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 Trust Matters, May 2016 

Planning for active shooter situations

Did you know?

The Claims Corner: Lessons learned

Fast facts from the Spring Meeting tour

NC Risk Online Training

Property Acquisition Considerations

Calendar

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Planning for active shooter situations

It’s hard to comprehend horrors like those seen at Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary, the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., or, more recently, the social-services center in San Bernardino, Calif.

But active shooter events – while we hope never to see them at home – aren’t fading out. And it’s imperative that workplaces plan for the unthinkable.

That was the takeaway at a recent League presentation to municipal officials that focused on the three primary human responses to crises – fight, flight or freeze – and how preparedness can influence them.

It’s the freeze -- a paralyzing state of disbelief, most vulnerable to victimization – that preparedness may help to avoid, said League Public Safety and Risk Management Consultant Tom Anderson.

“We’re looking to have a trained response,” he said.

That’s crucial, because many active shooter situations play out quickly, according to Anderson, who presented at a League Risk Management Services regional meetings held around the state, including April 8 in Raleigh. Anderson’s presentations are part of the League’s insurance pool offerings designed to go beyond insurance and help members manage risk and liability.

Active shooters almost never take hostages, he said, and they generally don’t negotiate. They simply want to claim as many victims as they can in the shortest amount of time – and they often plan carefully.

Victims can’t anticipate surprise, but there are potential life-saving options that supervisors and employees should know.

The first objective for anyone in an active shooter situation: run. Get out of the building or area immediately, if possible. Don’t worry about valuables. “You can’t hesitate, even for one second,” said Anderson.

It helps to know the layout of your building to find escape routes, but if an exit isn’t immediately possible, hide. Find a place to flee, if not to lay low, then to buy time for an escape. Run into an office or closet, turn off the lights, lock the door, barricade it and silence cell phones. If possible, quietly dial 911.

If running or hiding is off the table, and the shooter is engaging you, fight. That’s a last resort. Use whatever is handy – chairs, books, fire extinguishers. “Do not just sit there,” Anderson said. “He’s not there to take hostages…. He’s there to take lives.”

There were at least 160 active shooter situations between 2000 and 2013, according to the FBI. Casualties exceeded 1,000, with nearly 500 deaths. The numbers have since risen.

“This is not something that’s going away,” Anderson told the group. “And none of us are immune to it.” Being prepared with an immediate response plan when seconds matter most can be enough to change the shooters’ expected outcome.

If it happens, ideally these bits of know-how will make a difference. To hammer the message home, an Internet search for “run hide fight” will turn up a video produced by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security on the topic.

But active shootings aren’t the only deadly forms of workplace violence. While homicide is the fourth-leading cause of occupational death, it can target single individuals. Anderson told the group that spotting red flags in advance and knowing how to de-escalate tension with a troubled employee can make all the difference in the world.

Individuals worth watching might exhibit indicators like inconsistent attendance, decreased productivity, slack hygiene, changed behavior or apparent substance abuse.

Any number of factors might lead one to violence. Layoffs, a bad evaluation, a supervisor not recognizing the employee’s work, and a hypercompetitive nature can all contribute. If a flare-up occurs, Anderson recommends a gentle response. Be patient with the individual, speak softly and show “an overabundance of respect” to cool the situation. Allow him or her to vent. With proper training, a fellow employee will know to call the police, as violence in the workplace should be met with a zero-tolerance policy.

To calm and reassure innocent employees after any such episode, it’s important that supervisors bring in counselors quickly, Anderson added. They can help to soften trauma and improve coping with what could shake the psyche of a team environment.

Did You Know?

Last year a Members Only folder was set up as a way for all MIT (Municipal Insurance Trust) participants to receive their new MIT rates and to have the most current forms for all coverages in which they participate. This folder can be found online under the Risk Management Services Website at http://rms.nclm.org under Insurance Document Center. Once inside, the HBT folder contains health insurance information specific to your organization. Many groups have not yet logged into this folder. If you participate in medical, dental, vision, life, supplemental life, dependent life, or short- or long-term disability through MIT, it is very important that you access this folder for the most current rates and forms for all of your benefits. Please email Julie Hall with any questions about this at jhall@nclm.org.

The Claims Corner: Lessons learned

In the world of claims, we often have to predict how a court or jury would determine whether or not there is a duty owed to the person filing the lawsuit, if there is a breach of that duty, if the person filing the lawsuit suffered any measurable damage, and if the municipality was the proximate cause of the duty, breach and damage.

There are times when the lawsuit goes to a hearing where we ask the judge to make a ruling on the pleadings as to whether or not there was a duty, breach, damage and proximate cause. Based on that request, we can ask that the judge issue a “summary judgment” or that the lawsuit be dismissed outright in a motion to dismiss.

Occasionally, we have to take these lawsuits before an entire trial of the facts and damages, and let the court or the jury issue a verdict.

We have taken two such complaints before the court or a jury in the last 30 days.

In one case, where a police officer was charged by a prosecutor with voluntary manslaughter, the court found that the officer was not guilty.  The rest of that story is that our investigation showed from the outset of the claim that the municipality had well-considered policies on the proper use of force, the policy was updated as to current law, and that the officer had followed the policy. Our investigation showed that the use of deadly force was justified based on the requirements of the policy on the use of force continuum.

As we all know from recent media coverage from across the United States, officers actions in the use of force are being carefully viewed by the public and police are often the subject of mobile phone video recordings. In this case, while very tragic, the court found that the officer had made the right decision.

The same principles also apply in employment law matters. A municipality’s personnel policy should be up to date and based on current law. It should outline that the municipality review each employee’s performance at a minimum of once a year (every six months is preferred) and that the employee be given a written evaluation of the positives of his or her performance and the areas in need of improvement. There also should be a written policy in place of progressive discipline (should that be warranted) and what those progressive steps may be.

The second complaint that recently went to trial came after years of discovery (or fact finding) since the lawsuit was filed.  The employee alleged wrongful termination and evidence was presented that the written policies -- both of the operations of each department of the town, as well as the personnel manual of the municipality -- were very old, out of date and not based on current law.

The jury findings in the case were very critical of the municipality, and jurors rendered a significant judgment against the municipality.

The obvious emphasis here is that each municipal government absolutely must keep the operations manuals of each department up to date, clearly written and current. The personnel policy also must be up to date and based on the latest case law. And always document, document, document!

Fast facts from the Spring Meeting tour

If you were able to attend one of our seven regional meetings, we appreciate you coming out to learn more about the insurance programs administered by the League. If you missed our meetings this year, you can access the materials here. Below are some “fast facts” regarding our programs that we hope you will find helpful and interesting.

  • One reason that we are able to keep rates low and stable within the workers’ compensation and property/liability programs is because investment income represents 42% of the expenses to run the workers’  compensation pool and 27% of the expenses to run the property and liability pool.
  • Revenue to the property/liability pool is reduced by approximately $450,000 based on various rate reductions; we are able to absorb the reduced revenue due to continued good experience.
  • Incentive credits remain generous for workers’ compensation and property/liability, at $3.1 million and $2 million, respectively.
  • The Health Benefits Trust improved its financial position considerably in 2015; the “Risk Based Capital” adequacy increased by 150 points, placing this program in the upper echelon for programs our size.
  • The Health Benefits Trust has seen a reduction in claims that exceed $50k and $250, enabling a modest overall increase in rates for 2016-17 of 3.1%.
  • Several underwriting changes were implemented in the Health Benefits Trust to improve our competitive position, enhance rate equity, and leverage flexibility which we have as a pool versus commercial carriers.
  • Our goal is to improve the health and well-being of the members of the Health Benefits Trust; we are making progress as the non-compliance rates for wellness screenings has plummeted and participation by those invited to participate in our “Personal Care Management” program has soared.
  • Implementation of predictive analytics have allowed us to identify those within our population most likely to drive costs so that we can focus our wellness efforts on these individuals, i.e. offer “Personal Care Management.”
  • Our telemedicine offering is growing and savings are mounting ($88,000 in the first six months).
  • 86 members completed our first “Naturally Slim” program and many lost considerable weight; the program will be offered again in August.
  • Our care management programs (utilization review, large case management, smart starts, personal care management, etc.) saved $1.5 million in 2015.
  • An affordable life insurance/long term care program is now available from Municipal Benefits.
  • We have launched our new online training program, “NC Risk,” where water and waste water employees can complete their continuing education requirements, planning boards and staff can complete land-use decision-making training, and HR professionals and managers can take employment law training.
  • Law enforcement risk reviews were launched this spring, providing a policy review with recommendations.
  • Attendees received training in workplace violence and response to an “active shooter” on the premises.
  • If you have any questions about these programs, designed to serve all of your risk management needs, please let us know.

NC Risk Online Training

Members of the workers’ compensation and property and liability pools have access to a valuable training tool.  NC Risk is risk management services’ online training resource that is free to pool members.   Recent enhancements were made to offer more training topics, increase user flexibility, and improve administrative options. 

Each year our members take over 8,000 training classes on NC Risk.  Employees can select from over 100 training topics, including recently added training for land-use decisions and employment liability.  Risk Management Services partnered with the UNC School of Government to develop training modules that are designed to educate staff, including members of municipal boards, who are responsible for making difficult decisions associated with land use.  The land-use training consist of 12 modules that  guide the user through complex issues including vested rights, evidentiary hearing, ordinance adoption, exactions and spot zoning. 

Employment liability can be a challenging topic for any supervisor. We are working with employment liability attorneys to develop a set of nine modules designed to train supervisors on topics ranging from hiring, discrimination, wrongful termination, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and workers’ compensation.  All employees who have the responsibility of managing staff are encouraged to complete this training.

Additional enhancements include a classroom management system that allows the administrator to manage classroom courses, notifications, and enrollments.  The administrator has access to reports on training activities and a convenient visual indicator of system usage as well as goal and compliance statistics.  All training records are archived and employees are provided a certificate for all successfully completed classes.

For additional information on NC Risk online training, please contact Brenda Rich at 919-715-2902 or brich@nclm.org.

Property Acquisition Considerations

There are times when a town or city is faced with the opportunity to acquire a building either by purchasing or by gift. Sometimes these buildings can be a useful asset for the future. Other times it can be more of a liability. There are many items to consider before taking ownership of a building. Click here to read more.