Case Study 1 -- A Shooting
The report comes in: Two employees have been killed in the workplace and two have been wounded. A witness has called 911 and the police and ambulances have arrived. The perpetrator (an agency employee) has been taken into custody, the victims are being sent to the hospital, and the police are interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence.
In this situation, the agency's crisis response plan called for the immediate involvement of:
- A top management representative,
- A security officer,
- An employee relations specialist,
- An Employee Assistance Program counselor, and
- An official from the public affairs office.
Top management representative. The manager, an Assistant Director of a field office with 800 employees, coordinated the response effort because she was the senior person on duty at the time. In addition to acting as coordinator, she remained available to police throughout the afternoon to make sure there were no impediments to the investigation.
She immediately called the families of the wounded and assigned two other senior managers to notify the families of the deceased. She also arranged for a friend of each of the deceased coworkers to accompany each of the managers. She took care of numerous administrative details, such as authorizing expenditures for additional resources, signing forms, and making decisions about such matters as granting leave to coworkers. (In this case, the police evacuated the building, and employees were told by the Assistant Director that they could go home for the rest of the day, but that they were expected to return to duty the following day.)
To ensure a coordinated response effort, she made sure that agency personnel involved in the crisis had cell phones for internal communication while conducting their duties in various offices around the building.
Security staff. The security staff assisted the police with numerous activities such as evacuating the building.
Employee Relations Specialist. The employee relations specialist contacted the agency's Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) and alerted them to the situation so that they could immediately begin to monitor any criminal proceedings. He made a detailed written record of the incident, but he did not take statements from witnesses because it could have impeded the criminal investigation and possible subsequent prosecution of the case. He also helped the supervisor draft a letter of proposed indefinite suspension pending the outcome of the potential criminal matter. He worked closely with the OGC, OIG, and prosecutor's office to obtain relevant information as soon as it was available so the agency could proceed with administrative action when appropriate.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor. The agency had only one EAP counselor on duty at the time. However, in prior planning for an emergency, the agency had contracted with a local company to provide additional counselors on an "as needed" basis. The one EAP counselor on duty called the contractor and four additional counselors were at the agency within an hour. The counselors remained available near the scene of the incident to reassure and comfort the employees. Since they were not agency employees, they wore readily visible identification badges.
After the Office of Inspector General received permission from the prosecutor's office, the agency EAP counselor arranged for a series of Critical Incident Stress Debriefings (CISD) to take place two days later (see Part III, Section 6 for a discussion of CISD). She also arranged for two contract EAP counselors to be at the workplace for the next week to walk around the offices inquiring how the employees were doing and to consult with supervisors about how to help the employees recover.
Public Affairs Officer. The Public Affairs Officer handled all aspects of press coverage. She maintained liaison with the media, provided an area for reporters to work, and maintained a schedule of frequent briefings. She worked closely with the agency's Office of Congressional Relations, who handled calls from congressional offices about the incident.
Questions for the Agency Planning Group
- How would your agency have obtained the services of additional EAP counselors?
- How would employees be given information about this incident?
- Who would clean up the crime scene?
- Would you relocate employees who worked in the area of the crime scene?
- What approach would your agency take regarding granting excused absence on the day of the incident and requests for leave in the days/ weeks following the incident?
- How would you advise management to deal with work normally assigned to the victims/ perpetrator?
- What support would your agency provide to supervisors to get the affected work group(s) back to functioning?