What to do if a robbery occurs

Don’t panic. That’s one fundamental piece of advice pharmacy crime experts have for pharmacy technicians, pharmacists and their colleagues in the event that their workplace is hit by an armed robber.

It’s about staying calm — even in the face of a gun-wielding criminal demanding drugs or money — and knowing in advance how to respond. “The best advice that I can give is that they follow the individual’s commands, that they maintain their calmness and that they don’t try to intervene and stop the individual,” said John Gilbride, director of law enforcement liaison and education for pharmaceutical maker Purdue Pharma, which sponsors an information-sharing website on pharmacy crime called RxPatrol. “Give them what they’re looking for, let them walk out the door, and be the best witness for the police.”

Over the past four years, the National Community Pharmacists Association and Purdue have teamed up to help pharmacies protect stores, staff and patients against robberies and other crimes. In 2010, the two organizations launched a new campaign, dubbed “REACT,” to help pharmacies plan for and thwart crime.

REACT stands for a list of recommended actions that pharmacists and pharmacy techs should take in the event of a robbery in progress: remain calm, eyewitness, activate alarm, call police and take charge.

Megan Sheahan, PharmD, director of professional affairs for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board said REACT is “a very good plan to follow” in the event of a robbery. However, she added, whatever emergency plan is adopted, staff should “make sure that it’s modified appropriately, that everyone knows their own role … and that the whole team functions well together.”

Once the threat is out the door, Gilbride said, there are key steps that must be taken quickly to improve chances that the perpetrators are eventually caught and that threat is removed from the community. The first is calling 911; the second is locking the doors and preserving the crime scene by “not touching or disturbing anything,” Gilbride warned. “They should also be prepared to take notes to describe the individual … because peoples’ recollections in times of stress vary greatly.

Give out a pencil and paper right afterward so everyone can write down, while it’s fresh in their minds, [the robber’s] height, weight, hair, any distinctive markings like scars or tattoos.”

In most cases, the security expert said, “there’s all these little indicators, and one person most likely will not pick up on all of them. It will be a combination of identifiers, and whomever this individual comes in contact with will remember different things.”

“Of course, if anybody is injured, the most important thing is getting them assistance. Then all these other steps come into play. But the main thing is to maintain the safety of the employees and the customers,” he said.

Following a robbery, technicians also are urged to call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 888-4RxTIPS (888-479-8477) to provide information and a description of the suspect.