Civil disobedience takes two basic forms: mass disobedience like riots, and individual disobedience like altercations and assault which may include small groups, e.g., up to four or five perpetrators. Mass civil disobedience is a real cause for alarm. If the turmoil is outside of your facility, it would be good to keep it there. Lock your perimeter doors to discourage entry. Do nothing to aggravate the crowd or to draw attention to yourself or your facility…perhaps the commotion will pass you by. Whether it does or does not, the authorities should be notified. If the melee is inside your walls, about all you can do is stay out of their way. By definition, that riotous crowd is out of control and without reason. Do not try to protect the building or its contents by interfering with the unruly mob. Your personal safety is far more valuable than the physical assets of the Y. Once the tumult has passed out of your building you may follow procedures similar to those for the aftermath of a tornado. If fire exists, follow the appropriate fire procedures. If there are injured, apply those principles. The only good thing about riotous behavior is that is very rare in our society.
Individual civil disobedience, unfortunately, is not uncommon in our culture. Fortunately, it is relatively uncommon in the Y environment, and even though unfamiliar, it is still relatively straightforward to handle. In the case of an altercation, an attempt should be made to separate and calm the combatants. With an assault, of first importance is the care and safety of the victimized individual. In either scenario, the extent of personal involvement will vary with the circumstances and other personal considerations, but at the very least the situation should be challenged. Although it does no good to have multiple victims, aggressive behavior of such magnitude cannot be condoned. If a disagreement cannot be quieted, the authorities should be summoned. In the case of an assault they should be summoned as soon as is practical. First aid should be rendered as soon as the violence ends. The executive director or another member of the management team should be involved immediately and should keep in touch with the victim both to stay apprised of his/her medical condition and to inform him/her of action regarding the situation undertaken by the Y, if any. When first aid treatment is completed, all witnesses should be queried for their observations as soon as possible and an incident report made. Denial of Y privileges or revoking of Y membership may be appropriate repercussions for aggressors.
In cases where the assault is reported but not actually viewed by the staff member, the first action should be rendering of first aid, if necessary. The incident should then be investigated similar to any other injury report. The executive director should become immediately involved, as above.
Any violent act should be carefully investigated. If it was an assault, attention should be paid to its apparent purpose. For example, was it in conjunction with a robbery? Was the victim surprised by someone who was lying in wait? Is there something that can be done to reduce the potential for similar actions, e.g., trimming of foliage, increasing of illumination levels, installation of security cameras (with recording tapes), utilization of security guards, etc? If it was an altercation, has there been any previous similar incident with regard to the involved programming (or individuals)? Did it arise from conditions that could have, or should have been controlled by the Y? In either case, what can be done to ensure that a similar event does not occur?
Any violent crime is very important to us… we want to make certain that, to the best of our ability, nothing like it will ever happen again, as such incidents can literally close our doors for good.
Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at http://redwoodsgroup.com/ to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.