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ACR Taskforce on Safety: Recommended Guidelines — Part 1 in Series

ACR Taskforce on Safety in ADR
Association for Conflict Resolution:
Taskforce on Safety in ADR
ADR Safety Planning: Recommended Guidance

See Part 2 here

I. Introduction

A. Purpose of the Taskforce

The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) Taskforce on Safety in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has drafted the ADR Safety Planning: Recommended Guidance1 hereafter known as the “recommendations” to promote the safety of practitioners and participants in ADR processes. The Recommendations are intended to encourage and assist practitioners and ADR provider organizations when considering, planning for, and implementing safety procedures in all ADR processes they conduct. Put another way, they are intended to reduce the likelihood of violent altercations in and around ADR processes, and to address them if they occur. The Recommendations are not intended to address other potentially dangerous events, such as severe weather, fire, etc. Any safety protocols you establish should be coordinated with the policies for these other situations.

B. How these Recommendations Should Be Used

When drafting these Recommendations, the Taskforce defined ADR practice widely so these Recommendations might speak to the widest possible audience. It is hoped that this guidance will resonate with practitioners who work in many areas of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and encourage them to develop specific appropriate procedures for their own processes. These recommendations should not be perceived as the final word on safety but as initial guidance and an invitation to a larger conversation on an often neglected subject.

These Recommendations should be viewed as more of a “list of ingredients” than a “recipe for practice.” There is no single combination that will be right for all circumstances or even for every case handled by an individual practitioner.
The ingredients/recommendations can be used by individual practitioners, provider organizations, practice areas within the ADR field, and the ADR field as a whole. The Recommendations are not addressed to participants in ADR processes.

  1. Individuals
    ADR practitioners can use these Recommendations to shape their safety procedures. When doing so, it is particularly important that individual practitioners ensure that those working with them or in their vicinity, e.g., support staff and colleagues, are part of their safety procedures.
  2. Provider Organizations
    “Provider organization” is defined broadly here. It may include anything from court staff conducting child custody mediations inside a courthouse, to a community mediation program with volunteer mediators operating in a storefront, to a group of private neutrals arbitrating high-dollar-value litigation in a downtown office building.
  3. ADR Practice Areas
    Some areas of ADR practice have given more thought to safety than others. For example, practitioners who work with family cases know that domestic violence that occurred during a marriage may spill over into the divorce process. As the Taskforce considered examples of violence related to other types of ADR cases, the Recommendations were designed to be applicable to as many situations as possible.
  4. The ADR Field
    The Taskforce encourages national, regional and local conflict resolution and ADR member organizations to pursue this topic further. More study by academics who are interested in the field could add to the usefulness of this endeavor.
    The Recommendations2 are designed to address physical safety, not psychological or emotional safety. It is possible, however, that participants’ increased sense of psychological or emotional safety will reduce the chance of something unsafe occurring.

C. How the Taskforce Developed these Recommendations
This Taskforce was established3 in response to violent incidents that took place after ADR processes in 2013, specifically, a horrific incident that occurred after a mediation in Phoenix, Arizona that ended in a double murder and suicide. These incidents highlighted the pressing need for further investigation into how to properly prepare for and hopefully avoid similar future incidents.

One of the early steps in the work of the Taskforce was to reach out to ADR practitioners to solicit examples of incidents that became or almost became physically violent before, during, or after an ADR process. We collected information from numerous news media sources, over two dozen ADR practitioners, including screening protocols in family cases with a history of domestic abuse, which were then reviewed, compiled and analyzed.

When analyzing these incidents, one trend emerged. Not surprisingly, family, divorce and domestic violence cases had more incidents of violence and potential violence than other areas of practice.


1 ACR and the Taskforce members disclaims liability for any personal injury, property, or other damages of any nature whatsoever, whether special, indirect, consequential, or compensatory, directly or indirectly resulting from the publication, use of, or reliance on this document. In issuing and making this document available, ACR and this Taskforce’s members are not undertaking to render professional or other services for or on behalf of any person or entity. Anyone using this document should rely on his or her own independent judgment or, as appropriate, seek the advice of a competent professional in determining the exercise of reasonable care in any given circumstance.

2 The following recommendations are comprised of information gathered from professionals in the field of ADR, crisis negotiations, security and workplace violence. Many of the specific recommendations are derived from the works of Ellis Amdur, and the initial work done on this topic by Nancy Yeend for the Florida court system, as well as conversations with former FBI crisis negotiator and Taskforce advisor Greg Noesner.

3 The members of the Taskforce would like to specifically commend Stephen Kotev and Corey Schlegel for their effort on this Taskforce. Their dedication and contributions to our mission are deeply appreciated. The countless hours and deep commitment to our mission were instrumental to the success of this Taskforce.


Stephen Kotev

Helping people resolve problems and improve their performance under stressful circumstances is Stephen Kotev’s passion and profession. With a Masters degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Stephen has substantial experience in mediation, negotiation, facilitation, conflict coaching, conflict management and somatic education.… MORE >

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