One in four school shootings conclude in 5 minutes (Secret Service Report, 2002).
In general, active shooter situations end in 12-15 minutes (Homeland Security, 2012).
School-based attacks were stopped through interventions by school staff or students 32% of the time or by the attackers stopping on their own 22% of the time (Secret Service, 2002).
For 25% of school shootings, police will arrive after the event has concluded. Even if a school is located blocks away from a police department, avoid complacent thought that police are simple sitting at desks – waiting to rush out to a call. No, they are on patrol, they are at the scene of an accident, they are escorting fire engines to a blaze – they might be miles away at the moment you call – don’t tell people that police response time will be 3 minutes.
What can schools do to maximize an effective response to an active shooter situation?
- Use technology to your advantage. The benefit of living in 2013 is digital communication. Use 2-way digital radios to connect administrators and key staff not only throughout buildings, but throughout the district. New radios also have a “scanning” channel that enables an event to be immediately communicated to the other radios. In addition, radios can be programmed with a channel that interfaces with local police radios. I’m not an expert on radio communications, but I am working with our district’s radio communication vendor to explore options to enhance our system and am amazed at the options available to our district.
- Time drills. That’s right, time them. Download a timer app and see how long it takes staff and students to go to their lockdown locations and implement lockdown procedures. Take it seriously. You don’t want chaos – but this shouldn’t be a stroll in the park. If your drill takes 5 minutes, well…
- Walk throughs. Any time, any day – walk through the school. Tug on door handles – note the ones that aren’t locked – classroom doors, doors to the woodshop, doors to the custodial closet — tug on all of them. Oh yeah, propped doors – confiscate those little blocks and devices sitting beside doors to prop them open. Of course, new ones will fall in line, but then take those, too. How about a sign – “No propped doors EVER”
- Self-Defense Training. Some police / administrators / consultants support training staff and students to “take down” an intruder with a gun. I am aware of a school district less than an hour away from me that entertained that discussion (they opted to not go that route, however). I’m not really an advocate of that type of training – I think it promotes false bravado and is foolish compared to attempts to shelter behind a locked door. Still, my thermometer on this subject is showing more red than it did in the past. The reality is that if one is in a situation in which they are directly confronted by a shooter, options are few. Do nothing and perish. Attempt to flee. Throw anything at the shooter. Rush the shooter and try to bring them to the ground – of course, this works better with the element of surprise or with multiple people. Still, it just seems to be a misplaced macabre training for children.