It has started to feel like shootings and other dangers in business settings are becoming more common.

Just in the Twin Cities this summer, a man was shot at the Marcus Cinema in Oakdale, the Mall of America was locked down after gunfire in a store and shoppers and employees were stunned when a man shot himself at the Scheels store in Eden Prairie.

For business owners and managers, these emergencies are rare but can be deadly and traumatic to workers and customers.

While many large corporations and regional destinations already practice hazard planning for critical incidents, small businesses need to have plans in place as well, safety experts say.

Businesses can be found liable if they don't have critical incident plans to help mitigate foreseeable risks.

"It's no longer 'It couldn't happen here,'" said Randy Spivey, chief executive and founder of the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, a consulting firm in Tysons, Va.

One of the first key things for business owners should do is analyze their biggest risks. That starts with looking at the size of your business, location, the type and volume of customers you serve, number of employees and public access, said Jason Matlock, a longtime security consultant in the Twin Cities and a safety executive in the Minneapolis schools.

"Not every business is going to have the same kind of risks," Matlock said.

Businesses should put violence prevention policies in place to make clear what is acceptable behavior and when something should be considered a threat that needs intervention, Spivey said.

Employees need to be trained on indicators that show when an incident could lead to violence and ways to deescalate situations, he said.

Many times good customer service can help prevent a lot of incidents from getting out of hand, Matlock said.

Another part of forming a plan is figuring out how a business should respond to risks in the moment. Matlock suggests involving the people who are going to be part of the response such as store employees in the planning.

Owners should "table talk" with their staff to walk through different emergency scenarios so everyone understands how they are supposed to respond, Matlock said. Use similar frameworks for different hazards so that it is easy to remember who is calling for help and other roles.

Emergency planning not only helps organizations become more resilient in a crisis, but it also helps individuals, Spivey said. If people are trained on how to respond at work, then they would have more situational awareness during emergencies in their personal lives as well, he said.

While each scenario is different, generally if people can remove themselves from a potentially violent event, they should. If not, they should barricade themselves somewhere until it is safe. There are also situations in which they could fight back, if they're in a group, Spivey said.

Business owners have to figure out what they can afford and also what they would be willing to mitigate. A business could hire an armed guard, but an owner needs to assess if the benefits of that outweigh the possible negatives of some customers feeling uncomfortable with armed personnel, Matlock said.

As part of the response planning, businesses need to understand what sort of resources are available to them, like who they should call if someone is having a mental health crisis.

After responding to an event, there needs to be a recovery plan to communicate what happened within an organization and outside to the public. Other services like trauma counseling and family support should also be considered, Spivey said.

While businesses should be prepared, owners shouldn't just focus on worst-case-scenario violent incidents, Matlock said.

"It's not the thing that is most likely going to happen to you," he said. "It's much better to bring yourself into the world of being ready and dealing with things that are more frequent and more likely and also probably less traumatic."

Plans should be reviewed regularly. Organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Better Business Bureau offer free resources for businesses on how to create emergency preparedness plans and training.

Police departments can also be good resources for critical incident training, said Bloomington police officer Andy Risdall. Some larger police departments like Bloomington's reach out regularly to businesses on crime prevention topics such as emergency preparedness. Sometimes local law enforcement will do walkthroughs of businesses on request to provide feedback on safety risks.

Businesses in smaller communities could turn to their building owners or business organizations like the local chamber of commerce to help organize trainings, Risdall said. Risdall said he often sees more interest for active shooter training after a high-profile mass shooting has been reported in the news.

An emergency assessment done by a professional could cost between $1,500 to $5,000. Online training for workplace violence prevention at the Center for Personal Protection and Safety (CPPS) can range from $70 for a basic course to $1,500 for more intensive training and exercises. Several insurance companies provide discounts for organizations that achieve the CPPS Safe Workplace Certification, Spivey said.

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