School Safety Preparation from Active Shooters
By Andrew Pusztai
No matter where you are, at work, public places, or at schools, you may be impacted by mass killings. These are now referred to as active-shooter situations or events. Unfortunately, children have been targeted, and repeatedly during the past two decades, including elementary, middle, or high schools. As a grandparent, I am very concerned that our children and grandchildren remain safe at their schools and hopefully not have to deal with the likes of recent events in Parkland, Florida. What can be done to protect against this and minimize the number of deaths resulting from these events? There are several important issues that need to be addressed, however, I am only going to address one aspect of preparation and that is to conduct “active shooter training and drills.” I will not address banning guns or other actions needed to help prevent these situations.
The United States Department of Homeland Security defines the active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”
One of the ways is to color code the emergencies as is done at my granddaughter’s middle school.
Currently, it is up to the states to legislate training or drill preparation for active shooters at schools. In fact, it is only required in 40 out of 50 states. Those states that have regulations are not being enforced or holding schools accountable to meet their drill/training obligations.
There are also people that are opposed to calling these drills “active-shooter drills,” and my position is why not call it what it is. However, whatever the schools want to call it, it still needs to be done. One of the ways is to color code the emergencies as is done at my granddaughter’s middle school.
The approaches for active-shooter response, developed in recent years, are to give schools more flexibility than a lockdown. They are generally referred to as “options-based” approaches. “Run, hide, fight” is a well-known example of an options-based approach.
No matter what approach your organization selects, here are a few good practices.
Good practices for coping with an active-shooter situation (as applicable for students and teachers):
Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers
Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility
If you are in a classroom, stay there and secure the door
If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door
As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.
And CALL 911 WHEN IT IS SAFE TO DO SO!
A good way to educate and understand more on this subject is to research what is recommended and customize it to your needs. I recommend https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness as an excellent source of information. Guidance is also provided in an “Active Shooter Pocket Card” at https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/active-shooter-pocket-card-508.pdf 5070_TWS Family LLC_2017_ArchiveK1Package
Also, there is a federally endorsed and new school safety protocol called ALICE. The goal of ALICE training is to teach a variety of strategies that empower teachers and students to protect themselves against an armed intruder, increasing their chances of survival in that terrible circumstance. I am fortunate that the school system my grandchildren attend have endorsed, trained, and implemented ALICE.
The letters ALICE stand for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate:
Alert – inform people of the threat, giving as much information as possible.
Lockdown – Students and staff can choose to lock down and barricade the room that they are in if they determine that it is not safe to evacuate.
Inform – pass on as much information as possible to others and to First Responders, including calling 911.
Counter – an effort of last resort, if an armed intruder is able to get into the space they are in, individuals can counter with distraction or other tactics. Staff have been trained to use every effort to stop the intruder, instead of relying on the traditional lock down and hide response.
Evacuate – If it is safe to do so, all are encouraged to evacuate the building, and remove themselves from the threat.
Information about the ALICE program can be found at www.AliceTraining.com . Please contact your school principal with specific questions about ALICE training at your school.
All schools need to keep children safe from these situations, and one way is to prepare and properly respond to them when they occur. I urge all parents and grandparents to check with their respective schools to ensure they are providing the proper drills and training for the students and teachers. It is the schools’ responsibility to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. Let’s not have to read about another tragedy such as the Parkland, Florida event.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Andrew Z. Pusztai
Andrew retired after 45 years working in the electric power industry. During that time, he was actively involved in Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity planning, developing related procedures and associated training. He also received “Active Shooter Response at the Workplace” provided by his employer. Andrew believes his training can be transferred to “Active Shooter Preparation and training at Schools”.