This country is awash in firearms. And in most cases, a school shooter is not a complete stranger, but a current or former student who has easy access to the school and can leverage their knowledge of the layout and safety procedures to deadly effect. While we can talk endlessly about how to better identify students at risk of committing violence—and that is definitely a conversation worth having again and again — what concerns me most is how to limit the damage once a shooting begins.
But teachers and students can find themselves in an active shooting situation. And it happens without warning, so they need to be prepared. In the case of a school shooting, the lesson begins with identifying the first responders. But in an active shooting, those professionals are minutes away — enough time for the attacker to kill and wound dozens of people.
Because the real first responders are not the security services, but those in closest proximity to the shooter—namely students, teachers and other members of staff.
The internet is full of videos and instructions on what these various options entail but based on my experience, the most effective is Run, Hide, Fight. Once the bullets start flying the faster and further you get away from the shooter, the safer you are. Run, Hide, Fight are not disconnected responses. Scenario 1 — Best Case. Whatever the reason, not being present in school at the time of a shooting is the best case scenario.
Scenario 2 — Run. In this scenario, you are in school but have some distance from the shooter. The best response, in this case, is to RUN. Scenario 3 — Hide. On the same floor, only a room or two away. You barricade yourself; lock the doors, close the curtains or blinds on any doors and windows facing the hallway, pile and wedge furniture and other items against the door remember that hiding from view does not protect you from bullets ripping through doors, soft walls, and furniture.
If a group of you can escape — great. Delaying even a few seconds could cost you your life. Fire extinguishers which can be used to first blind and then bludgeon a shooter , bug spray, scalding hot coffee, chairs, books, even computers. Basically, anything that can be used as a missile should be grabbed and at the ready to tackle a shooter should they breach the door.
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Scenario 4 — Fight. The last place you want to be when a shooter opens fire is next to them on the same floor space. It is the worst case scenario because the danger to you is immediate and critical. Attack the shooter with anything you can get your hands on.
Ideally, those around you join the fight and the attack is mobhanded. Speed, unbridled aggression and surprise are your greatest assets in this fight. You want to put the shooter off their aim and cause them to go on the defensive with you on the attack.
And by completely, I mean kill them. They were about to kill you and may already have killed and wounded others around you. If you let your guard down, the shooter could regain the upper hand and start the killing spree all over again — beginning with you.
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Better to eliminate that possibility if you get the chance. Then sit on the floor with your hands in the air, or if asked, help those with first aid training attend to the wounded. Every second counts. At this point, the police may just have been notified and are scrambling to respond to the threat.
In the meantime, you are responding. Because you are the first responder.
How to protect yourself during a mass shooting
First as a Special Forces soldier and later as a private security advisor. But my success is largely down to the professionalism of the people who mentored me as a young SF soldier from the mids. If you follow this rule, your brain never stops. Those in charge of school security need to be just as proactive and vigilant. They need to constantly plan and rehearse for the day that hopefully never comes. Hope alone is not a plan.
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Absent from many public discussions of response plans is how to support students who are physically, mentally, or emotionally impaired. For example, able-bodied students and faculty could help someone wheelchair bound escape through a window by placing them in a soft carry stretcher provided the extra time does not place those carrying the stretcher in imminent danger. Like escape ladders for higher floor classrooms, stretchers are inexpensive and could prove a lifesaver. Too many people lull themselves into a false sense of security by believing a shooting will never happen at their school.
How to survive a school shooting
Even for those who do recognize the possibility, as one day flows into the next without incident, the easier it is to grow complacent. You must remain relentlessly proactive. Having read through the scenarios, some schools may consider training students and teachers how to fight off an attacker. There are a range of option for unarmed combat training; boxing, jiu jitzu, karate and other martial arts. But in my opinion, street fighting techniques are best for taking on an armed shooter. Unlike martial arts, street fighting is not a sport. Classroom lockdown plans and drills help ensure that students and staff are ready to respond appropriately to an active shooter, act of violence, or any other scenario where safety requires staying in place.
These drills are the basis for ensuring that staff, teachers, and students are ready to put emergency plans into action in the event of a school shooting. The following procedures should be taken when there is an active shooter inside your school building:. As with any major emergency or disaster, school emergency response resources may be stretched in event of an active shooter. Schools and individual classrooms may need to rely not only on their own planning and previous drills but also on their own emergency supplies. The U. School emergency kits or classroom lockdown kits provide the tools needed to survive any emergency lockdown situation.
Each classroom should have their own school emergency kit, which includes emergency instructions, medical first aid, a gunshot wound kit, search and rescue supplies and tools, water [5-year shelf life], and items that supply warmth, shelter, communication, light, and sanitation. Here is a list of what we recommend including in-classroom lockdown kits:.
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For excessive bleeding and major wounds, we recommend investing in a gunshot wound kit:. Updated, April With school shootings showing no signs of decline, it is important to have tough conversations about how to prepare our Schools for the unthinkable event. How to survive a school shooting with a classroom lockdown plan. The following procedures should be taken when there is an active shooter inside your school building: Never use codes, make the announcement direct.
Direct all students who are in hallways or open spaces into a classroom. Lock all the classroom doors.