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Preparing for the worst after Newtown tragedy

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many business leaders across the nation have expressed the need to review their precautionary safety measures.

For most companies, this means reviewing evacuation routes, but for others, it could mean preparing for the worst, whether it’s an attack by a disgruntled employee, an employee’s family member or a stranger.

Over the last several weeks, Tom Ashmore Enterprises, an extreme safety-training group, has received calls from businesses from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, all looking for additional instruction should a violent attack happen at work.

“Not paying attention to what you don’t see can hurt you,” said founder and CEO Tom Ashmore, a former U.S. Marine and three-time Purple Heart recipient. “You have to stack the deck in your favor at all times and you have to have all the right cards in your hand.”

Tom Ashmore Enterprises, based in Woodbury, Conn., offers specialized training safety courses primarily for utility, hydroelectric and oil companies, but has also held courses for several Fortune 500 companies and local municipalities.

The courses range from confined space rescue and surviving an active shooter to first aid and oil spill response.

Though Ashmore said there is no one magic course or piece of advice that would prepare someone for any emergency situation, he stressed the general need for employees to have more situational awareness, know how to defend themselves and how to work with police.

“Unless you have a cop in your desk drawer, you have to learn how to defend yourself until the police get there,” Ashmore said. “When seconds count and the police are minutes away, you have to know how to stall an intruder until police can get there.”

Ashmore’s company-hosted courses cost $95 per person with a minimum of 20 participants.

Ashmore was scheduled to speak Jan. 16 in Cromwell at a seminar hosted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA).

Though some companies may be looking to prepare themselves for a crisis, Mark Soycher, a CBIA human resource counsel, said most companies are more likely preparing themselves through less extreme measures, such as speaking with employees about not propping open doors and requiring visitors to sign in at reception.

Soycher said it’s also wise to speak with employees about commons signs of stress to look for in co-workers and family members and also what resources are available, whether it’s the human resource department or counseling.

“If someone is showing signs—whether it from work or personal—alert someone,” Soycher said. “It’s important to be vigilant.”

Employee Assistance Programs, employee benefit programs offered by many companies, can help employees overcome addiction, emotional distress and marital issues, Soycher said. The programs can act as both a warning and safety system for a company to protect its employees, he said.

“Just be vigilant,” Soycher said. “Most of the time companies get to know their employees quite well and can use that knowledge. If someone is not being respectful or cooperative, it’s important to convey to employees what you expect out of them. It’s a very subjective stance but I think an important one to cultivate in the workplace.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of the Business Journal for the week of Jan. 21, 2013.

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About The Author

Jennifer Bissell
Reporter

Jennifer Bissell was a reporter for both the Fairfield and Westchester business journals from 2012-2014. She attended the University of Minnesota and contributed to several regional publications including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Cloud Times and Twin Cities Business magazine.

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