A Threat You May Not Want to Think About: Workplace Shooting

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This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

On Friday, May 21, there was a shooting in Virginia Beach inside a municipal building. 12 people were killed and four people were hospitalized with injuries. The shooter was a disgruntled employee who went on a shooting rampage. The victims were innocent, everyday people just doing their job, going about their business.

Just a few weeks ago, my employer sent everyone to attend a mandatory class on workplace violence. I have to admit, with the amount of work I have, I was not keen on spending a couple of hours in class when I could be working on meeting my deadlines. However, upon taking the class, I realized it was important, as I learned valuable lessons I had not previously considered. Although many people may think there is no way can it happen to them, it can happen to anyone.

What is workplace violence?

When you think about the words, you automatically imagine someone getting into a fight or going on a rampage at work. But it is actually more than that – from someone making threats such as verbal abuse, bullying, written threats to kicking, pushing, shoving and finally, killing someone. It can happen in the office, at company or client functions and can even include domestic violence, as a person’s private life can spill over to his or her work life.

What are the signs?

You need to watch for early warning signs that can lead to workplace violence.

  • Disrespectful and argumentative
  • Intimidating or frightening others with their actions
  • Verbal threats
  • “Me against them” attitude
  • Suicidal comments
  • Rage against co-workers, clients or even their own family members
  • Physical assault and altercations
  • Threats to harm or kill someone

Is there any way to prevent workplace violence?

If you feel someone can potentially become a threat, take your own observations seriously. A lot of times, people tend to dismiss these thoughts, as they may feel they are blowing things out of proportion.

Treat everyone with respect and courtesy. Do not insult or threaten someone who is acting hostile.

Report your fears to your company’s security team.

Follow your gut. If you feel someone is becoming dangerous, keep them at arm’s length or leave the room.

What if there is an attack?

Although armed attacks happen rarely, you need to prepare yourself mentally in case it happens. This way you have an idea what to do in case a shooting happens.

If you are witnessing a violent situation unfolding, call 911 immediately if it is safe to do so. Give your name, work address, what you know of the location of the attacker, physical description, weapon, possible victims, etc.

Your choices are to RUN, HIDE or FIGHT.

RUN – Develop your escape plan:

  • Know all your exits out of the room – identify at least two in your immediate area.
  • Rehearse an escape route
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Leave your stuff behind. Don’t go back to your desk to retrieve your wallet or purse. Just go.
  • When you manage to get out, follow instructions from the police.

HIDE – Find a spot where you are out of the attacker’s view.

  • Silence your phone or any other devices
  • Turn off lights
  • Block the entrance or lock the door.
  • Stay quiet.
  • If you are in a group, spread out in different locations.

FIGHT – As a last resort, you may have no other choice than to fight if your life is being threatened.

  • Use any weapons within your reach.  Throw things or try in incapacitate the attacker with improvised weapons.
  • Yell and act as aggressively as possible against your attacker
  • Follow through and trust in your actions.

Law enforcement will arrive to try and stop the perpetrator as quickly as possible.

  • Remain calm.
  • No matter how agitated you are, avoid screaming or yelling at them.
  • Keep your hands visible to them at all times.
  • Comply with requests from law enforcement.

Thinking that a shooting can happen at work is unpleasant, as many consider their co-workers as friends. More than likely nothing like this will ever happen. But preparing yourself mentally can help you act quickly and allow you to help yourself and others to survive should anything happen.


About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.



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  1. Working in the defense industry I have been aware of the threat of work place violence and terrorist attacks for a very long time. During “Desert Storm” I work 2nd shift and was always late. My boss ask me why I was late every day. And I told him I was not going to be coming in to work when most of the plant was leaving because that would be when someone would have set off a car bomb. I now work at a Army facility and have the “active shooter” training every year. And every year I ask same question – who has the key to the arms locker because I want a 12ga.

    1. Hi Oldguy, That would be good to know-how to get to the arm locker just in case. Since you worked in the defense industry sounds like you do have to think about these various scenarios of things that could happen. Fingers crossed, nothing will ever happen but it’s good to make a plan just in case. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I work in an office and i’m a gun owner but i would never use my weapons against my collegues since we are a team and we support each other in all possible ways not only during work time.
    I suppose that the most effective way to avoid shooting at work or at school consists in creating an environment that avoid alienation and exasperate competition between people.
    Obviously, blame the weapons is easier than analize the reason between such a crazy actions.

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