Critique of Homeland Security’s Guide to Prevent School Gun Violence | SAFETY DOC PODCAST #106 [Podcast]

[PODCAST] Homeland Security twirled off the rails with its patchwork 2018 Guide to Preventing School Gun Violence. Anyone else think suggesting smoke cannons as counter-measures to an active shooter is better scripted for Hollywood than for classrooms?

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In my book, School of Errors, I use the analogy of fielders in a baseball game to make an argument against single focus safety initiatives. One could train baseball players to field line drives. In fact, the coach could swat sizzling liners for hours. Players would improve at fielding liners hit directly to them. Per our friends at Baseball Info Solutions, we know the following statistics to represent a typical game of baseball. 45% of batted balls were grounders, 36% were fly balls and 19% are line drives. Practice all you want on liners, but if you can’t snag a grounder then you are going to be foiled by half of the balls put into play. In other words, we need our professional guidance documents to prepare us to field any ball.


The DHS guide identifies four phases of security: Connect, Plan, Train and Report. OK, connect with law enforcement and community agencies. That makes sense, until you realize that the steady churn of staff will shuffle the point of contact every few months. People are great at starting inter-agency collaborative teams. People stumble at attempting to sustain such efforts. The guide doesn’t address this or the need to have redundancy in training and a solid induction process for on-boarded players. The 29-page missive wasn’t enriched by this section, or other sections that attempted to push in place a foundation for the document. Readers don’t need a literature review. Know your audience.


Beats me – and I’ve been in this field for over 20 years! Mystery solved! It is an Option For Consideration. You have to hunt through the document to find that in the narrative as it’s not bolded or highlighted. Oh, I later found it in Appendix E: Acronyms. So, we have a “new” term. DHS whiffed at the most important point. Do not take on too many OFCs! Again and again, school administrators tell me they can focus on 3-4 objectives and yet routinely list a dozen or more safety objectives as they don’t want to leave anything off the list. I get it, but you can’t be a mile wide and an inch deep.


This section was a sloppy mix of primitive technology (CCV), stating the obvious (Door Locks), and ludicrous ideas including thwarting school intruders with smoke cannons, turnstiles and drones. What’s next? Perhaps dumping a jar of 5,000 marbles into the hallway would impede the shooter? After all, a similar approach proved effective in the movie Animal House.


The biggest problem with Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center (REMS-TA) is that many school leaders aren’t aware of it. Yep, even my knowledge of REMS-TA was scant until member checks in the field continually calibrated me to what is the most complete, accessible, friendly center dedicated to increase school safety. These folks are dialed in. You won’t weed through redundant or fluffy documents to find something you can plug into your school safety plan. REMS-TA has templates, samples, and will connect you with a local person to inform your school’s emergency management. And, webinars that are relevant and they know your name! It’s not attending some one-way concert. Learn about REMS-TA:  If you want to be entertained by the hot mess that is the K-12 School Security Guide 2nd Ed. (2018), visit


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