August 2014
Critical Response AssociatesVolume 14 Issue 4

Welcome to our August newsletter. I hope that you are all having an enjoyable summer. We have been busy here; with somewhat more travel than anticipated. As always, I enjoyed the recent Threat Management Conference, an annual event that is sponsored by the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. I highly recommend this conference for any of you who have any interest in this area at any level.


Since this is a multi-disciplinary conference that includes individuals from law enforcement, corporate security, attorneys, human resources, mental health and many others, there is much conversation around the core of any good response and prevention program: the multi-disciplinary "Threat Management Team".


Eventually, organizations determine that having a prevention program in place is much more cost-effective and safer, compared to the experience of being surprised by a potentially dangerous event that quickly overwhelms the company's resources. The core of any effective program, and the first recommendation of virtually every expert, commission, or set of guidelines that addresses this subject, including the 2011 ASIS/SHRM National Standard, is the establishment of this above-mentioned team. We are increasingly spending more of our time helping companies set up and train these internal teams.


It Takes A Team: some thoughts


Since I have provided overviews of this subject in the past in these newsletters and in my book, I thought that I'd list some of my ongoing thoughts based on my experience:

  • I tend not to have a rigid pre-conception of what this team should look like or even how it should operate. Yes, there are some important general guidelines, but for the team to be effective, it has to fit within your corporate culture and it has to function in a way that you know will work within your internal structure. Determining what works within your organization becomes part of the team's initial training, and one of the newly formed team's first topics of discussion.
  • This process absolutely has to be multi-disciplinary. That does not mean that a member from every discipline is called upon on every incident that gets reported. But, it does mean that the initial responder on each team, or the team leader, needs to be able to pull in critical decision-makers who understand this process and understand what their fundamental responsibility will be in the process, from any critical discipline within the organization. (And the various team members have to be able to trust that they will be called in when necessary and not be left in the dark when important decisions have to be made.)
  • It is absolutely critical that this be truly a team effort. The use of the term "team" is not by accident. None of us (myself included) can effectively address these kinds of issues and make these kind of critical decisions by ourselves. The input of Human Resources, Legal, Security, and often many others is often crucial for success. As a team, we make better decisions than any of us do alone; we see this happen on a regular basis. Whenever we get called into a situation by a company, my first question is "who is the team?" and the second question is "who is the designated coordinator", meaning who is responsible for getting the team together, sharing information, etc.
  • Determine early in the process who the team members need to be, in order to address the critical issues for that particular response. Calling in someone late in an ongoing decision-making process (such as legal counsel, for example), can cause a great deal of frustration if they object to the course of action that the team has been working on, based on their expertise.
  • This is not about turf. But unfortunately, our first obstacle in establishing these threat management teams is sometimes dealing with reluctant members. There has to be a buy-in from all parts of the organization (Human Resources, Security, Legal, etc.) that this has to be a shared effort, and that all of the team members have something to contribute. That being said, there are often situations when one discipline has to take on a more central role due to the demands of the situation, and there has to be a recognition of that by the other team members, and sufficient trust and communication among the team members to help that proceed more efficiently.
  • Team membership will not be the same in all cases, mainly because the core team will often need to pull in "ad hoc" members, depending on the demands of each situation. These ad hoc members may be local managers, outside professionals, or other members within the organization. The team has to be flexible enough to understand when they need to expand or alter the composition of the team, in order to address the issue most effectively.
  • I, and others, are gravitating away from emphasizing the words "workplace violence" or even "threat" in describing the team's role. This is because of the overly narrow definition attached to these terms by others. The team, to be truly effective, needs to be able to address any type of situation that could present a risk to the organization, even if it does not appear to be a "threat" as commonly considered and especially if it does not yet include actual violence. Ideally, teams should often have the opportunity to address potential risks before they get to a "violence" or a "threat" level. Some organizations have started using the title, "Incident Management Team" for their team, for example.

I hope this is helpful. As always, we welcome your comments and questions - or any suggestions for future newsletter subjects.


Marc McElhaney, PhD

CEO, Critical Response Associates




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