NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Neighboring cities are now beginning to look at how they can better keep their workplaces safe following the deadly mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
At a Norfolk City Council workshop last week, City Manager Doug Smith announced that in the days following the deadly mass shooting in Virginia Beach, city department leaders from Norfolk and Portsmouth met to discuss improving workplace safety.
“Next step is to create a culture of safety,” Smith said to council members.
On May 31, a 40-year-old city engineer went from floor to floor in building 2 of Virginia Beach’s Municipal Center, shooting his co-workers before being killed in a gun battle with police.
Twelve people died in the shooting — eleven of which were city employees.
Smith ordered training be mandatory to help employees prepare for and respond to critical incidents like the one that occurred at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.
“You got to take the training seriously, you got to be there,” said Michael Goldsmith, one of Norfolk’s Deputy City Managers and former Police Chief.
He told council he wanted all the city’s more than 5,000 employees to be able to be in a room and know how they would barricade the door or escape in an emergency.
Goldsmith said the city was looking to retain an outside expert to conduct a facility security assessment on City Hall and other buildings to improve workplace safety and security.
“What that will do is guide us in the building of our security strategy,” Goldsmith said
In Virginia Beach, Police Chief Jim Cervera said officers were on scene outside the building where the shooting happened within two minutes. But he described the offices as a “honeycomb” and a “maze” due to renovations over the years.
“What is needed at some parts of the building where you’ve got customers that come in all the time, that is a different level of security then what you need for people that are doing strictly administrative work in the tower of City Hall,” Goldsmith explained. “So what we are going to try to do is get someone who is going to come in here to help us figure all that out.”
He said there may be recommendations that require changing the architecture of the building and the relocation of services.
Suffolk leaders have suggested a similar look may be needed on their building.
“We need to come look at our own home here in Suffolk to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep our employees … from ever going through this tragedy,” said Councilman Roger Fawcett, of Suffolk’s Sleepy Hole neighborhood.
“We are all together,” said Suffolk Mayor Linda Johnson. “If we can do anything to make things better, now is the time.”
Above all else, Goldsmith said employees need to know they are being cared for.
“Want to make sure we do a complete policy review, of our HR policies when it comes to workplace violence, where it comes how we treat each other,” Goldsmith said.