Recently, 45-year-old Army veteran John Robert Neumann Jr. walked into the warehouse at Fiamma Inc., a company that makes awnings and accessories for RVs, and killed five of his former co-workers. According to Sheriff Jerry L. Demings, Neumann was armed with a semi-automatic handgun (which he reloaded once during the spree) and a hunting knife.
Neumann appeared to single out his victims — at one point, he encountered a temporary employee he told to get out before he continued shooting. Prior to the arrival of law enforcement, Neumann turned the gun on himself, leaving innumerable questions about what prompted the attack.
But there are some clues that authorities are beginning to piece together. In 2014, Neumann was accused of battering a co-worker, although no criminal charges were filed related to the incident. However, Neumann did have prior arrests for DUI and marijuana possession. He was fired from Fiamma in April.
Neumann had no family in the area — he lived alone, and social media showed few photos with friends. He did not have any ties to extremist groups, and local authorities do not believe this was a terrorist attack but rather a senseless act of workplace violence.
Stay Safe at Work
Unfortunately, we have seen this scenario before — where disgruntled employees target their former co-workers. So today, I want to cover some workplace safety tips that will help protect you and your coworkers in the event of such a tragedy:
- Look for signs: Always be on the lookout for warning signs — angry, volatile employees or co-workers acting out of the ordinary. You should know the baseline of your co-workers — in other words, the way they normally act. If they are behaving erratically or discussing how upset they are about a work situation, you should report it to your boss to see if there is anything that can be done to help the co-worker. (Do not ignore this. Always report it)
- Plan and prepare: Just like in a fire drill, you need to know where the nearest exit is from where you sit in the office. You should also identify a second exit in case the shooter enters from the nearest one. Don’t forget to consider exits that you don’t normally use, such as a fire exit or a window if you work on the first floor. Your best option may very well be to kick out the window next to your desk.
- Pack a bug-out bag: If there is an active shooter in your office, the last thing you should worry about is taking anything with you. For your own safety, you need to escape as fast as possible. However, for other types of emergencies — such as a natural disaster — I recommend keeping a bug-out bag at work. It should include food, water, a change of clothes and other survival necessities. I know a lot of people keep a bug-out bag in their car (which I also recommend), but if something happens and you are trapped in your building, having some supplies near your workstation could make a huge difference in upping your chances of survival.
- Shelter in place: Let’s say you work on the sixth floor and the exit is blocked. At this point, your only option may be to shelter in place and try to hide from the attacker. Ideally, you should make your way to an office and barricade the door using desks, filing cabinets and anything else you can find to keep someone from entering. Turn off all the lights and remain as quiet as possible. If the shooter is looking for easy victims, they will likely pass by if they don’t see or hear anyone.
- Fight back: If you’ve hid in an office and the shooter manages to break in, the only choice you have is to fight back. Use anything you can, even if it’s a pair of scissors or a metal wastebasket. At this point, you are truly in a life-or-death situation and you will only survive if you are able to overcome the shooter. If you’ve holed up with a group of co-workers, you all need to rush the shooter and attack them together, because it will give you the best chance of survival. Keep in mind that most gunmen will approach expecting you to comply with their demands since they have a gun. Look for an opportunity to surprise them so you and your co-workers can attack and subdue the shooter.
Sadly, we will probably continue to see more instances of workplace violence like this where innocent people lose their lives, which is why you need to prepare for this unfortunate scenario. Otherwise, you will be completely and unnecessarily vulnerable while at work with no idea what to do.