Sitting on the Fence of Violence – How to Prevent Your Next Tragedy

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Nearly eight percent of students grades k-12 have been in a physical fight on school property and 20 percent report being bullied, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Six and 20 percent may not seem like a large number, but those numbers are equivalent to nearly 5 and 11 million students respectively.

Similarly, every year nearly two million American workers report they have been victims of workplace violence.

These numbers represent the reported incidents. How many unreported acts accumulate throughout the year?

Those Who Are Sitting on the Fence

In every school, in every workplace someone is ‘sitting on the fence.’ Firestorm Co-Founder and Novume President, Harry Rhulen, frequently utilizes this analogy to describe individuals who are on the fence of committing an act of violence. Someone in every school or organization in the United States is battling substance abuse, spousal problems, financial hardships or is a victim of bullying. There is a component in their background that makes them susceptible to being knocked off the fence due to a trigger.

Often individuals who are sitting on the fence will never leave the fence and cause a problem. Frequently, however, Firestorm witnesses copycat attempts following violent incidents – like Parkland, Pulse Night Club and the shooting/stabbing spree of Elliot Rodgers in Isla Vista, California. Since the violent event in 2014, men have committed violent crimes in Rogers’ name, most recently the van attack in Toronto, ON killing 10.

Harry Rhulen, Firestorm Co-Founder and President of Novume

When a significant violent event garners media coverage, individuals who are sitting on the fence become agitated, are pushed off the fence and commit similar acts within their schools, organizations, or cities.

Every leader within an organization has the obligation to identify people who are sitting on the fence.

“Anyone who is not looking at their organizations and asking, ‘How do I help these people? How do I prevent them from ever feeling the need to act out or to bring a gun to work or to school?’ are making a mistake. Violent events are happening every day, and an incident is as likely to occur in your organization as it is in any other.” – Harry Rhulen, Firestorm Co-Founder and Novume President

The question becomes: how do organizations identify and respond to individuals sitting on the fence?

Firestorm realized we had the formula; a formula that we began creating more than a decade ago following our work on the grounds of Virginia Tech. We were using the formula in a proprietary way to sell services to both schools and organizations. We realized that just as leaders have an obligation to protect their people, we have an obligation to provide leaders the answer to violence prevention.Firestorm How to ShareTheFormula

Firestorm has worked with hundreds of schools and organizations and when asked about components of our violence prevention formula, everyone said they had bits and pieces – or something. Something is not enough. To successfully implement a robust violence prevention strategy, an organization must have every element in place. If an organization does not have every piece, holes begin to form. When there are holes, violence occurs.

“When we ask organizations, ‘What is it that you’re doing? Are you doing all of these things [elements of our formula]?’ The answer was always, “We have something.”… Something is not enough. Organizations must have all the pieces, because if you don’t have all of the pieces, you have what I term as ‘holes in the net.’ And people are going to fall through.” – Harry Rhulen

The Formula

The Firestorm Violence Prevention Formula, or The Formula, is composed of nine elements that every school and organization must have in place to deter and mitigate acts of violence and self-harm.

Download The Formula here

Firestorm has invested more than 10 years of research to develop the formula for school and workplace violence prevention.

The Virginia Tech, Parkland, and other school shootings were preventable. There is a clear call to action, and there is a readily available solution. Discussions must focus on a true solution to prevent violence.

The key to change is implementing a process for identifying those on a path to violence and intervention before the weapon arrives.

Formula components include:

Firestorm shares the 9-component Formula

Download the formula at

  • Awareness Training (AT)
  • Anonymous Reporting (AR)
  • Media Monitoring (MM)
  • Centralized Information Warehouse (CW)
  • Administrator on Duty (AoD)
  • Risk Categorization Matrix (RM)
  • School Behavioral Assessment Team (SBAT)
  • Management System (MS)
  • Violence Response (VR)

Firestorm is provider agnostic; whether your organization works with us or works with another provider for the elements in The Formula, we do not care. What we do care about is implementing The Formula in every school and organization. Our goal is to prevent as many incidents of violence and self-harm as possible.

Please help us #ShareTheFormula by downloading the formula, fact sheets and spreading the word. Share on social media and use the hashtag #ShareTheFormula. Take the formula to your child’s school, or your organization and simply ask, “What are we doing if we’re not doing this? Tell me why what we’re doing is better.” If those in charge of safety cannot explain how they’re addressing every one of the elements that is on in our formula, you need to keep pushing them because they have a hole in the net. Something is not enough.

Download #ShareTheFormula infographic for Parents/Adults

Download #ShareTheFormula infographic for HS/College Students

Download #ShareTheFormula infographic for K-8 Students


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