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Mass violence incidents have caused retailers to review not only their crisis preparedness plans, but also to take a closer look at how they deal with the mental health and emotional stress of their employees associated with these events.

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On May 14th, store managers, employees and customers at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, NY found themselves faced with the horrific reality of an active shooter situation in the store – a tragedy that resulted in the death of 10 people and the injury of three people.

The shooting was one of more than 350 mass shootings so far this year in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive, and more than 150 people were killed or injured in workplace shootings from 2015 to 2021, the study found. Statista – The Realities They Have encouraged retailers to review not only their crisis preparedness plans, but also to take a closer look at how they deal with their employees’ mental health and emotional stress associated with these events.

“The tragedy at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo has prompted an almost universal review of crisis management protocols among food retailers,” said David Fikes, executive director of FMI – the Food Industry Association Foundation. “Food retailers are responding to the increase in incidents of active attackers in different ways; some are preventive in nature, others are more preparatory; some focused on ensuring the physical safety of their staff and customers, while others focused on addressing the emotional and mental suffering caused by incidents of domestic terrorism.”

The sheer number of incidents of mass violence has a detrimental effect on mental and emotional health, says Dr. Jonathan S. Comer, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Florida International University.

“The more catastrophic events we are exposed to as a nation, the more we will be affected on a psychological level,” Comer told the American Psychological Association.

According to the National Center for PTSD, those most closely associated with an incident of mass violence will almost certainly respond with a “stress response.”

“For most people, these reactions will gradually diminish over time, but some survivors and responders — especially those with specific risk factors — may experience longer-lasting or severe reactions,” the center said in the report. “Those affected by disaster and mass violence show a wide range of psychological, behavioral, physical and emotional responses. The most common mental health diagnoses reported in the study samples were post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, acute stress disorder, and complicated grief.”

Engaging employees, assisting the community

To better respond to these responses, food industry HR departments are actively engaged in ensuring that company employees — and in some cases, community members — are aware of the professional services available to them to address workplace stress, emotional disorders, or even just a higher level of anxiety that everyone is experiencing, FMI’s Fikes said.

“In cases where a community has been directly affected by overt violence, food vendors have been instrumental in mobilizing the faith community, professional therapists and other relief agencies,” Fikes said. On the same subject : Joint statement by the leaders of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States (I2U2).

Helping the community was of utmost importance to grocers in particular, Fikes explained, since, often, retail locations are seen as community gathering places and an integral part of community life.

“Supermarkets have long been known as the emotional centers of their communities and have shown once again that the noble quality of working hard to provide counselling, emergency care and emotional support is readily available to all those traumatized by the senseless tragedy of lives lost at the hands of an active shooter,” Fikes said. .

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Structuring crisis response plans with mental health in mind

As for the physical protection of employees and customers, some retailers have opted to hire off-duty police officers or professional security guards, Fikes said, while others have asked local police to patrol the neighborhoods where their stores are located more often and provide more visibility. presence in the community. This may interest you : OH MY GOD! The Outdoor Music Guide Is Now Available | City of Madison. After the Tops shooting, FMI partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to offer an active briefing to food industry attackers that included the motivations, tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the shooters and helped inform strategies employees could take to would reduce future casualties. attacks.

Even those precautions must take into account the potential impact on mental emotional health.

“Retailers want the shopping environment to feel safe, secure and inviting, so they had to consider the pros and cons of each approach, trying to strike a balance of ensuring that their actions to ensure safety on the one hand did not have the negative effect of raising alarms and heightening anxiety in another,” Fikes said.

After the Tops shooting, the retailer offered grief counseling to all associates and their families — an important step when it comes to supporting employees not only through the trauma of the event but also through the loss of a colleague, according to Cheryl Raudenbush, CEO of Mazzitti and Sullivan EAP Services in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania, who said that company employee assistance programs can play a significant role in that process.

“Any time your employees are affected to the point where they are unable to function at their peak, it can be helpful to bring in an EAP counselor [or grief counselor] who can help organizations respond to the death in a timely manner,” Raudenbush told the Society for human resource management.

Fostering a culture that encourages open discussion and support can also make a difference.

“The way we show up for our employees during the most painful and traumatic times of their lives is something they will never forget,” Mita Mallick, head of inclusion, equity and impact at San Francisco-based finance company Carta, told Society for Human Resources Management. “These are the moments that matter in the workplace, and sometimes we have to put the book down and admit that someone we know has died.”

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