Your Resource: A Workplace Violence Threat Assessment Glossary of Terms

As with most branches of the security industry, organizations that conduct workplace violence threat assessments have developed their own terms and terminology over the years. In fact, so many terms have come into use that the University of Nebraska compiled them into a 20-page glossary known as the Threat Assessment Glossary

Theirs is certainly not the final say. More terms are being introduced all the time.

Let us examine some of these terms, but first, let’s start with TAL Global’s definition of a workplace violence threat assessment:

A workplace violence threat assessment involves investigating an incident that has already occurred; or determining the credibility and seriousness of a potential threat, the probability that the threat will become a reality, and steps that can help prevent or mitigate it should it occur.

With that explained, here are some key – and unusual -terms as they relate to threat assessments:

Affective Violence. Sometimes called impulsive, emotional, or reactive violence, it is a random act of violence, often occurring in response to a perceived threat at the moment.

Anchors. Anchors provide stability; anchors help reason with the individual, intending to help prevent a violent act from being committed. 

Observable Indicator. An observable action suggesting that an attack may be imminent.

Behaviors of Concern. Similar to an observable indicator, these are behaviors that an individual exhibits, suggesting they are progressing on a pathway of violence.

Bunker. The term is linked to the phrase “bunker mentality.” This is when an individual or group becomes defensive and is surrounded by fortifications (real and virtual) to keep information in or detractors out. Individuals adopting a bunker mentality can suggest an attack is imminent.

Credible Threat. A threat, direct or veiled, that is thought to be real, not just hypothetical. The entity’s ability and intent to carry out the violence is one test of whether a threat is believable.

Domino Effect. This phrase refers to an event’s cumulative effect, initiating a succession of unfortunate events.

Energy Burst. An increase in the intensity of warning behaviors by the would-be attacker usually indicates an attack is imminent. An energy burst often occurs on the pathway to violence.

Final Act Behavior. The attacker prepares shortly before the threat or violence is carried out. This can include publishing reasons for the attack or executing a will.

Grievance. The shooter has a highly personal complaint or resentment, often fueled by a feeling of being wronged. 

Howlers or Barkers. Refers to individuals that may present threatening behavior but never carry through with violence. For instance, habitual howlers make threats as if it was a hobby but never act; a celebrity-seeking barker threatens individuals with high public profiles, but there is no bite beyond the bark.

Information Silos. Information about a potential attack that is kept separate, tightly controlled, or not shared. When information about a threat or threatening situation is not shared, it can inhibit attempts to prevent or manage it.

Insider Threat. An individual (or individuals) with access to a facility who uses that access to disrupt or cause harm to the facility, the organization, or others involved with that organization.

Intervention. An action or process that modifies the behavior, thinking, or emotions of someone about to commit violence. 

Intimacy Effect. A real or imagined relationship between the attacker and their target – the victim. This intimacy is often the attacker’s perception of a relationship with the target, which may be utterly unknown to the victim.

And finally, Last Resort. This is when an attacker is at close range, you cannot flee, and your chances of survival are greatest if you try to incapacitate the attacker.

A review of these terms can help you better understand threats and threatening behavior.  However, the most effective step you can take to prevent or lessen the chances of violence in your facility is to have a professional threat assessment conducted.

As always, we value your feedback, which helps us shape our perspective on recent events, security, and the services we offer.

Stay safe,

Oscar Villanueva

Chief Operating Officer
TAL Global
O: 1-408-993-1300



© TAL Global, 2019