Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

Violence in the Workplace

Important Contacts

In the event of an emergency, the Duke Emergency Web Site will be updated frequently with instructions and information about the incident, as well as campus services and resources available to the Duke community.

Direct Threat Behaviors
Direct threat behaviors are prohibited and include acts in which one threatens violence; harasses or intimidates others; interferes with an individual's legal rights of movement or expression; or disrupts the workplace, and the ability to provide service to the public.

Examples of a direct threat:
  • Fighting
  • Destruction of property
  • Person makes a statement that they are suicidal or homicidal
  • Person makes a statement that they will harm someone
  • Person displays a gun, knife, or other instrument that could cause harm
  • Person makes a statement that they will go get a weapon
  • Person is out of control by yelling, screaming, flailing arms, or throwing dangerous objects

What to Do If There Are Concerns of Workplace Violence

If you're presented with a violent situation you should have an idea of what actions you will take. If you are able to rehearse your strategies you will be better prepared to handle the situation in a calm and thoughtful manner. Rehearse and have an open dialog with employees or a colleague and have, if possible, a joint plan as to how to handle a pending violent situation. For more information, go to the Duke University Emergency web-site www.emergency.duke.edu and read, 'How Can You Be Prepared?'.

Be observant of early warning signs:
  • Observe cautiously and document appropriately (see warning signs of potential workplace violence)
  • Report questionable or concerning behavior to the appropriate supervisor
Actions to take when there is an emergency or potential threat:

A situation is considered an "emergency" if an injury has occurred or if there is an immediate threat of physical harm or injury. In an emergency, the staff member should consider his or her personal safety first; the staff member should then adhere to the following steps below:

  • Remain calm and have a plan in mind as to what you will do
  • Do not attempt to challenge or disarm an armed and dangerous person
  • Call 911 on Duke telephone system to reach the Duke Police or call 919-684-2794 or call Durham Police at 919-560-4601
  • Give the dispatcher detailed information about the direct threat. What, when, and where did it happen. Describe who is involved, and a description of persons involved.
  • Give the location or last known location of the person making the threat.
  • Cooperate with security/law enforcement personnel and give your contact information.
  • Immediately find safety for yourself and that of others.
  • Contact your supervisor/manager and provide details of the incident.
  • Contact PAS for support, as needed, at 919-416-1727.
Actions to take if there is not direct threat but suspicious activity; a "Non-Emergency":

A situation is considered a "nonemergency" if no injury has occurred or if there is no immediate danger, but the words or gestures of one person has induced fear of physical harm in another person. See warning signs of potential violence.

  • Respond quietly and calmly.
  • Do not ignore the person who may be doing something hurtful or harmful. Try to interrupt the behavior and redirect that person into doing something else.
  • Gather information relating to the suspicious activity.
  • Document and discuss with your supervisor or manager the suspicious activity.
  • Call the Duke Police to report the suspicious activity at 919-684-2444
  • A staff member who communicates a threat must be evaluated by the Employee Occupational Heath & Wellness prior to returning to work. Supervisor should call 684-3136.
  • Contact PAS for support, as needed, at 919-416-1727.
  • Become familiar with the "Workplace Violence Education Program" through the Duke Police Department.
What to do if you are a supervisor of an employee who has been threatened or feels a threat:
  • Immediately deal with the threatening situation, do not ignore evidence of possible violence.
  • Discuss with the employee and document detailed information about the threat.
  • Determine the level of threat and the support needed to handle the problem.
  • Determine what level of assistance the employee needs to feel safe.
  • Can I get others to a safe exit, if necessary?
  • Review Duke's policy for handling this type of intervention.
  • Think before you act, avoid confrontation, use common sense, be reassuring.
  • Review how to deal with angry people.
  • Encourage the employee to receive assistance from PAS.
  • Alert your supervisor about the threatening incident.


Special acknowledgement to the University of Washington's HR web site on Violence Prevention for use of some material.