Bullet Points for Active Shooter and Aggressive Postal Customers
The security of postal employees is central to the Postal Inspection Service’s mission. This is especially true for letter carriers, clerks, and other employees who routinely come in contact with the public. It’s true: protecting the mail and valuable assets should be every employee’s concern. But if confronted by an aggressive postal customer, a robber, or an active shooter while standing at the customer counter, driving or walking on the street, driving a lonely back road, or pulling into a deserted rear dock, employees must focus first and foremost on their own personal safety and must always be aware of their surroundings.
In times of stress, people sometimes act in ways that you wouldn’t expect. This is especially true during busy times of the year such as the months leading up to Christmas. We are experiencing longer delivery times, longer lines, a recent rate increase, a pandemic, social unrest, colder temperatures and so on and so on. As some of us have experienced recently and what we are seeing nationally, incidents of violence are on the rise. Don’t let down your guard, become complacent, or rely on your street-sense to keep you safe. Be aware of your surroundings, observe the mannerisms and body language of the people around you, and think about what situations could put you at risk. Even if you think you know your customers, your routes and the people on it, treat all suspicious persons seriously.
- Experienced employees with several years on the job may be more likely to be involved in a violent encounter because they trust their own ability to handle unusual or difficult situations. They are more likely to underestimate the potential danger involved. They are more likely to become complacent and take things for granted.
- Once an verbal or physical attack or robbery attempt has begun, the criminal has crossed a psychological threshold. The criminal may resort to violence or even deadly force in order to demonstrate who is in charge of the situation and, if need be, to make his or her victim comply.
- Avoid making yourself a target. Try to keep calm no matter what the customer says or does. Some people just want to argue. Sometimes you have to sit there and let them vent for a few minutes despite long lines. You don’t have to tolerate people throwing things at you, using profanity, etc.Try your best to calm them down by keeping your voice lower and remaining in control. Do not exchange insults with the customers. If they refuse to calm down or continue to escalate the situation, calmly tell them that you are going to contact the police and walk away from the customer window but do not turn your back on them. Try not to take what they are saying personal, even if they are throwing around insults. You are in control of yourself at all times and can calmly walk away and ask another employee or supervisor to contact the police for you. If you call 9-1-1, you will get a car there faster than calling the non-emergency number (319-291-2515).
- Stay Alert! Pay attention to your surroundings as well as the tone and body language of your customers. Are they staring at you? Are they avoiding eye contact? Are they crossing their arms or mumbling under their breath? Crossed arms can signal defensiveness. A forced smile can mean insincerity. Overuse of hands can signal nervousness, excitement, or mania. Looking at a watch or phone over and over again may signal boredom, anxiousness, or impatience. Frowning can indicate sadness, discontent, or anger. What is the tone of their voice?
- If you see a suspicious person, pay attention to what they are doing and their description. Make an excuse to leave the area and contact your supervisor to report the suspicious behavior so you have a second set of eyes and ears in case things escalate. Do not turn your back on a person who is behaving in a suspicious manner.
- If you are robbed or attacked, comply with the assailant’s demands and do your best to remain calm. Give them everything they are asking for and then call 9-1-1 as soon as it’s safe to do so.
- Nothing is more valuable than your life. If asked, give the robber your money, your stamp stock, your phone, or even the mail. Do whatever you need to do defend yourself and do your best to remain calm.
- As soon as it’s safe to do so, jot down any details you can remember such as a description of the assailant and direction traveled so you can immediately relay this information to the police. Tell a supervisor to try and get a video of the incident as soon as possible for the police department.
- After the local police arrive, your supervisor will contact Postal Inspectors to report the incident.
Commonly asked questions regarding an Active Shooter:
1. I keep a gun in my car, can I go out to my car to get it and come back in the building to “take-out” the shooter? Weapons are not allowed on postal property, not even in cars parked on postal property. Once you are out of the building, you should not return until the building has been cleared for re-entry by the police department or postal inspectors.
2. After I “hide out”, how will I know it’s safe to come out or open the door? How will I know the person at the door isn’t the shooter? Law enforcement should have the ability to identify themselves with a badge or credentials so do not come out until you are sure that you are dealing with a real law enforcement officer.
3. Will there be a way to identify law enforcement so I know they aren’t the “bad guy”? Law enforcement typically wears some sort of marking or badge on their clothing to identify themselves as “Police”.
4. Why are we talking about this now? Is there information that this situation is going to happen soon? Similar training is being done throughout other federal agencies and large companies. We are keeping in line with them. We have no way of knowing an incident will happen but we want our employees to feel safe and know what to do in advance.
5. If I am able to kill or hurt the shooter, will I be granted immunity from any legal proceedings? Anyone can be sued for their actions. Any actions taken should be to preserve the life of yourself or others. You will have to later articulate your actions and why you did what you did. Same as a law enforcement officer would.
6. We already have an evacuation procedure in place and rally points established, why are we not using those for an active shooter type of incident? This situation should be treated differently. Rally points will not be used due to the vulnerability they create for more potential victims. A separate means of accountability will be used in this event.
7. Are we supposed to wait until someone gets killed, or should those displaying questionable behavior be reported before there is an incident? Who do I report them to? No, if you feel someone is acting suspiciously, please let a manager or supervisor know and they will contact the local police and USPIS.
8. If I know the person or they are a friend, should I try to talk them down? No, follow the “Call Out”, “Get Out”, “Hide Out” procedures.
9. Should supervisors/managers be the last out? No, everyone in the facility should follow the same procedures and attempt to “Get Out” when safe to do so. After the building is cleared of any threat, USPIS or other law enforcement will sweep the building for anyone still inside.
10. What do I do about my time so I can get paid for the day? Do whatever possible to get out of the facility/area. Administrative needs will be met at a later date.
11. We have deaf employees in our facility, how will they receive notification of an active shooter? The facility should consider means of notification now, in preparation. (text, page, email, etc.)
12. How do we get disabled employees out of the building? Whose responsibility is it? All employees will receive the same training and everyone is accountable for themselves. Once your facility has determined the best method of notification to these employees, a procedure should be in place.
13. Will elevators and stairways be accessible to get out of the building? Stairways are the best way to exit the building. An elevator can be controlled by an outside person and leave those inside vulnerable.
14. Is it ok to break a window/door to “get out”? Am I responsible for the repair? You should take any action you deem necessary to exit the building. If all exits are blocked or not safe and there is no reasonable/safe place to hide out, take any action necessary to get out.
15. Where can I get more information on this? How will those who weren’t at the training today get this information? You may also contact the your supervisor and they will forward any questions you have to the USPIS.
16. Does this policy supersede our current safety policies? No, these procedures are only for an Active Shooter situation.
17. Does this policy supersede our current security policies? Locking gates, doors, registers, registry area? Mail, money, accountable items? Yes, it is important you exit the facility immediately or when it is safe to do so.
18. I have seen videos online from other agencies regarding this type of training, is it ok to watch them? We can’t stop you from watching the videos. Our training is based off of the training given to by other agencies so the same message should be received.
19. During the “call out” of the incident, should we notify everyone of the shooters location? The location of the shooter may change. So telling everyone the shooter is in one place may compromise them when moving to the opposite location. Remember, the shooter can hear you as well.
20. One we “get out” what obligation do we have to notify surrounding buildings of the shooter? The most important part is for everyone to get to a safe place quickly. The surrounding buildings aren’t in imminent danger, at that time. Most likely, the police will have responded by this time.
21. If the shooter is on the dock or in the parking lot or lobby, should we lock the doors so they can’t come into the workroom floor? The time it takes to lock the door could put you in danger. There may be other employees or customers in the building that you’ve just prevented from getting away from the shooter. The shooter can move at any time. If they find another entrance you may have removed an exit point.
22. When the shooting begins, people will most likely “investigate” where it is coming from. How can we stop them from doing so? It is human nature to find out where the sound is coming from or find out what the sound is. Many have never heard gunshots. We can’t prevent everyone from getting hurt, but it’s important to limit the number of victims.
23. If we don’t pull the fire alarm, our access controls won’t allow us to exit the building. What should we do? Every facility has a way of defeating the access control system. It is important to find out how that is done now so it is known in case of an incident.
Please let me know if you have any questions and when would be a good time to talk to our window clerks to answer any questions they may have. You can text me on my cell at 515-238-5824 or respond to this email. Thanks Kimberly!