Emergency Preparedness, Human Resources, Security, Sustainability/Business Continuity

How to Safeguard Your Facilities Against Workplace Violence

Security professionals need to work with all building departments and occupants to keep their facilities safe from workplace violence, a growing problem in all types of facilities.

On September 26, during Facilities Management Advisor’s FM Now: Emergency Preparedness online summit, guest speaker Hector Alvarez, president of Alvarez Associates, provided the opening keynote. The presentation, titled “Security Is a Constantly Evolving Responsibility,” centered on keeping workplace facilities safe.  

Alvarez has more than 25 years of threat management, security, domestic terrorism, and crisis management experience, including protecting national critical infrastructure, serving as a city police officer, and working as a professional security consultant.

What Is Workplace Violence?

Alvarez noted that “workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs in a work setting.”

He also defined harassment as “anything that anybody does to make what you do more uncomfortable, make you feel awkward.” 

Types of Violence

Facilities and security professionals, building management, and other building occupants should be prepared to handle all types of violence that can occur in a facility.

According to Alvarez, four types of workplace violence include:

  1. Criminal activity: Violent acts by criminals to commit robbery or another crime. Inform employees that they should prioritize their safety and not try to stop someone from taking company property.
  2. Customers/clients: Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, etc. Health care and law enforcement have the most issues with this type of violence.
  3. Coworkers: Violence committed by a current or former employee. Most of the time, there were warning signs that their colleagues or former colleagues saw.
  4. Personal relationships: Violence committed by somebody who has a personal relationship with an employee. Most of the time, it’s committed by a man, and it’s most dangerous when the person is going after a woman who’s trying to leave a violent relationship.


Alvarez explained that employees should safeguard their facilities by taking action to protect themselves, adding that they should listen to their intuition by reporting incidents involving threatening words and actions. They also shouldn’t hesitate to report any concerns. Employers should encourage employees to call 911 and lock the door if someone appears threatening and is approaching their facility.

Alvarez suggests using lights, landscaping, locks, and cameras to help reduce workplace violence.

Assessing a Threat

The mechanical process of assessing a threat is broken up into steps, according to Alvarez:

  1. Identify. Determine if there’s a concern through multiple ways, including collecting information, doing interviews, having healthy skepticism, and determining if there are pre-attack indicators.
  2. Assess. Multiple departments, such as human resources, legal, security, and operations, should evaluate the threat to see if it’s credible.
  3. Manage. Change the environment through increased security, talk with the people who are the target of violence, and intervene with the person of concern.
  4. Follow up. Because violence can occur days to months after a threatening situation was “resolved,” monitor and/or intervene with the person of concern in the future.

Pathway to Violence

Alvarez encourages employees to try to recognize the signs that someone could potentially initiate an act of targeted violence before it occurs.

He therefore suggests that people check out the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP) website to learn how to recognize warning signs.

The “pathway” to violence includes:

  1. The grievance: Speech, writings, stares, and demeanor.
  2. Violent ideation: Thoughts or fantasies of murder and violence.
  3. Research and planning the attack: Tactics and targets are researched, and a plan is formed.
  4. Pre-attack preparation: Materials are gathered, and friends are warned.
  5. Probing and breaches: The plan is tested.  
  6. Attack: The attack is carried out.

Learn More

During the webinar, Alvarez also talked about specific examples of subtle workplace violence he’s seen, the reasons people fail to report workplace violence, trends in emergency preparedness, and how to get the most value from security technologies at facilities. To watch the full webinar on-demand for FREE, click here.

Additionally, be sure to check out all the sessions that were part of Facilities Management Advisor’s FM Now: Emergency Preparedness event, including “Facilities and Security Double Down on Emergency Responsiveness.”

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