Every year, 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence, according to the National Safety Council. Perhaps more alarmingly, for some occupations, violence is the third leading cause of death. Despite these grim statistics, the experts at Protective Advanced Safety Services (PASS) provide customized training and preparedness plans to educate and empower workers—most recently for the staff at Market Mentors in Springfield.

“We welcomed PASS as a client earlier this year and were intrigued by the valuable service they offer,” said Michelle Abdow, president, Market Mentors, a full-service marketing, advertising and public relations firm in Springfield. “We decided to experience the training first-hand, both so that we could gain a deeper understanding of their services, but also because we believe what they teach is valuable for everyone, no matter where they are.”

Co-founders John Nettis, Steven Grasso and Mark Poggi conducted the four-hour training with the help of Sergeant Matt Benoit from the Springfield Police Department Metro/SWAT team, John’s wife Lisa Nettis, and Officer Nina Valentino from the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, who brought therapy dog Brooklyn to help ease any staff anxiety.

“Some of our team members were uneasy going into the training, but the PASS team was very sensitive and supportive,” said Abdow. “Once the training began, we were all fully engaged. The whole staff was thankful for the experience.”

Nettis, Grasso and Poggi are all seasoned law enforcement officers and have risen through the ranks of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and the Agawam Police Department, respectively. All skilled in active shooter response and emergency preparedness, they strive to elevate workplace safety by offering role-playing scenarios, strategies and suggestions to employees, and creating custom-tailored, effective emergency action plans relevant to schools, places of worship, public events and places of business.

“We were moved by the events of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and the other tragic incidents in malls, public gatherings and houses of worship. We knew we wanted to make a difference; we knew we needed to,” said Nettis. “That’s what prompted us to form PASS. We want to provide civilians with a level of awareness and basic skills they can call on in case of an emergency.”

Grasso noted, “There are no limits to who can benefit from the training. Anyone can be vulnerable because of their public interactions. We don’t just put on a PowerPoint presentation, talk in front of a room and leave. We visit the workplace in advance to identify vulnerabilities unique to the property so that when we do provide training, it’s customized, relevant and actionable should an emergency occur.”

In addition to Market Mentors, PASS has conducted active shooter training at area schools and local businesses. They offer partial- and full-day training sessions, including some customized for management and human resources professionals who often benefit from reasonable suspicion and red flag training techniques.

“We all hope we never have to use the training we received from PASS, but it’s extremely beneficial no matter where we are,” said Abdow. “They customized the session to our facility, but the skills we learned would be of value if needed in any setting.”

Poggi added, “PASS exists because of necessity but thrives because of our commitment to empower people. All three of us are grateful to be in a position to be able to give back and share the knowledge we’ve garnered from our law enforcement careers to help civilians who otherwise wouldn’t have access to training.”