Workplace Violence Warning Signs

Worplace VIolence Warning Signs

Another preventable incident of workplace violence at a Home Depot in NYC.

Doing nothing is a choice. Too many preventable lives lost have forced our eyes open to the fact that we need to choose to do something more. We can no longer afford in live in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the first responders to save us once something does.

Workplace violence does not happen “out of the blue.” There are observable behaviors which when reported and assessed SAVE LIVES.

Someone won’t see everything, but everything is seen by someone.

In the aftermath of workplace violence, colleagues and co-workers in each case stated that they observed several pre-incident indicators, but considered them insignificant or just “weird” behavior. Even today, many office workers do not have a practical understanding of what a pre-incident indicator looks like, let alone have an effective reporting process to submit their concerns. The truth is that while someone may not see everything, everything is seen by someone. Just like in a dramatic detective story, it’s that seemingly insignificant piece of information that makes all the difference. An effective threat assessment process is just like a detective trying to solve a puzzle. Each little piece helps to make the bigger picture possible.

Employees may feel that reporting such concerning or “odd” behavior to the attention of their manager or supervisor is frowned upon as “ratting” or have anxiety over being labeled as “paranoid.” The reality is that reporting such potentially dangerous behavior is in the best interest of everyone.

Threat assessment is a time and information based process. Only when these identifiable behaviors are reported can scenarios be identified and assessed BEFORE they impact safety, productivity and livelihood.

How it works

Most threat assessment resources today are dedicated to the politicians and the public figures who are being directly targeted. As a result, there are a lot of big fish in a very small pond who are all competing for that small 1% of the celebrity market share. Coursen Security Group wants to bring this process to the other 99% of the population who are just as much at risk, but who don’t typically have the resources made available to assess and monitor a non-targeted threat. Our job is to bring sunlight to the dark corners of danger in order to empower you with the best practices possible to stay safe.

When it comes to assessing threats, personal concerns are the greatest source of information. Our internal sense of defense is so finely tuned for ensuring our personal safety that it automatically acts as a safety net for what is good and what is bad. Anything that falls into the “bad” category should be reported. Instead of rationally explaining away noticeable concerns, we encourage you to report them.

As threat assessment professionals, we want to assess everything that seems concerning, out of place, weird, or worrisome. Your instinct knows best, but “red flags” of particular importance may include things like:

Explicit statements about harming someone

Increased mood swings

Expressing suicidal comments

Increase in abusive language

Changes in behavior

Unsolicited comments about guns or other dangerous weapons

Increase in alcohol or drug use

Anxiety or uncertainty about family/relationships/situations

Resistance and over-reaction to changes in procedure

Change in appearance/decline hygiene

Sending disturbing messages (such as texts, emails or letters)

Repeated violations of company policy

Loss of job/income/relationships

Disruptive behavior/irritability/abrasive towards others

Fascination with violent and/or sexually explicit movies and/or publications

Identifying with other persons who engaged in past violence toward others

Making statements that support the use of violence to resolve issues

Basically, if you sense something, say something. You report. We decide.

Starting a simple email address at work that can be used by all, like is a great way to get started. Make reporting easy and effective. The more puzzle pieces your staff provide, the more likely a potential hazard can be managed toward peaceful resolve.

Benefits of an independent threat assessor

You need someone who can help you identify and assess those situations most likely to impact safety, productivity and your company’s bottom line, but without all of the overhead of direct staffing. HR is often inundated with a hundred other priority tasking, and benefits, insurance, and salary for a full-time assessor may add up quick.

To help you reduce cost AND risk, Coursen Security Group (CSG) offers monthly threat assessment subscription models designed to offset the cost of keeping your safety certain. One flat rate allows for anyone in your office to submit both personal concerns from their private lives as well as professional concerns from inside the workplace.

The simple fact is this: employees are more likely to submit their concerns to a private consultant who is independent of their personal and professional relationships. Someone who they know is looking out for them, but with whom they don’t interact on a daily basis.

How does this help you?

Each and every submission is tracked and monitored which not only provides you with the ability to reduce risk and prevent violence, but also provides useful productivity information to conduct business more efficiently.

As the business owner, there is no downside. At the front end, you are able to track and monitor where the productivity disruptions may exist in your office, but on the back end you may very well save a life!


Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert | Washington, DC


Workplace Safety Solutions | Spencer Coursen

Spencer Coursen President of Coursen Security Group talks about workplace safety solutions

Most business leaders are aware of the risk associated with bringing their services into the marketplace, but what about those concerns inherent to their actual place of business?

However unlikely it may be for a business to be directly targeted, the reality is that too few businesses have taken any proactive measures to effectively reduce their vulnerability. Today’s business can simply not afford to hope that nothing happens, and then solely rely on first responders to arrive in time to be effective once something does. In the age-old coin flip of prevention vs reaction, a preventative approach is always more favorable in terms of identifying issues before they impact office safety, productivity and the companies bottom line.

I spent the last two weeks speaking and visiting with as many office managers, business owners, and general staff as were available and/or willing to meet with me. All things being equal among the businesses I visited, I was able to identify three areas of suggested enhancement where vulnerability could be reduced for the benefit of all.

Access Control

Keeping people out is easier than getting them out. Effectively controlling who’s allowed through your front door is especially important if once someone is allowed inside there is nothing preventing them from having free-reign throughout the rest of your establishment. If there is no access control through the front door, than compartmentalization is important. Much like a bank who’s lobby doors are open to the public, few have access to behind the teller desk, and even less have access to the vault. Effective access control is the most effective, yet most underemployed precaution for ensuring workplace safety.

Safe Havens

A safe haven is nothing more than a place you know you can go to be safe. Everyone knows if there is a fire to evacuate the building. What most people don’t know is where to go next. In an emergency, it’s always best to go from unsafe to safe. The parking lot fifty feet from the building may be a safe distance from a fire in the break room, but it is not a universal safety precaution from other threats that are just as likely to occur. Take some time to talk with your staff about where you can all go for accountability, continuity, and safety should you ever have to leave the office in a hurry. Even if it’s just to the Starbucks down the street, make sure everyone knows where to go and knows how to get there. Identifying safe havens is a lot like wearing your seatbelt: Often just a precaution, but invaluable when needed.

Write Down the Weird Stuff

Someone may not see everything, but everything is seen by someone. When it comes to identifying and assessing those events that are most likely to be a concern, information is invaluable. The creepy, curly haired guy you noticed going through the work trash out back, write it down. The flower delivery guy who for-whatever-reason made the hair on your neck stand-up, write it down. See the obsessive gym guy who won’t take no for an answer driving by your office, write it down. The smallest things can be huge indicators when viewed through the prism of space and time. Chances are, others saw something too. Even if you talk about it with your coworkers in the break room, writing it down while it’s still fresh in your mind will not only serve as confirmation of what you saw, but will provide a time/date stamp to compare against similar reports. Start a simple email address at work that can be universally used by all, like The more puzzle pieces you provide, the more likely a potential hazard can be managed toward peaceful resolve. After access control, an effective threat assessment and management program is the next most important precaution for reducing risk and preventing workplace violence.

Safety is often nothing more than the by-product of awareness and preparation. Taking a few moments to put a plan in place is sometimes all you need to prepare today for a safer tomorrow.


Spencer Coursen helps manage unfavorable circumstance toward favorable resolve. He is a security advisor, analyst, consultant, and strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, private individuals, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity

Principles of Protection: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over | Spencer Coursen

Spencer Coursen | Coursen Security Group

Spencer Coursen - Coursen Security Group - Finish Line Graphic

Prior to starting Coursen Security Group, I spent the better part of my professional life protecting well-known public figures and advising them on a best-practice approach to personal safety.

Even in today’s 24hr entertainment news cycle, most public figures are able to go about their daily lives without a protective detail following their every move. Unfortunately, their lives do become become inherently more complicated whenever they agree to a planned public appearance. Whenever the general public has a reasonable expectation of a precise time and place a public figure can be found, effective personal protection should always be employed as a preventative measure.

These are events like book signings, charity events, fundraisers, movie premiers, speeches, or any other event that has been made public in advance.

It is important for both the protector and the public figure to understand why these events have an increased level of risk. Unlike an off-the-record, or impromptu appearance (think President Obama making a pit-stop at Shake Shack) where the likelihood of an attack would be considered “Low / Target of Opportunity” – events that are publicized in advance give a would-be-attacker critical information like dates and locations, and perhaps most concerning, time to plan.

As any protector worth their body armor will tell you, it’s easy to walk behind someone and look confident. It’s something else entirely to plan a protective mission from conception to completion, all while reducing non-required exposure, risk, and vulnerability for every conceivable scenario.

Every possible contingency must be conceived, planned and prepared, and one thing must always be understood. It’s not over, until its over.”

Spencer Coursen - Coursen Security Group - Countdown Graphic

The game clock starts the moment the public figure departs for the event and does not stop until they are safely secured back at home.

Each passing second is another moment for the would-be attacker to gain confidence. The stakes only get higher as the event winds down and their window of opportunity grows smaller.

The mindset of the protector must not end with the “good night’ applause.

Too many times in history has the end of an event been met with violent consequence. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Benazir Bhutto, and President Ronald Regan, were all attacked after their “official program” had ended, but before they had successfully departed. In Boston, the marathon bombs exploded hours after the race had been won, and the day seemed all but over.

Complacency kills and has no business entering into the mindset of those entrusted to be vigilant.

I remember driving a client home one evening after a long day with a complicated itinerary.

From the back seat and still forty minutes from having him home I heard him say to me, “It was a good day, today. Good job!”

“It’ll be a good day for me once you’re home safe, Sir” I responded politely.

“You’re right,” he said, “Thank you!”

Anything worth doing, is worth doing right, and doing it right means seeing it through…all the way to the end.


Spencer Coursen helps manage unfavorable circumstance toward favorable resolve. He is a security advisor, analyst, consultant, and strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, private individuals, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity


Fitness Tips: Staying In-Shape Safe

Survival Of The Fittest | Staying in-shape safe
Trainer Whitney Cole, Fitness and Fuel LA
Trainer Whitney Cole, Fitness and Fuel LA

Did you know that being fit will not only help you live a happier and healthier life, but is also a significant factor in helping you stay safe? It’s true! Criminals assess risk too when selecting a target for an inter-personal attack: they target the weakest, not the strongest among us. Both the physical condition and confidence emanating from an individual in good shape serve as deterrents to potential attackers.

For this article, I reached out to good friends and celebrity trainers at Fitness and Fuel LA Whitney Cole and Byron Paidoussi. Likewise, they often find clients are motivated in workouts when trainer can connect mastery of certain exercises and improved strength to actual real-life survival situations. Thus, workouts are heavily peppered with functional training, further improving coordination between major muscle areas.

Being in good physical condition promotes self-assurance, and helps prevent injury from accidents. Too many of us have found ourselves winded and sore after having to muster intense physical exertion at an unexpected time. Emergencies are a lot like broken elevators; they typically occur when least expected and when we’re most ill-prepared to deal with them.

Fitness & Fuel LA designs specific workouts for their professional athletes’ respective positions. We can learn from their example and incorporate exercises that have practical, functional applications for our everyday lives.

As you go about your day, take a moment to notice your surroundings and the physical obstacles you may encounter if faced with the unexpected. You can then draw from these obstacles for inspiration when creating your fitness plan. It helps to think about how an exercise might be able to help you in a real-world emergency scenario.

For Example:

  • Live/work on a top floor? Elevators are one of the first things to fail in emergencies. Whenever time permits, opt for the stairs vs. elevator. To your workout, add stadium stair runs, hill sprints or the ‘ole stair master.
  • Live in an earthquake zone? Pushups and bench presses better be in your routine. The more total weight you can move, the more easily you’d be able to push fallen objects off you. Pec strength doubles for pushing away a would-be attacker.
  • Should you need to barricade a door and/or keep it pushed closed? Squats and shoulder presses will no doubt serve you well in this emergency.
  • Ever been stuck in an elevator? Those box jumps and pull-ups will help you reach the ceiling escape panel.
  • Sprints are more important than long distance training. In today’s school and business environment, a 10K run to safety may not be likely, but having to run as fast as you can down a hallway to a stairwell or to exit a building or across the street to escape falling debris or a would-be attacker is actually very realistic. On a track or soccer / football field: Sprint straightaways and jog/walk the curves to recover. Juice up your treadmill session with interval sets: sprint 15 seconds, drop speed to recover 30 seconds, repeat 5 times. Recover 2-3 minutes and do it again.

Short on time? Whitney and Byron Fitness and Fuel LA recommend an intense circuit of functional exercises such as pushups, planks, burpees, crunches and lunges, which when performed to failure can certainly work up a sweat!

Watch the workout video here:

For those times you do find yourself out on that long run, please remember to identify a few Safe Havens along the way. Remember that grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies are just as likely to offer help as the local police station and firehouse. Whenever going for a walk, jog or run in support of your fitness goals, pick routes where such escape/safety venues are accessible.


Spencer Coursen helps manage unfavorable circumstance toward favorable resolve. He is a security advisor, analyst, consultant, and strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, private individuals, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.

 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity