8 Lessons Learned from Aurora

Posted on July 23, 2012


The Airfoil Public Relations “Mission Control Team” is responsible for training executives and employees of client companies to communicate their mission and messages more successfully, especially during a crisis. The team devotes a significant proportion of its training program to crisis communications and prevention, frequently focused on workplace violence. Last week’s horrific events in Aurora, Col.—the largest mass shooting in U.S. history—furnish a scenario that can be translated to manufacturing plants and other business sites.  Many lessons in preventing and responding to crises certainly will be learned from that terrible night. Here are eight of the most important that have become apparent even at this early stage:

  1. Anticipate that company events may be the likeliest targets for gunmen, because large numbers of people are gathered in close proximity.
  2. Check and re-check entries to ensure unguarded doors remain locked.
  3. Station security personnel where potential victims may be situated, not just nearby where smoke, gas and/or bullets may prevent first responders from reaching victims quickly.
  4. Re-evaluate first-responder gear stored onsite to be certain it includes gas masks or other protection from smoke and gas.
  5. Train your employees on how to help each other survive and escape in times of panic.
  6. Some state laws allow individuals to carry weapons in their cars. Implement a tough policy to ensure those weapons are not brought into the workplace through open doors, in packages or on persons.
  7. Be aware that gunmen often target people leaving the scene, but escape usually is the best means of survival. Be certain your employees know where all exits are situated (e.g., through offices, fire escapes, etc.), not just the marked preferred exits.
  8. Establish evacuation staging areas at the farthest possible walking point. Evacuating just outside the building is no protection at all from a gunman. In Aurora, bullets penetrated the adjacent theater and at least one man was wounded.

In a workplace violence scenario, no two situations are alike, and the nature of precautions continues to evolve. A final recommendation, therefore, is to periodically review and analyze your crisis prevention policies and actions to ensure no gaps have arisen as your facilities and staff have expanded or your locations have changed.