Preventing Workplace Violence

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Jeff Burkhart

Longley Mahoney 9 13 17

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney and Deputy Josalyn Longley

Speaking at the September 13 meeting of the Rotary Club of Madison, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney along with Deputies Josalyn Longley and Cindy Holmes urged business and civic leaders to take a more active stance in preventing violence in area businesses, civic and religious institutions, schools and medical facilities. In the case of many shootings, the majority of which play themselves out in less than five minutes, “we are not there quick enough,” according to Deputy Longley, adding that “we are not the first responders – you are.”

Promoting a more action-oriented approach, the Sheriff’s Department is promoting an approach known as A.L.I.C.E. – and acronym for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter the attack, and Evacuate or Escape.” Citing broad support from the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security, the action-oriented approach stands in contrast to a more passive response such as hiding underneath a desk. “Passiveness is deadly,” said Longley.

In explaining A.L.I.C.E., the presenters started with the concept of “Alert”, posing the question whether businesses or buildings have a way to alert everyone to a crisis situation. Alerting everyone in a building in plain language as opposed to a code is the preferred method of communication. As regards to the “Lockdown” component, Longley encouraged that everyone within a building know and determine how you can get behind a locked door or as an alternative how one could barricade oneself. Having the option to lock a door from within a room rather than having to go into corridors is much preferred. The “Inform” function is to call 911 or also text 911 – an option available in Dane County.  Longley urged callers to be as precise as possible with describing one’s location, citing that numbered exit doors may serve as an excellent guide to responding law enforcement. The “Counter” approach is to be employed in cases of last resort – an approach where one should feel empowered to combat the assailant by throwing chairs or other objects. Lastly, the “Evacuate/Escape” function requires that potential victims know the quickest and easiest way to escape. “Do all your people know all the exits?” asked Longley, adding that most of us are creatures of habit, and thus escape the way we usually enter the building.

Ultimately, the best defense is to plan and practice. Just like fire drills have become second nature in schools, planning and practicing drills to prepare for attacks are the key to preventing tragedies. “The body cannot go where the mind has not been,” said Mahoney.

The action-oriented approach, however, has one significant exception. Citizens who are armed under “Conceal and Carry” rights are not trained to take matters into their own hands, said Mahoney, affirming his opposition to “conceal and carry” approaches. Other than the lack of training, armed citizens may also be mistaken as the shooter when law enforcement arrives.

Under the auspices of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department, more than 6,000 individuals in the county have received in the past 18 months specific training programs and educational materials on “Active Shooter and Workplace Violence” scenarios.

Please contact Dane County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Deputy Josalyn Longley for scheduling and/or additional information.  ( or 608-977-1300).

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

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