With the passing of the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack, we are reminded that tragedy can strike anywhere at any time. Since 2001 the likelihood of an attack on the United States at the level of severity of 9/11 has decreased, but the probability of more frequent, smaller scale attacks has grown, and many of these attacks are happening in the workplace. According to The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, “In the United States the workplace has been the primary target of terrorism.”

Today’s Terrorism

Today, new policies and technologies have shifted major concerns of threats of terrorism to who many call lone-wolf terrorists. These are people who draw inspiration from antigovernment and/or xenophobic ideologies or from major terrorist groups, such as ISIS. The evolvement of technology has opened a larger door for these individual terrorists to be inspired by violent crimes via the internet. Terrorist groups have more resources now than ever to publicly broadcast their heinous crimes including: social media, portable devices to record and broadcast live video, faster technology and cloud-based storage to upload images and video for the public to see, and more efficient communication tools. Lone-wolf terrorists act alone, and the violent videos, images or content that are being spread through the internet make it possible for someone in any geographic location to see these heinous crimes and gain fuel to commit such attacks in their area.

Including the Possible Impact of Terrorism in Your BC Program

It is important for organizations to take a proactive approach when creating an emergency preparedness plan for a terrorist threat or attack. In the past terrorism may not have been at the forefront or an organization’s concerns when creating a business continuity program, but the types of attacks we are seeing today are more frequent and may be less expected. Many keep watch of the major terrorist groups but may not be thinking about the fact that co-workers or neighbors could be inspired by these groups and act alone. This is never something that is pleasant to consider, but unfortunately it is necessary.

Since the action and severity of a terrorist attack can vary, create a business continuity program that uses an impact-focused or all-hazards approach. Understand the threat of terrorism for your organization and educate your employees. Consider your geographic location and the likelihood of an attack occurring in your area. Also consider to what degree your brand or services would be a potential target. Stay informed about what you can do now to train your organization how to prevent, respond to and recover from an attack. Be sure you are regularly updating, testing and training on your emergency preparedness plan. It is also important to understand how employees could react. Everyone reacts differently to stress and fear and any leader in the organization needs to be prepared to respond compassionately and professionally.

Fear in the Workplace

Terrorism is fueled by fear and it is important to understand how fear could affect employees and your organization. Not only should your organization have a business continuity program in place, but you should also incorporate plans for how to cope with the reactions of your employees. The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress refers to this as “human continuity preparedness” and insists that this preparedness plan should by motivated by three factors: threat awareness, threat assessment and threat perception.

Since fear is an inevitable goal of terrorism, an organization needs to consider the physical and psychological effects associated with fear. Physical effects can range from cardiovascular damage to more long-term effects like fatigue. Psychological fear can cause blurred thinking, loss of focus and many other conditions that could lead to declined health in an employee, as well as loss of productivity at the workplace. Taking the appropriate measures to create a safe and secure atmosphere at you workplace will help mitigate the negative effects that a crisis can have on employees and on your workplace. Having an emergency preparedness plan and emergency communication systems in place shows employees that their safety and quality of life is important to you and to your organization.

“Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today.” Benjamin Franklin

Don’t let the violent, cruel crimes of a terrorist attack destroy your organization. Develop, implement and train on your preparedness plans proactively. Keep your organization educated on the current events. Use Preparis’ Tabletop Exercises to test your plans with your crisis team in order to expose any gaps, and then amend those plans based on your findings. Plan for a reduced workforce in the event an attack does occur and have work from home policies and procedures in place.

While an attack isn’t fully preventable, taking the necessary actions to prepare your organization will help your organization to return to business-as-usual as quickly as possible should you face a crisis.