Terror attacks in the news such as bombings and mass shootings may have you feeling confused and vulnerable because of their random and catastrophic nature. Emergency plans, drills, and training on how to observe, report, and appropriately respond to suspicious activity can empower you to control your own safety and security.

Fire and earthquake procedures and drills at work are commonplace—suicide bombers, active shooters, and bomb explosions are not. Although these may be less frequent, there is a much greater potential for damage. Some steps to prevent emergencies and control damage include:

  • Evaluating your workplace for potential threats.
  • Assessing current security equipment and protocols.
  • Planning a response by defining communication procedures, evacuation/shelter procedures, and equipment needs.
  • Documenting your emergency plans and policies.
  • Specific training on terrorism and random acts of violence reinforce response skills and build confidence.

Complacency and disregard for security policies puts you and your coworkers at risk. To maintain workplace security:

  • Wear visible identification and or security badges at all times.
  • Follow door security procedures where each person swipes his or her own badge to enter.
  • Don’t “hold the door” for others to enter a secured area.
  • Identify visitors with special badges and escort them at all times.
  • Politely inquire about identification of unidentified people in the workspace and escort them to their proper destination if necessary.

Monitor your workplace and remain aware of building activities and conditions. Watch for suspicious people that:

  • Enter secure areas without proper identification, uniform, or safety gear.
  • Are in the wrong place or seem lost.
  • Appear overdressed for weather conditions.
  • Loiter, watch, photograph, or video people and operations.
  • Act in a disorderly manner that alarms or disturbs others.

If you see a suspicious person, report them to your supervisor, security personnel, or law enforcement agency. Approach them only if it seems safe. Ask for identification and why they are there. Note the person’s physical characteristics (height, weight, and clothing). Don’t become confrontational and never detain or hold a person in the area.

Watch for unusual activities, suspicious packages, devices, and substances at work. Report them immediately. Do not touch or disturb these items. Isolate or evacuate the area if you notice:

  • Packages left or placed in out of the way areas.
  • Out of place or abandoned containers (canisters, thermoses, pipe sections, etc.).
  • Items with unusual wires, batteries, a tank, bottle, clock, or timer attached.
  • Packages matching a threat description or those with a threat attached.

Report security concerns immediately to your supervisor, security office, and/or the local police. Trust your gut feelings and instincts. Race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion alone are not suspicious. Only report suspicious behavior and situations.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security partners with local authorities to track and evaluate suspicious activities through the If You See Something, Say Something™ campaign. Your reports will enhance law enforcement work, so don’t hesitate if you see something suspicious.

In an emergency, remain calm—do not rush to respond. Stop and think about your own safety and that of others. Remember your workplace procedures. Isolate or evacuate the area of concern and report the situation immediately.

By making quality decisions based on your prior knowledge and drills, you can help achieve a safe outcome from any type of workplace emergency.