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In the wake of the tragic shooting at YouTube, the issue of workplace safety is unfortunately top of mind again.

Although security teams typically own the emergency protocols, we in communication positions within companies can play an important role preparing employees for these situations. The way we communicate the protocols to employees can ensure they’re better prepared and feel confident that the organization has a plan. The tone, visuals and medium make a significant difference in the ability of employees to recall the information under stress.

As this event has likely led you to review your own processes and communication approach, we want to share a few best practices with you from our work with Fortune 100 clients:

  • Use visuals that reflect familiar environments and messaging in the brand and style of your company; off the shelf content is often scary and graphic, which can be counterproductive
  • Simplify instructions and create visual memory cues that employees can recall easily if an emergency arises
  • Use local language and local imagery when possible; under stress employees will remember information better if it is in their language
  • Choose a format that is visual and accessible, such as a scrolling digital website, a flip book, mobile app, presentation or video

There are many resources available that cover basic training for active threat situations, including Homeland Security. What makes this sort of training and education most effective is embracing the real-world experience of employees in their work environments, showing them visually how to react and using the company voice they are accustomed to hearing.

For companies in California, education and training for employees may soon be mandatory; according to news reports this morning, Cal OSHA is currently drafting a regulation that would require California workplaces to develop and provide active shooter training for employees.

We hope this perspective is helpful as you consider how to prepare your employees for an active threat situation.