How to Survive a Pharmacy Robbery


With pharmacy robberies on the rise, it is more important than ever for pharmacy professionals to know how to stay safe in the event of an armed robbery.

With pharmacy robberies on the rise, it is more important than ever for pharmacy professionals to know how to stay safe in the event of an armed robbery.

A recent Pharmacy Times article provided ways to deter robbers from targeting your store. Unfortunately, even security cameras, adequate lighting, and a security guard may not be enough to protect you, your co-workers, and your customers.

If you are on duty when an armed robbery occurs, there are a few simple things that you need to remember to help avoid injury, or even death. A little mental preparation can go a long way toward helping law enforcement officers catch the thief.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control offers the following tips:

1. Remain calm.

Training and preparedness will help you keep your wits in a dangerous situation. If your pharmacy does not offer robbery preparedness training, ask upper management to consider adding it to the list of required annual courses for pharmacy employees. It may also help to visualize or role play what you would do in the event of a robbery.

2. Do not make sudden movements.

Sudden movements might provoke an alreadyjumpy and skittish robber, so do your best to control your nerves, moving slowly and deliberately.

3. Do as you are told.

It is very important that you do as you are told in the event of a robbery—nothing more, nothing less. Your main concern should be your life and the lives of your co-workers and customers.

When faced with an armed robber, it is not the time to worry about protecting store property, your cash drawer, or your drug inventory. For proof of this, research the aftermath of pharmacists who take “the law” into their own hands during a robbery. Some received life sentences for murder.

4. Do not resist.

Do not argue with the robber. Arguing and attempting to confront a robber can be extremely dangerous and have disastrous consequences.

5. Do not attempt to apprehend the robber.

Unless you moonlight as a law enforcement officer, you probably do not have the skills and training to disarm and apprehend a robber safely and successfully. Don’t try to be a hero. For your safety and the safety of everyone else in the store, leave catching the criminals to the professionals.

6. Observe the robber’s physical characteristics.

This is another area in which training and preparedness will help you immensely. If you are able to remain calm, then you will be able to observe the robber’s physical characteristics, including:

  • Height (because after you read the Pharmacy Times prevention article, you installed height bars, right?)
  • Build (skinny, heavy, muscular, etc.)
  • Approximate weight
  • Clothing (mask, costume, type, color, etc.)
  • Hair color and length
  • Tattoos
  • Scars
  • Facial features (beard, moustache, piercings, eye color, etc.)
  • Any other unique physical features (walking with a limp, etc.)

Any information that you can give police about the robber’s physical characteristics will increase the chances that the suspect will be apprehended before any further crimes are committed. It may also help to lock down the store until police arrive to prevent witnesses from leaving and to ensure the safety of everyone inside.

7. Pay attention to other aspects of the robbery.

Any additional information you can provide police will be very helpful, including:

  • Did the robber use a note? If so, save it for the police.
  • Was there a weapon? If so, note the type (revolver, semi-automatic handgun, knife, shotgun, etc.) and color.
  • Was there an accomplice? If so, try to remember any unique physical characteristics.
  • Was there a getaway vehicle? If it does not put you or anyone else in danger, note the vehicle’s make, model, license number, and direction of travel after the robbery.
  • Is the robber on foot? If so, note the initial direction of travel.
  • Did the robber touch anything in the store? If so, let police know right away. Try not to touch the crime scene to avoid damaging any fingerprints that the robber may have left behind.

I hope with all my heart that you will never experience a pharmacy robbery, but the sad fact is that some of you probably will, especially those who work in retail. Taking steps now to prepare yourself and your co-workers will help you stay calm and may even save your life during an armed robbery.

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