Risk management in the workplace covers a huge assortment of threats: from pandemics and natural disasters, to white-collar crimes such as fraud and embezzlement, to cyber security threats such as data theft and cyber sabotage. But one particular kind of threat has come to dominate the fears of many people today: workplace violence.
To help manage this wide range of risks and address the threats of violence in the workplace, a number of forward-thinking organizations consider forming internal Threat Assessment Teams to better understand and account for the many ways that threats can infiltrate and impact them.
A formal, multidisciplinary Threat Assessment Team may become one of an organization’s most valuable resources, helping it address the widest variety of threats, in the most effective ways. If you or your organization are considering whether to form a Threat Assessment team, particularly to address the threat of workplace violence, here is some information that you may find helpful.
Threat Assessment Team Members
While a Threat Assessment Team’s composition and size can vary depending on the organization, many experts recommend bringing together key personnel and senior leadership from across the enterprise, including:
- Human Resources Executive
- Employee Assistance/EAP Expert or Manager
- Security and/or Risk Officer
- Facilities Manager
- Legal Counsel
- Senior Executive Leadership
- Union Representatives (where applicable)
A proactive Threat Assessment Team may also want to establish contact with certain experts and officials to consult and inform as necessary. Such experts can include, but are not limited to:
- Security Expert or Consultant
- Mental Health Professional
- Medical Professional
- Local Law Enforcement
The Nature of Threat Assessment Teams
To keep pace with the dynamic nature of the workplace, a Threat Assessment Team should expect to meet on a regular schedule to determine and assess the potential threats specific to the circumstances of their workforce and work sites.
In general, a Threat Assessment Team has certain primary functions, either when in preventative mode or in response to an immediate threat:
- Evaluate the information available and assess the severity of the threat
- Identify the threat, to determine whether it comes from an insider or outsider
- Gather information not only on the person or situation that represents a threat, but also on potential targets
- Interview people who are personally or professionally connected to the perpetrator and victims
- Provide recommendations for intervention and implement a mitigation strategy
- Maintain records of all reported threats or acts of violence
Organizations often find a great number of advantages in having a Threat Assessment Team. Depending on the nature and structure of an organization, the Threat Assessment Team can be utilized to support improved workplace policies, provide leadership and clear procedures for managing threats, assess a full range of conditions that could threaten the well-being of employees and property, readily respond to emergencies, provide safety and care for those involved in threatening situations, and more.
Training the Threat Assessment Team and Testing Response Plans
The FBI recommends that a Threat Assessment Team receive “special training in risk evaluation, threat assessment, conflict resolution, and procedures to monitor, document, and develop a response to all cases brought to their attention.” It is rare that the average organization, even large ones with substantial resources, have the broad knowledge and experience in-house to provide comprehensive training to the team. It would be advantageous for the organization to identify (prior to an emergency, man-made or natural disaster) qualified external resources who can supplement the work of the Threat Assessment Team in the event of a crisis.
Depending on their resources and circumstances, organizations may find it useful to explore these proactive training and testing activities:
- Threat Assessment Team Training
- Employee Training and Tabletop Exercises
- Active Shooter Training
Tabletop exercises that simulate a variety of situations are excellent teaching tools that demonstrate in real-time how an organization and its personnel react to certain threat situations. They also provide employees the opportunity to practice their roles and gain greater confidence in case of an emergency. Finally, drills can uncover potential weaknesses in any evacuation or safety plan, pointing out deficiencies in response programs that can be addressed or resolved in a timely way. For example, an organization may come to find during a drill that contrary to its expectations, it does not have the resources (human or mechanical) in place to effectively “lock down” a facility in the event of a crisis. Periodic exercises and refresher training can highlight any gaps in knowledge and resources that might have developed over time, misconceptions about roles and responsibilities, and common mistakes.
Despite decades of efforts aimed at preventing or curbing workplace violence, tragedies continue to occur. Every new incident begs the question: What can we do to keep people safe?Organizations may find new hope by implementing a holistic security management approach that considers the problem from multiple angles. A multidisciplinary Threat Assessment Team can play a critical role in providing direction, setting priorities, and acting decisively when crises arise.