Has your organization prepared for an insider threat workplace violence scenario?


The most recent shootings at the Virginia Beach Municipal Public Works Building and the Earl Cabell Federal Building in Dallas are a stark, yet painful reminder that security leaders and the public at large must be ever vigilant with the ongoing threat continuum. 12 victims tragically lost their lives in Virginia Beach. The threats associated with workplace violence; in particular, the insider threat is quite concerning. The Virginia Beach shooter, a 15-year employee of the organization, did not appear to be disenfranchised, nor was his social media imprint on anyone’s radar screen. He even resigned from his position via email the morning of the shootings.

In light of the current challenges, the following question comes to mind:

What are the early indicators towards violence?

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s-Pathway to Violence Warning Signs and What You Can Do; the potential warning signs for individuals are as follows:

  • Exhibit increasingly inconsistent and/or hostile behaviors
  • Feelings of injustice and/or perceived wrongdoing
  • Substance abuse issues, i.e. excessive alcohol/opioid drug usage
  • Being social detached/isolated and distant from friends/peers
  • Subpar work performance, i.e. tardiness, absenteeism
  • Sudden and dramatic changes in home life and/or in personality
  • Financial strife, i.e. insurmountable, outstanding, unsecured debts
  • Facing legal challenges, i.e. civil or criminal litigation
  • Observed grievances, being angry/bitter at the world around them


Related: Event and Venue Security – An Interview with James DeMeo

Furthermore, there exists numerous challenges facing today’s security leaders:

  • Active shooter/active assailant
  • Errant drones/UAV
  • IED/bomb scares
  • Inclement/severe weather conditions
  • Biological/radiological/chemical agent attacks
  • Threat of terrorism, i.e. domestic/international, lone wolf-unpredictable in nature
  • Protests, riots, civil disobedience/unrest
  • Crowd dynamics/crowd crush, choke points, bottlenecks during ingress and egress screening checkpoints
  • Cyber/IT threats/facilities-data privacy and personal information/password protections, malware related issues


Listed below are (5) recommendations for communities/organizations/stakeholders to consider when faced with the aforementioned challenges:

  1. Organizations are best served when allocating financial resources towards workplace violence awareness/prevention training programs.
  2. DHS-Run, Hide, Fight and See Something Say Something.
  3. Train employees to look for pre-attack indicators to violence for troubled, disgruntled co-workers.
  4. Invest in physical security/technologies, i.e. CCTV, access control, credentialing, background checks/employee vetting, smartphone safety /mass notification apps, responsible social media-monitoring, real-time intelligence gathering and analysis, biometrics, fast pass lanes, etc.
  5. Establish internal work safety teams with Team leaders having assigned duties/responsibilities on how to lead co-workers to safety during times of crises.


In summary, below are key recommended takeaways for security leaders/organizations/stakeholders to consider implementing within their workplace environments:

  1. Conduct frequent threat and vulnerability assessments.
  2. Invest in technology platforms to further safeguard the workplace.
  3. Review security protocols & procedures on a consistent basis.
  4. Foster public/private partnerships i.e. JTTF-Joint Terrorism Task Force, fusion centers, U.S. Marshals, FBI, DHS. FEMA.
  5. Offer verbal de-escalation skills training for your staff. Treating people with dignity and respect is key.
  6. Situation awareness training key. Having a pre-planned response to best survive the unthinkable is paramount. Proactive vs. Reactive.
  7. Establish a centralized visitor management system. Proper employee/contractor vetting, background/screening checks.
  8. Properly train employees/staff in workplace violence awareness/prevention programs adhering to OSHA-Duty of Care is the prevailing theme. Share best practices & lessons learned with industry peers.
  9. Invite local law enforcement, i.e. first responders, ems, paramedics, fire dept to your work site. Conduct walk thrus with key emergency management personnel, computer simulations and tabletop exercises. Practice, practice, practice.
  10. Establish key stakeholder workplace safety teams consisting of human resources, security, compliance/IT assurance, facilities, operations, janitorial, housekeeping, etc. as a means of fostering effective/efficient communications in your workplace. An educated staff creates a safer workplace.

Source material: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/dhs-pathway-to-violence-09-15-16-508.pdf

James DeMeo

James DeMeo

James A. DeMeo has more than 26 years’ experience in the security industry and is considered a foremost subject matter expert on event security. He is the Founder, President, and CEO of Unified Sports & Entertainment Security Consulting (USESC), based in Raleigh, North Carolina. His primary responsibilities are to conduct threat and vulnerability assessments for stadiums, venues, and arenas, creating employee-centric training modules for gatekeepers, guest services and security staff working at stadium points of entry and exit.

DeMeo was part of the AEG Leadership Team that opened the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York, in 2012.

He participated as an integral part of a research team including esteemed professors for a poster project presented at the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) conference in June 2016 entitled “Professional Sport Security and Marketing Interface: A Delphi Study. Assessing the Influence of Sport Security Operations on the Guest experience: Using the Delphi Method to Understand Practitioner Perspectives,” later published in The Journal of Sport Safety (The University of Southern Mississippi).

DeMeo has delivered presentations at several national conferences, and he has spoken at numerous colleges and universities throughout the U.S. on sport security operations.

He is the bestselling author of What’s Your Plan? A Step-By-Step Guide To Keep Your Family Safe During Emergency Situations.

DeMeo earned his Master of Science degree in sport management from Adelphi University in 2012. He is a member of ASIS International and has been a member of NCS4 and the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM).

On September 1, 2017, Mr. DeMeo was recognized by Security Magazine’s: The Most Influential People in Security 2017.

Distance Learning Adjunct Faculty Member-Tulane University-SOPA-School of Professional Advancement-teaching graduate students about Event Security and Risk Management.