It Takes a Strategy to Prevent Workplace Violence

The Lake Forest Group remembers all victims of workplace violence, especially those in Atlanta and Boulder this past week.

How is your leg bone connected to your WPV prevention program?

Protecting your employees from workplace violence is not easy. It takes a dedicated team. It takes training. And it takes a strategy to pull it all together.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy an off-the-shelf workplace violence mitigation program, plug it in, and let it safeguard your organization? It might be easier, but certainly not better. After all, you’re unique, and you deserve a customized program that you know will work for you.

To mitigate workplace violence, you need a strategy that covers it all. Because creating a safe workplace relies on a lot of things that must work together.

I’m reminded of the lyrics of a popular children’s song “The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone” and so on.

It’s the same with your WPV prevention program. Your WPV policy is connected to all your other policies, your other policies are connected to your Security, HR, and Facilities departments and threat management team, and your dedicated team is connected to training that invites your employees to participate in their own safety. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it definitely rings true.

It’s time to get the team together.

As we said, workplace violence mitigation is not easy, and it really does need a team—from different departments and with different perspectives—all dedicated to the mission of protecting your organization.

  • Leadership must set the tone by committing to a safe and secure workplace with resources and messaging that support it and additional policies and accommodations for those affected by domestic violence.
  • Security, if you have a department, must collaborate with company stakeholders to mitigate workplace violence through physical, technical, personnel, and procedural measures that control access, protect people, manage emergencies, and sustain operations, among other things.
  • HR, oftentimes the most accessible to an employee, must understand how to identify employees who are either at risk or present a risk and share resources to alleviate life stressors.
  • Law enforcement and forensic psychologists must contribute their expertise through investigations and evaluations.

That’s the core of your threat management team (TMT), and your TMT must meet regularly and actively identify, assess, and manage threats to your organization.

If you see something, say something.

If you’re not familiar with DHS’s “see something, say something,” you need to be. And you must go beyond familiarity and actually perpetuate its imperatives in your organization by training your employees to follow them. That also means—and this is important—that workplace violence mitigation training is not just for managers or security personnel. In order for your training to be effective, everyone must understand how to recognize warning signs of potential violence and how and to whom to report it. This training is not just for the workplace. After all, how do we define the workplace today when so many are working from home? And so many workplaces (pre-COVID) are the spots where we go to eat a meal, see a ball game, or hear some music. Your training will improve your people’s situational awareness by developing skills that will help them protect themselves against violence while at work, home, and as they live their lives.

Your WPV strategy needs a strategy.

If you feel like your workplace violence mitigation strategy is experiencing some severe scope creep, it probably is. Because WPV affects so many areas. The intersectionality of your different departments might actually be larger than the characteristics of the departments themselves. Think about issues that affect multiple departments so that multiple stakeholders must be part of the solutions: safe terminations, threat management, policy development and enforcement, and access control, just to name a few. But a holistic security strategy— that includes expertise from multiple stakeholders in your organization, is shared, communicated, and explained to the entire organization, and puts the safety and security of your people as your number one priority—is certain to provide a safe and secure workplace where your people can do their best work.

We’re here to help.

If your WPV mitigation strategy doesn’t have a leg (bone) to stand on, give us a call. Add us to your team, and we’ll ensure you have what you need to protect your employees. Contact Mike at 312.515.8747 or [email protected] to discuss your WPV mitigation strategy or whatever security challenge currently demands your attention. We look forward to hearing from you.

We Get You—and We Got You—in 2021

As we exit 2020, destined to be remembered as one of the most challenging years in our history, and enter 2021, we want to remind you that we are here for you. We get you, we got you, and we know what you’re going through—and you’re not alone. When our clients got focused on safety and security last year, they called us—maybe about the same things you’re struggling with:

  • Got overwhelmed: Some clients have plans with no one to implement them, and others know they need to improve safety and security at their organization but don’t know what to do first, next, or at all. Serving as a Security Advisor, we help define what you have and what you need. From an assessment to an emergency management plan to training for your entire workforce or specialized sessions for your leaders, we can help you get your plan in place.
  • Got ready: Workplace violence can affect every organization in every industry. And that makes a Workplace Violence Program, policy, and training even more critical to the safety of your employees. The program establishes your commitment to a safe and secure workplace, the policy strengthens your pledge to promoting employee well-being, and the training invites your employees to participate in and foster their own safety. Our client came with a vision of employee wellness that went beyond exercise or work life balance, and we helped them build a workplace violence program with safety and security at its foundation.
  • Got together and got involved: Many of our clients do not have a Chief Security Officer or a security department at all, forcing security concerns to Human Resources, Legal, or Facilities. Our client wanted to move away from the siloed approach to security where different aspects were housed in different departments and focus their approach on a centralized system of threat identification, assessment, and management with Customized Training to ensure optimum risk management. While an informed and participative workforce makes every workplace safer, training with internal and external collaboration adds another layer of security that protects your employees.
  • Got ahead and got protected: Not only does an Independent Security Study (ISS) of executive protection programs for high net worth people comply with applicable IRS deductible expenses—and save the executive thousands of dollars—it also protects the entire organization by looking at its overall security program. Our client understood the need to evaluate the specialized security requirements of the CEO and combine it with an assessment of the vulnerabilities impacting the entire organization. With a review of the security measures at the corporate offices, during transportation, and at private residences, you will understand where you are exposing employees to unnecessary risk.
  • Got caught unprepared: Safeguarding employees was our client’s focus, and as you share that priority, especially in an emergency, a holistic Emergency Management Plan (EMP) ensures they will know how to hide, evacuate, communicate before, during, and after an incident, and resume normal business activities as you recover. An EMP that covers all hazards including natural (weather), accidental (fire), and intentional (criminal) incidents prepares your organization for the unexpected—even a pandemic.

We’re Here to Help
Have you got stuck, got caught off guard, got no one to turn to, or got lost? And would you like to get help, get support, and get going? Because in past years, when the going got tough, the tough got the LFG.

So let’s get excited about the “what ifs” of 2021. What if your employees felt safe and secure? What if you focused on your employees’ well-being? What if you found a trusted advisor who gets you—and takes your security to the next level? You’ve got that all in The Lake Forest Group. And we’re just a call or click away. Let’s get started.

Contact Mike at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to discuss whatever is on your mind in a free 30-minute consultation and together we can create a strategy that supports and prioritizes your employees.

Safeguarding the President on Inauguration Day

On Wednesday, January 20, the 59th Presidential Inauguration was held at the U.S. Capitol, the site of a recent riot and serious security failure resulting in several fatalities, extensive property damage, and multiple physical injuries. What can we learn from the events of January 6, 2021? As a Secret Service agent, I can offer some perspective having been involved in previous Inaugurations and other major events.

More than a suit—a plan.
Oftentimes, the public’s image of the Secret Service is a federal agent dressed in a suit with sunglasses and earpiece protecting the President. I did protect the President and First Lady, but two other assignments were directly related to protecting buildings such as the U.S. Capitol as well as major events, like the Inauguration. As an agent, I assisted in constructing security plans for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and as Director of Security for the NBA, I participated in security measures for the Athens Summer Olympics.

Just like you, only different.
We can see a lot of similarities in security planning for large scale events and planning at your organization, except, of course one is on a much larger scale. Using best practices, we ensure physical, technical, procedural, and personnel security work together, we coordinate with other internal departments and external agencies, and train so everyone understands their role.

When I was assigned to the Secret Service’s Major Events Division, I designed security plans for events designated as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), including the Inauguration, State of the Union, and the Olympics. For NSSEs the Secret Service designs the security plan, the FBI is responsible for crisis management, such as what we experienced with the riot at the Capitol, and FEMA is onsite for consequence management if an incident occurs. These different agencies work together, share information, and assume delineated areas of responsibility that maximize their respective strengths.

This Inauguration was always going to be different.
Due to concerns with COVID-19, this Inauguration was always going to be different than its predecessors, with scaled back or cancelled events, such as the parade. And after the riot on January 6, the Secret Service and other partner agencies adjusted the security plan even further. They collectively identified potential vulnerabilities by assessing what they had and what they needed in terms of personnel, physical, technical, and procedural security—and all must be optimized and work together in order to be successful:

  • I’m sure you’ve seen the influx of National Guard troops with about 25,000 Guard members on the ground in Washington, D.C. Personnel from other local, state, and federal agencies will also join them and coordinate their efforts.
  • The area around the Capitol and National Mall has physical barriers like fencing with barbed wire on top and bollards to protect against vehicles with explosive devices. Additional restrictive areas have also been set up to limit the flow of traffic and people, also extending to rail stations and airports.
  • Security technologies include cameras that use both facial recognition to identify individuals on watch lists and license plate recognition to spot any reported suspicious vehicles.
  • Procedures, directives, and official orders outline the combined decades of security expertise of members from disparate agencies in the common objective of executing the plan and protecting the President, First Lady, members of Congress, and all visitors attending this ceremonial demonstration of our democracy.

An emergency management plan protects you from just that—emergencies.
Every event, organization, company, and agency must have a security plan to prevent and mitigate potential incidents and an emergency management plan (EMP) to respond in case something does happen. An EMP, among many things, establishes a reporting structure to manage the emergency, proper response protocols to safeguard people including evacuation, shelter-in-place, and run, hide, and fight, and a communication system to transmit vital information that can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Practice really does get you closer to perfect.
A lot goes into an effective security plan, program, and policy. And that was very apparent when I was designing the airspace security plan for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, four months after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The word on everyone’s mind and from everyone’s lips was “security.” This Inauguration is no different—and neither is your own organization. You must design a plan, put security measures in place that support it, and train your people on it. Just having a security plan, measure, or officer does not make you safe and secure. You must strengthen your security through scheduled training customized to the needs of each stakeholder.

Always be better.
Every plan can be improved. Communicate with partners, share information, and make sure you take the time to review an event, or your own security program, at least once a year so you can update it and make any adjustments to fix what didn’t go well—and be prepared for whatever comes next.


We’re here to help.
On Inauguration day, you were able to see me on local Chicago news programs sharing similar information about protecting the peaceful transition of power and our 46th President. When you’re ready to talk about your own security challenges and protecting your people, contact me at [email protected] or 312.515.8747.