3 min read

Preparing Your Workplace For Potential Violence

Nov 24, 2014 6:30:00 AM

Situational_AwarenessWorkplace violence can happen anywhere…and at any time. No one is immune. It comes in many forms from threats or acts of physical violence and verbal abuse, to homicide or active shooter incidents. Training your employees to develop a mindset of situational awareness can help better prepare your organization.

The Definition Of Situational Awareness

  • The perception of elements in the environment,
  • The comprehension of their meaning, and
  • The projection of their status in the near future.

More simply put: Paying attention to what is going on around you!

It starts with attention to detail. If you train yourself to pay attention to what’s going on around you, you are better able to identify what is normal and more easily recognize if something doesn’t fit.

If you have developed the mindset to become more aware of your surroundings, you will be able to take rapid, effective actions to respond to an incident. Whenever you enter a new place, take note of the environment, any possible dangers, and the nearest exits. This prepares you to respond quickly if something out of the ordinary were to arise.

The Color Code Of Awareness

Colour-Codes-of-AwarenessJeff Cooper, a U.S. Marine and creator of what is known as the “Modern Technique” of handgun shooting, developed a color code to explain one’s state of mind. It serves as a scale of readiness. How aware are you? How ready are you to take action? Understanding situational awareness and how you develop the mindset can help prepare your mind for danger.

  • White – No awareness. You are unaware of your surroundings and unprepared to react.
  • Yellow – You are casual scanning your surroundings and therefore have a general awareness. You are “relaxed alert.” You are somewhat aware of potential dangers of your environment and prepared to defend yourself if the need arises.
  • Orange – Detection and assessment. Something seems out of place, something is not quite right. You have identified a specific alert and have shifted to assess whether or not it is a threat.
  • Red – You’ve determined that there is a threat and are ready to take action.
  • Black – You are taking action against the threat. 

You’re Are Working To Become More Aware Of Your Surroundings – But What Are You Looking For?

There are indicators of potential violence you can look for. There are both verbal and the more physical or nonverbal indicators.


Are there physical signs that a person may be becoming violent? Sometimes it is not what a person says, but what their body is "doing". Use caution if you see someone who shows one or more of the following "non-verbal" signs or body language.

  • Red-faced or white-faced
  • Sweating
  • Pacing, restless, or repetitive movements
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Clenched jaws or fists
  • Exaggerated or violent gestures
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Scowling, sneering, or use of abusive language
  • Glaring or avoiding eye contact
  • Violating your personal space (they get too close)
  • Scanning surroundings 
  • Hands in pockets
  • Coat on when it is warm out
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Chest puffed out
  • Rocking motion
  • Bladed stance, "Boxer’s stance"
  • Thousand-yard stare 
  • Eye blocking 
  • Squinting eyes


There are also verbal indicators of potential violence such as:

  • The use of abusive language
  • Saying something like: “I am going to…”
  • Their voice becomes deeper
  • Loud talking or chanting

Educate your employees on how to become more aware of their surroundings. Train them to develop situational awareness and a survival mindset. It can go a long way to making your workplace safer for everyone.


To learn more about strategies for conflict resolution and how to de-escalate a situation, click here



Written by Gibson

Gibson is a firm of advisors and consultants that help clients get to the proactive side of insurance. We specialize in working with companies looking to find their edge—where they are growing as an organization, differentiating themselves in the marketplace, and preparing for current and future risk. Together we will find the perfect combination of insurance and consulting.