workplace violence prevention program that involves everyone! Don’t just write a policy statement and put it in a handbook. How often, after a tragic violent incident, do people who are interviewed say something like “I knew he would do something like this” or “he always made me afraid”? Often those who are in the best position to recognize problem behavior from an individual are the employees who engage with them every day. They know something is wrong but may keep quiet about their concerns. They expect that someone should be doing something about an issue but don’t know what to report, or to whom. This is not the employee’s fault. If they haven’t been made aware through the workplace violence prevention policy that they have a responsibility to report certain things, then they cannot help reduce the problem.

Let’s just take the example of not reporting inappropriate aggression or bullying. This can stem from a number of reasons including but not limited to:

  • Fear of repercussions from the individual in question
  • Not knowing when a behavior is deemed unacceptable and must be reported
  • Not knowing to whom or how to report the behavior
  • No assurance that there will be follow up by a supervisor or management

All of these reasons can be addressed with an effective workplace violence prevention policy that is enforced and is an employment compliance requirement. Ironically, this is even easier to implement in smaller organizations versus large ones. Workplace violence prevention policies must address inappropriate intimidation through language, gestures, direct and indirect threats, or any other aggressive conduct that instills fear into employees. This fear can be coming from an internal or external source. Not only should all employees be trained in what to look for but also they should be required to report the problem to supervisory personnel. Supervisory personnel also have to be trained in how to investigate such reports and follow up with those designated within the organization to handle such matters.

Denial is even more costly if ongoing conduct is reported, or a mildly violent incident occurs, and no action to investigate or correct the behavior is taken. This happens more frequently in smaller organizations because they lack the internal expertise to handle it. Not addressing this problem will assure that the aggressive conduct will continue. Others may even mimic the aggression since it seems to be tolerated by the company. Soon the behavior can take on a more violent form when people begin to fight back. Eventually the workplace becomes a hostile environment. No matter who the aggressor is, the behavior must be addressed and stopped. Don’t make excuses. Correct the behavior through professional intervention or remove the individual using a safe termination process.

Consider an active shooter scenario. If someone decides to go on a shooting rampage in your facility, have you trained your personnel what to do? It is fairly simple to give them basic survival training and it requires a response plan that will work for your specific facility. This is another necessary component of your workplace violence prevention and response program.  Just planning to call 911 is not enough.

For more information regarding workplace violence prevention, safe terminations, bullying prevention, active shooter response planning and training, supervisory training and other related topics check out the Workplace Violence Series on our website at www.imac-training.com.

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Social Media and Terminations

September 22nd, 2015 Comments off

Earlier this year I wrote a blog about two types of terminations that should be considered high risk. One is when aggressive behavior violates workplace violence policies or elevates to an unacceptable level and the person has to be terminated due to that behavior. The other kind can sneak up on you and many workplace violence prevention programs do not address it. With this type, the person has displayed continuously deteriorating work performance, in spite of corrective counseling, and this leads to a termination requirement. What makes this situation high risk is that the underlying cause(s) for the deteriorating work performance can also contribute towards that person’s potential to react violently during the termination itself, or sometime afterwards. Their termination can cause an extreme sense of desperation at a time when they are the most volatile.

Furthermore, you will never know how long the person harbors ill will towards your company, or specific individuals in your company, unless you take measures to monitor them some way. One way to do this is to see their social media posts. Granted, they might password protect certain information but those who are prone to act out violently usually have less concern with privacy than their interest in publicly letting everyone know how they have been unfairly treated. Social media is a vehicle for them to do just that. Use this to your advantage post termination on the high risk cases and you might find out that the problem you thought you solved through termination has only gotten worse. On the positive side, it could also tell you that the person has come to accept what had to be done and is moving on in their life. Either way it is worth the effort or cost to take such precautions.

The most recent horrific workplace shooting of the news crew in Roanoke, VA underscores the value of knowing what is going on with someone who has been let go and remains focused on something or someone in your workplace. Not to say this could have been prevented, but having an idea that a former employee is still focused on you, allows for some possibly preventative options such as police notification, restraining orders, sponsored counseling, etc. In some of these cases, there may be indications of stress induced aggressiveness which should then serve as a red flag. Human resource personnel and the corporate security team should work together and involve third party professionals to evaluate and monitor what is going on in this person’s life.

Violence is typically a process, not an isolated event. The violence process usually has behavioral red flags along the way. This is what thorough workplace violence prevention training often outlines but it also applies to how the individual leaves the workplace depending on the circumstances of the departure.  Not realizing the desperation that a person faces, and the volatility that they represent, could be dangerous and using every tool available to gather data is prudent. The job may have been all they had left to depend on!  They are now focusing on your company as the evil force that took away the one last thing that was important to them.

For more information regarding safely conducting a termination process for all types of high risk cases, check out the courses at www.imac-training.com. Also refer to www.afimacsmi.com for more information regarding social media investigations.

How Can Social Media Content Help Combat Bullies at Work?

August 26th, 2015 Comments off

Workplace bullying is often the first step in a developing workplace violence issue. One that can result in lost employees, lost productivity, law suits, and can lead to overt violence if left unchecked. What if the bully is a supervisor?  If aggressive tactics are tolerated as supervisory motivators, they will become the dominant form of management. This is an absolute path towards organizational failure. Fear has only a small place in supervision. Holding people accountable can be done in a very civil and subtle manner. There is often a blurred line between being held accountable and being pressured by a bully who says they are trying to motivate. The effects will often be: lower energy levels, no employee initiative, and manipulative behavior among employees to avoid the bully, health problems, and many others.

How can bully supervisors exist in some workplaces for so long without being dealt with? Bullying and inappropriate aggression will continue if they are ignored. Fear is usually what causes this tendency to ignore or deny the behavior. Either fear of harm or reprisal. The bully’s tactics are effective in that regard. It is easier to avoid the problem than to address it. However, ignoring is another form of tolerance. Tolerance is another form of acceptance. This perceived acceptance is why bullying, if allowed to exist for too long, will lead to a physical incident eventually.

There is another tool to help monitor/control this behavior. For example, a client requested to have a supervisor monitored, due to one brave employee’s concern regarding the supervisor’s aggressive and verbally abusive behavior. As a precaution, they wanted to monitor the supervisor’s open source social media “footprint”. They contracted a firm to monitor his various social media feeds for content using a number of keywords. The supervisor had posted statements that were somewhat troubling and suggested that he may act out in the future even more aggressively. Furthermore, factors outside the workplace were adding to the situation. Social media data was harvested, collected and stored for analysis.

Unfortunately, the performance improvement plan that the company put the supervisor on did not produce the desired results and the company decided to terminate the individual.  The company was confident with their decision, as they were armed with the individual’s potentially dangerous social media posts, adding to the lack of behavior improvement. Security measures were put in place to mitigate any termination risk. The event took place with a heated verbal outburst, however no physical violence occurred. The company opted to continue social media surveillance for an additional 30 days following the termination. The individual posted a number of statements expressing his displeasure, but none of them were deemed as threatening. After a few days, the individual’s posts returned to normal and the surveillance was discontinued.

Learn more about how to protect your workers from being bullied. Check out the “Workplace Bullying: Identification and Response” course on the AFIMAC online training site www.imac-training.com. Also, go to www.AFIMACSMI.com to see how to order social media investigative assistance discretely online.

Social Media Investigations

June 29th, 2015 Comments off

It always amazes me what people will post on their social media channels that they may not speak about while with a group of friends or associates. This even holds true for those that communicate about negative, unethical or even criminal activity. It is as if they think they speak in ‘code’ and nobody will notice or care except those they intend the post for. Maybe it’s the convenience, efficiency, and instant communication capability that the SM channels offer that cause this tendency. Or maybe it is just the ‘cool’ factor of being active on these sites. Whatever the motivation, this habit is one that we as corporate investigators, or public law enforcement, should not overlook.

In any investigation you must first ‘open all doors’ to assess what is happening or what has happened and who might be involved. Then once all potential individuals of interest are identified and the scope of the situation/crime is defined, you go through the process of ‘closing those doors’ and ruling out individuals that are not involved and narrow your focus on those who warrant closer scrutiny. Traditional investigative techniques (interviews, review of surveillance video, physical surveillance, document review, etc.) are typically used as the investigation becomes more focused but information available by mining social media channels can speed results throughout this process, as well as make it more thorough and cost effective.

Human Resource professionals should also be taking into consideration what potential applicants and even current employees are posting. It can be a reflection into someone’s abilities, character, interests, values, intentions, and past experiences. Often having internal personnel search for this information is time consuming and expensive, or you just may not have the staff or capability to complete it. However, through very inexpensive vendor services, this information can be gathered from publicly available sources. This process is known as open source intelligence (OSINT). It is out there for the taking and can be obtained very conveniently.

Using deep web harvester technology (powered by Bright Planet) AFIMAC has developed a specialized investigative service line with convenient online ordering, or corporate account status if desired, for fully automated social media ‘footprint‘ searches and social media surveillance/monitoring at very inexpensive rates. Check out our website for additional information.

https://afimacsmi.com/

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Bullying and Its Effects in the Workplace

April 20th, 2015 Comments off

If you were lucky you didn’t have to worry much about being bullied in school. If you weren’t so lucky, then you remember the effects. The same human dynamics can apply in the workplace with adults. The tactics and their effects are sometimes not as obvious, but they are very real. Workplace bullying is often the first step in a developing workplace violence issue. One that can result in lost employees, lost productivity, law suits, and can lead to overt violence if left unchecked.

Why do women handle being victimized by a workplace bully differently than men? Men are taught throughout their upbringing to stand up to bullies. This will lead to confrontation eventually and if the tension has built up enough over time, ‘standing up’ may result in violence. Nobody wins. People are hurt or terminated; and sometimes the wrong people are terminated. The workplace becomes an unpleasant place to be. People leave. This all costs money, time, company reputation, and possibly clients.

What if the bully is your supervisor?  If aggressive tactics are tolerated as supervisory motivators, they will become the dominant form of management. This is an absolute path towards organizational failure. Fear has a rare place in supervision. Holding people accountable can be done in a very civil and subtle manner. There is often a blurred line between accountability and being pressured by a bully who says they are trying to motivate. The effects will often be: lower energy levels, no employee initiative, manipulative behavior among employees to avoid the bully, health problems, and there are many others.

Does this sound like an environment in which people will work extra hard to get things accomplished? Will it inspire good teamwork? Obviously no, but how can bullies exist in some workplaces for so long without being dealt with? Bullying and inappropriate aggression will continue if they are ignored. Fear is usually what causes this tendency to ignore or deny the behavior. The bully’s tactics are effective in that regard. It is easier to avoid the problem than to address it. However, ignoring is another form of tolerance. Tolerance is another form of acceptance. This perceived acceptance is why bullying can exist undeterred for too long. Bullies are transferred and can sometimes even be promoted just to get rid of them. This only reinforces the bully’s confidence in his tactics. Workplace violence prevention programs must address this developmental stage and that is truly what it is. It will lead to an incident! These are questions that plague many workplaces and effect otherwise productive happy workers. Don’t be a victim. Don’t allow such a toxic environment.

Learn more about how to protect your workers from being bullied. Check out the “Workplace Bullying: Identification and Response” course on the IMAC online training site www.imac-training.com

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