New Thinking in Workplace Violence Prevention and Active Assailant Response

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active assailant response planning


No organization or geographic area is immune from extreme violence. Having an Active Shooter Response Plan is no longer enough. Organizations and institutions must be prepared for new attack methods by developing policies, plans, procedures and exercises aligned with today’s realities.

For more than two decades the standard model of workplace violence has included Type I: Criminal Intent, Type II: Customer/Patient, Type III: Worker-to-Worker and Type IV: Intimate Partner. Violence directed at an organization’s people or properties because of what the organization does or represents is considered Type V violence. This is the intersection of workplace violence and terrorism.

It’s important to recognize that managers and supervisors are often in a unique position to detect and deter potentially violent individuals and situations. They also can be the target of a disgruntled or disturbed employee’s wrath, including an employee who may act on extremist ideologies.

As you plan for this growing Type V violence concern, the following are critical considerations:

  • Applying an expanded workplace violence typology—Current incidents of extremist violence at home and abroad demonstrate the need for an expansion of existing OSHA’s workplace violence typology, including the Type V category. This expanded typology creates understanding that some extremist driven violence may be directed at a workplace and allows for more inclusive training and promotes the “force-multiplier” effect of more eyes and ears to observe and protect.

  • Expanding recognition of pre-incident risk indicators—Research is increasingly pointing away from individual personality traits as useful indicators of risk, and towards patterns of behavior and communication referred to as “Warning Behaviors.”

  • Transitioning from “active shooter” to “active assailant”—The perpetrator/perpetrators might be using something other than or in addition to firearms. This could include vehicles, edged weapons, blunt weapons, improvised explosives, or other threats. Attacks have had increased complexity, including synchronized attacks conducted by one or more independent teams striking multiple locations sequentially or in close succession (i.e. “hybrid targeted attacks”).

  • Expanding the Concept of the Workplace—Home office and mobile workers in the field represent a serious and growing blind spot in violence prevention programs. This can represent a significant risk to employee safety and security, and the defensibility of an organization’s approach to violence prevention. Safety and security for mobile workers is best addressed as an integrated part of an organization's overarching approach to hazard prevention versus a stand-alone feature.

  • Expanding the role of bystander intervention—Passersby or security personnel usually are the first on-scene responders. Even when law enforcement officers were present or able to respond within minutes, civilians often had to make life and death decisions, and therefore should be engaged in training and discussions on the decisions they may face. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are promoting a national campaign, called “Until Help Arrives”, to provide individuals and organizations with the knowledge, awareness and skills to provide life-saving initial care in the immediate aftermath of a violent event.

Recognizing violence risks, developing effective and defensible plans and policies, and anticipating the challenges in the prevention of, response to, and recovery from violence affecting the workforce is paramount—both on and off the organization’s grounds.

Learn more about workplace violence prevention and active assailant response in my recent webinar.


steve crimando  About the Author:
  Steven M. Crimando is a subject matter expert and trainer specialized in human factors/behavioral sciences in homeland and corporate security,     anti-terrorism, violence prevention and intervention, emergency and disaster management. He is Principal of Behavioral Science Applications. He  can be reached at