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Tavern killings: How small businesses can equip staff to deal with any emergency

File photo Picture: Oupa Mokoena

File photo Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Published Jul 14, 2022

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OPINION: As a business owner, take the time to refresh security. If you don’t already have armed response and a panic button in place, now is the time to do that. It is in your interest to safe guard the business environment for both your staff and clients, writes Devan Moonsamy.

Following a spate of tavern attacks around the country, the question of small businesses being prepared to handle any disruption comes under the spot light.

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The deadly shootings over the weekend that claimed the lives of a number of patrons at taverns, and the deadly incident a few weeks ago that claimed the lives of scores of teenagers, highlight the need for small business owners to explore ways to improve the way they run their businesses.

A tavern in a township could possibly be the only source of nearby entertainment for patrons in the community, but policies and procedures should still be followed.

This means ensuring the employees joining a place of work are aware of what they should be doing when the order of the day is disrupted.

Unexpectedly, organisations will host fire drills and evacuation alerts. This does well in ensuring that staff are familiar with the procedure to follow in the event of an emergency. But how often do we focus on what is to be done when there is an armed robbery or a mass shooting incident involving our customers and staff?

Whether you are a small business owner or the board member of a leading firm in the country, due processes must be followed to educate staff on the emergency policy in place should unforeseen circumstances occur.

When we read the stories of stores being held up in malls, we also read of armed gunmen wielding weapons in front of staff and forcing staff to hand over cash. This is traumatising and will cause mental and emotional stress for staff members.

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Here are a few ways to get staff familiar with how to handle an unexpected scenario in the workplace:

When staff are inducted, they should be made aware of the emergency exits. This can also be recapped occasionally, at least once a year, so that even existing staff members are given a refresher on which route to take in the event of the emergency.

The staff members must also be aware of the assembly points. This means ensuring that there is signage in the correct places indicating that this is where people need to gather during the evacuation.

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Evacuation plans should also be placed in the boardrooms, training rooms and on each floor of the building. This gives staff and guests an idea of how to find the nearest exits in the event of an emergency. Not everyone will remember this information and we must familiarise ourselves with this so we know how to manage the situation of an emergency.

Relevant emergency numbers must also be available to staff. Have a list visible so staff know how to contact the police, fire department and an ambulance when there is a need. In the face of an emergency, it might be difficult to remember to remain calm and follow steps. Having information visible and accessible will help to remind staff on what to do.

Each team should have a designated first aid assistant. Invest in sending the staff member on the relevant training so that they are skilled in terms of how to handle an emergency situation. The first aid training is crucial in the organisation to manage immediate emergencies and aid while help arrives.

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No one can truly ever be ready in the face of an emergency. When an armed assailant is demanding the staff member hands over whatever is in the till or wants to get to the safe, then staff need to know how to handle this situation.

This is never something any staff member or customer should have to go through, but alas it does happen. Witnessing the shooting of clients or other staff members can be devastating.

However, it is in that moment that an individual requires the most amount of courage to remain calm and just comply with whatever is being asked of them.

As a business owner, take the time to refresh security. Change the passwords and update security systems. If you don’t already have armed response and a panic button in place, now is the time to do that.

It is in your interest to safe guard the business environment for both your staff and clients.

* Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African Corporate Training Provider & National Learning Institute. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or Independent Media.

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