Grocery and Retail Fears Now Include Active Shooters
The Pandemic Was Just the Beginning
It may not be something that most people think about on a daily basis, but the Coronavirus pandemic has been especially hard for grocery store workers. Deemed essential from the very beginning, grocery store workers have faced immense challenges, uncertainties, and risks just from the virus alone. These workers found themselves at the forefront of a global crisis with little training or protection. Armed with cloth masks, hand sanitizer, and disposable gloves, these essential workers have plowed through the pandemic, but not without stress, worry, and fear. Even the most routine tasks at work can cause worry. Just accepting bills and coins come with risk. While the public was being told to stay home and away from large stores/crowds as much as possible, grocery workers were engaging in these activities every single day.
Next to healthcare providers, no workforce has proved more essential during the novel coronavirus pandemic than the 3 million U.S. grocery store employees who restock shelves and freezers, fill online orders and keep checkout lines moving. Although the public health guidelines are clear — steer clear of others — these workers are putting in longer shifts and taking on bigger workloads. Many reported being stressed and scared, especially as their colleagues fell ill and thousands upon thousands were reporting positive for Covid-19. 1
Grocery Workers & Confrontations Over Masks
As the pandemic continued, albeit to a lesser degree, grocery store workers began to face a new issue.....confrontations with angry customers over mask requirements.
Many shoppers are currently required by the state, city, or local regulations to wear masks or other facial coverings. But it’s largely been left to grocery store employees and other workers to enforce those rules, despite having little or no training on how to do so. Earlier this year, a Target security guard in Los Angeles broke his arm in a fight with two men being escorted from the store for allegedly not wearing masks. A man in Holly, Michigan was arrested and charged with assault for allegedly wiping his face on a Dollar Tree employee’s shirt on May 2 after being told he needed to wear a mask in the store. Some of these confrontations have turned deadly: In Flint, Michigan, four people were charged in connection to a fatal May 1 shooting of a dollar store security guard after an argument over mask rules. On May 18, a man was arrested for attempted murder after opening fire on an Aurora, Colorado Waffle House employee who repeatedly turned him away for not wearing a mask. 2 While the vast majority of people have been compliant with the mask rules, still, the possibility of another confrontation with an angry customer isn’t far from mind for many store employees.
Recent Grocery Store Active Shooters Adding a New Element of Fear
Recent attacks in Colorado and New York have added a new layer of vulnerability for millions of supermarket employees.
Joel Loomis remembers seeing police cars racing toward the store where he works. He remembers hearing reports of an active shooter. And mostly, he remembers the image he saw on YouTube that still haunts him: his 25-year-old manager, motionless, near the self-checkout, where he’d said hello to her the day before. In the six weeks since a gunman killed 10 people — including his manager and two colleagues — at the King Soopers Market in Boulder, Loomis has come to avoid crowds and public places. He is sad, angry, and anxious, and following months of working the front lines of the pandemic, worn out. His feelings are mirrored by many others.
The Boulder attack and other deadly grocery store shootings, including one last month in Long Island, underscore a new layer of vulnerability for millions of grocery workers, many already overwhelmed after taking on bigger workloads, longer hours, and heightened health risks in the year-plus of the pandemic. While, statistically speaking, the risk of being killed at work is very small, that doesn't mean that it can't happen, nor does it mean that workers aren't feeling dread and fear about the potential. 3
Consider these statistics 4:
- More retail workers than law-enforcement workers were killed in homicides on the job each year between 2012 and 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The latest year for which this data is available is 2017.
- Ninety-four retail employees were killed in homicides while at work in 2017, compared with 85 law-enforcement officers, firefighters, and others in similar positions during the same period according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Forty-six retail sales supervisors, 31 cashiers, and 14 salespeople were among those killed.
- The number of homicides in retail is so high in part because so many people work in the industry. These figures represent a major problem for retailers, especially as the industry additionally saw 55,480 nonfatal worker injuries in 2017.
- Homicides, most of them attributed to intentional shootings, made up roughly 9% of fatal workplace injuries in the US in 2017.
The past year has been a string of stresses: A disease that’s killed hundreds of grocery workers and infected thousands; verbal and physical altercations from customers who don’t want to adhere to mask requirements; and now, store shootings.
A Path Forward
As grocery and retail workers are left with the question of how to move on in an industry with so many unknowns, how can we help to ease their fears in such an uncertain world? How can we allow workers to shake the fear and feelings of being in danger?
Gun violence has become an ever-growing threat over the last half-century, starting with the 1966 shooting by a student at the University of Texas at Austin that killed 17. According to GunViolenceArchive.org from 2014- May 2, 2021, there have been:
- 2,875 mass shootings in the United States
- 12,041 injuries during mass shootings in the United States
- 3.071 deaths as a direct result of mass shootings in the United States
These stats are based upon incidents including four or more injured or killed during a shooting, not including the shooter.
And while workplaces around the country have added active shooter drills and discussed lockdown scenarios with employees, many have not taken additional steps to assure employees of the best possible outcomes should an active shooter event occur. That is, once an active shooter event begins, how do victims get help as quickly as possible?
Saving Time Saves Lives
Reflex & Muscle Memory During a Life-Threatening Event
Studies have proven that performing simple tasks, such as entering your passcode into your phone, then dialing 911 can be nearly impossible for most people when their lives are in danger. Dialing 911 also requires that your mobile device is on your person during the onset of the event, that you remain calm, and that you clearly communicate to the operator the specifics of your situation. If a person has connectivity issues or needs to remain quiet to avoid the shooter, dialing 911 can quickly become a challenge.
Allow yourself to be placed in a real-life situation.
- You are an employee or guest in a large building or store.
- You hear or witness gunshots.
- You do not have your phone in your pocket (it’s in your purse or elsewhere).
- Or you don’t have cell reception.
- Or you don't know the exact address of the location (or have forgotten it due to stress).
- Or you are locked in an area, hiding from a shooter, and need to remain quiet and still.
- Now, dial 911 and answer the operator's questions.
- What is your name?
- Where are you?
- What is happening?
- Is anyone hurt?
- Where is the shooter?
- What is the address of your location?
- Where are you in the building?
How Can ASR Help and How Do ASR Systems Work?
ASR Alert Systems is a patented state-of-the-art critical incident response technology specializing in the field of alert notifications to Law Enforcement and First Responders in the event of an active shooter or other crisis. Our technology can be customized to any industry, building, or event. We deliver customer-specific technology unmatched by anyone.
Our critical incident response technology uses hard-mounted buttons, mobile pendants, and an optional mobile phone application to DIRECTLY communicate with first responders in the area to significantly decrease response times to an active threat or crisis situation.
Having dedicated hardware that is readily accessible and easy to operate is KEY when it comes to life-saving tools. The methodology utilized to place the ASR Alert button stations is different for every client and/or organization. By having a dedicated button that is mounted in convenient locations or wearing a pendant, staff can activate an alert to staff and provide law enforcement with all of the necessary information to respond with the PRESS OF A BUTTON. By depressing the ASR Alert Button, Law Enforcement Dispatch knows:
- the location name,
- location within the facility,
- and type of emergency.
ASR offers the best commercial critical incident response technology solution in the industry. Our reliable and redundant methods of alerting persons who are in danger, as well as providing the fastest notification to law enforcement by communicating directly with police dispatch are not matched and we hold the patent on this direct communication technology.
As we continue to see active shooter events across the country, it's no longer acceptable to assume it can never happen in a particular community. Let ASR show you how to prepare for the best possible outcome should an active shooter situation happen in your building. SCHEDULE A VIRTUAL DEMONSTRATION FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY. We will show you how your organization can better prepare and give you a tool to allow your employees to feel safer.