The Violence Prevention Formula – Part 1: Awareness Training

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Baltimore Sun TweetViolent events are happening every day, and an incident is as likely to occur in your organization as it is in any other. Firestorm finds that many organizations ignore the possibility of a crisis striking their people or facility. Believing something won’t happen is called disaster denial – and it’s the biggest deterrent to preparedness.

The question every organization must ask is: How do we mitigate crises from happening? Firestorm would be lying if we said we could prevent every act of violence and create a Utopian world. What we can do, however, is prevent some events from occurring. Stopping one tragedy changes the lives of many.

A Decade of Research

Harry Rhulen, Firestorm Co-Founder, received a call in April of 2007 from the late Dr. Charles Steger. Steger was the acting president of Virginia Tech, and his campus and community had just endured one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Harry and the Firestorm team handled the media relations in the days after the shooting.

Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, Firestorm founders dedicated their research and work to determine how organizations can prevent incidents like Virginia Tech, Columbine and other deadly attacks. Their work intertwined research and discussions with mental health professionals, the FBI, department of education, the U.S. Secret Service and others.

After years of research and handling crisis situations, we realized we had the formula to mitigate tragedies; a formula that we began creating immediately after Virginia Tech more than a decade ago. 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.

The best-practices formula is comprised of nine elements; nine elements that every school and business must have in place. None of the elements are optional, and all must be integrated together to establish an actionable violence prevention program. Often we work with organizations that say, ‘we have some of those elements in place.Something is not enough. A successful violence prevention program hinges on implementing the entire formula below.

AT + AR + MM + CW + AoD + RM + SBAT + MS + VR

AT: Awareness Training

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AR: Anonymous Reporting

MM: Media Monitoring

CW: Centralized Information Warehouse

AoD: Administrator on Duty

RM: Risk Categorization Matrix

SBAT: School Behavioral Assessment Team

MS: Management System

VR: Violence Response

The first element of the formula is Awareness Training and education.

AT: Awareness Training

The majority of violence is preceded by events and warning signs exhibited by both the perpetrator and those around him or her.

It is essential that all members of an organization’s community know how to identify behaviors of concern.

The key to identifying behaviors of concern is change. An employee or student who is typically level-headed, on time and sociable with others, but begins arriving late, shows difficulty focusing, and reveals declining performance – is exhibiting changes in behavior.Harry Rhulen President Novume and Firestorm Founder

“We need our employees, our students, our staff to be aware. Homeland Security has recently pushed the campaign, ‘If you see something, say something.’ That’s great, but members of an organization must know what to look for. They must learn to identify behaviors of concern and help someone long before they feel the need to bring a gun to work or school. The behaviors can be very subtle.”

Harry Rhulen, Firestorm Co-Founder and Novume President

We can all agree that stopping violence from entering the door of any business or school is paramount. The first step to mitigating tragedies is identifying those on a path to violence and intervening before it’s too late.

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

*This article is part one of a nine-part series. Opt in to our Disaster Due Diligence to be notified when parts 2-9 are published.


Sitting on the fence of violence – How to prevent your next tragedy

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