Shifting focus from reactive violence response to preventative strategies is critical. Effective prevention will help organizations reduce the risk of violent events while also providing support and resources to those in need of help.
The value of prevention was illuminated by recently-released data from the Violence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing violence, and was discussed in depth during their recent online training and launch event. Inspired by their work, in this article we discuss current risks and signs of crisis, as well the importance of deploying community prevention strategies in addition to existing response protocols.
As employees and students return to work and school, they carry with them the stress and anxiety of the past year. Communities and organizations must cope with the disruption, self-harm, and mental health crises that accompany the economic uncertainty, isolation, and fear that so many have experienced during the pandemic. Many of these risk factors are correlated with violence.
Individuals facing such challenges typically exhibit signs of crisis. However, they often do not know where to turn, either for themselves or for friends or coworkers. By providing a reliable one-stop shop for accessing support or reporting concerns, such as a mobile risk intelligence platform, these disruptions and signs of crisis can be identified and addressed before they escalate; perpetrators frequently exhibit noticeable changes in behavior that are picked up by others. By mitigating the impact of personal crises and directing individuals toward supportive resources, organizations can protect their communities from violence.
It is also important to note that disruptive events can be contagious, so when violent behavior is not prevented, it can escalate or lead to further incidents. Identifying early warning signs is key to incident avoidance and violence prevention programs. As the risk of violence increases, so does the opportunity to improve and deliver specific resources and relief.
In recent years, many institutions and organizations have implemented incident response training such as active shooter drills, lockdown preparation, and emergency mass communications test messaging. While these external security tactics can prove valuable in the event of a crisis, they alone are not shown to prevent crises from occurring in the first place. To effectively avoid these incidents, organizations should establish internal preventative measures such as reliable reporting systems, means of identifying emerging risks, and ongoing support and resources for community members in crisis.
Although they dominate media headlines, mass violence events are statistically rare. Lower severity incidents, such as harassment or mental health disruptions, are far more common and prone to escalation. This is why prevention is key. Additionally, active shooter drills may normalize high levels of violence. Although these drills are a critical component of crisis response preparation, there are ways to equip students and employees with preparedness skills without making violence feel inevitable. For example, the “I Love U Guys” Foundation developed the Standard Response Protocol (SRP). This research- and data-driven program helps schools and businesses implement consistent, effective strategies to cohesively respond to any and all hazards.
More than just prevention, these efforts build organizational resilience. Most organizations have resources for common risk factors like mental health, but simply having those materials is not enough: they need to be easily accessible and regularly promoted. Providing easy access to resources and directly communicating their availability creates simple avenues for organizations to identify emerging risks and address individual cries for help. This is particularly important because the Violence Project’s research has shown that approximately 90% of perpetrators act out because they are in crisis and don’t know where to turn; only 10% are responding to psychosis.
Engaging an emergency mass notification system (EMNS) or a safety communications platform emphasizes proactive safety, especially when effectively paired with drills and routine operations. During a safety drill, mass alerts inform community members of risks and appropriate responses, while day-to-day safety communication provides easy avenues for questions and feedback. For example, these alerts can remind individuals to submit reports if they notice health or safety concerns. When they do, security team members can then engage in two-way messaging to address their reports in real-time.
Incident prevention and crisis intervention ultimately rely on reliable reporting, community support, and proactive identification of risk. By providing readily available health and safety resources, demonstrating dedication to the well-being of your community, and remaining receptive and responsive to their reports, you can effectively protect your employees and your organization.
The Violence Project’s recent research suggests that one of the most effective strategies for stopping violence is focusing on low-severity risks and providing comprehensive, easily-accessible prevention resources. An effective way to do this is by empowering community members to look out for themselves and their peers by deploying a mobile risk intelligence communications platform.
Consolidating a single, one-stop shop for support and guidance enables community members to build habits around seeking help and resources for themselves and others. This combination of broadcast notifications, two-way messaging, customizable resources, and emergency access helps organizations identify and address emerging risks and active threats to their workforce. One such platform is Vector LiveSafe.
To learn more about how platforms like LiveSafe can facilitate incident prevention and community safety in your organization, consider our recent Mobile Risk Intelligence Communications Platform Buyer’s Guide.
Ryan Mayfield is an expert in safety communications and user engagement, with experience in industry, government, and academia. Together with the University of Illinois, he helped publish the first-ever study of safety communications using anonymized user data. A graduate of Stanford University, Ryan remains affiliated with the Stanford University Peace Innovation Lab.