Surviving Workplace Violence
On December 13th Library Director Susan Pieper with the Paulding County Library in Ohio offered this timely post on Publib:I shared this short video with my staff during a staff meeting this fall.
Homeland Security released it and in light of the recent tragic shootings,
I think every library staff and every citizen should watch it.:
The video was produced with a Department of Homeland Security Grant by the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security. It includes three key concepts ~
RUN – When an active shooter is in your vicinity:
- If there is an escape path, attempt to evacuate
- Leave your belongings behind.
- Help others escape if possible.
- Prevent others from entering the area.
- Call 911 when you are safe.
HIDE – When Escape is not possible:
- Lock and / or blockade the door.
- Silence your cell phone.
- Hide behind large objects.
- Remain very quiet.
FIGHT – As a last resort, and only if your life is in danger:
- Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
- Act with physical aggression.
- Improvise weapons.
- Commit to your actions.
In addition to those key concepts of Run, Hide, and Fight – the video also discusses how to interact with law enforcement.
911 – When Law Enforcement Arrives:
- Remain calm and follow instructions.
- Keep you hands visible at all times.
- Avoid pointing or yelling.
- Know that help for the injured is on the way.
The information provided in the video has been endorsed by numerous law enforcement agencies.
Libraries are certainly not exempt from workplace violence. Many have disaster plans in place and policies and procedures that are meant to reduce the likelihood of violence. However, they are open to the public and certainly permeable to people with ill-intent. Many are also open to an increasing population of concealed carry permit holders – including patrons and staff.
The discussion of concealed carry by staff and patrons played out as a major meme and theme on Publib at the end of 2011. Many library staff members came out as staunch proponents of concealed carry. Others could not see the point. However, gunfire, gun-accidents, and gun related incidents all have one thing in common – the presence of guns. With each act of random violence that plays out in the media, the reaction from a fearful public includes the purchase of more guns. So, there is an ongoing expectation of gun violence and an ongoing increase of people armed with guns.
In addition to guns, the United States has another crisis of sorts – something that law enforcement and public libraries experience every day. Psychiatric hospitals closed throughout the US in response to the 1975 Supreme Court decision in O’Connor v Donaldson that non-dangerous individuals cannot be confined and Addington v Texas requiring convincing evidence for involuntary commitment. It was hoped that many of the abuses experienced by people involuntarily committed – as dramatized in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest would be remedied. The number of beds for psychiatric patients in 1955 was one for every 300 Americans. By 2005, that number was reduced to one in every 3000 with over 90% of those committed to forensic cases. So, the reality is psychiatric beds are no longer available in the US and other institutions without specialized training – including public libraries – must cope with the repercussions.
Drugs such as Thorazine (chlorpromazine) have helped many people cope with mental health issues. But, many people go untreated and the prison and jail populations have become the de facto mental health facilities – providing incapacitation often without any truly effective rehabilitative treatment options. Many may come out worse than they were when they went in – maxing out their sentences in Supermax facilities in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.
The State of Rhode Island has the highest rate of severely mentally ill people in the US – at around 7.4% – almost twice the average of other States*. In addition, it has some of the highest rates of illegal drug use and highest rates of untreated drug and alcohol addictions. So, most public library directors in Rhode Island will interact with people with severe mental illness problems and drug and alcohol abuse problems. Rhode Island also has some of the strongest gun control measures in the US – although that does not stop gun violence from occurring. When you look at the big picture and consider the likelihood that you will interact with people who have guns, who have mental illness and may have ill intent – it is always best to be prepared.
I highly recommend that libraries partner with their police departments and look at the training offered by the Memphis CIT program. Their de-escalation training works. Community partnerships can save lives and help redirect people from jail and prison to appropriate mental health resources.
You might even upgrade some office supplies.
Thanks to Susan Pieper for sharing!
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Filed under: Administration, current topics, Library Organization, Library Profession, Outreach, Outreach programs, Public Services, Security Tagged: | concealed carry, concealed guns, domestic terrorism, Homeland Security, Library Security, personal safety, second amendment, shootings, survival skills