Friday, January 11, 2013

Developing an Emergency Action Plan: How to Protect Your School in the Event of an Active Shooter Attack

Since the horrible attack that occurred in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, many are wondering how to protect their children in the event this happens at their school. Even though Sandy Hook Elementary did have a lockdown procedure in effect at the time of the assault, the shooter was still able to penetrate the perimeter and kill twenty children and six adults. Many schools are looking to hire armed guards to help mitigate a future attack. I believe armed former/retired law enforcement officers utilized as plainclothes guards at schools is a great option if it’s affordable. However, it’s probable that as costs mount, many schools may eliminate the armed guards – perhaps even by the end of the school year. Regardless of budget, there are some simple, cost-effective procedures that schools can implement to keep casualties to a minimum. The key is to thwart the shooter in the first two to three minutes of his rampage when the police have yet to arrive. Slowing down the shooter’s attack will confuse his plans and frustrate him into changing his course of action. It will mean that the shooter has to stop, think and regroup. By delaying his actions police will have time to arrive on the scene -- hopefully before the shooter gains entry into a school. So how do we do this? 1. The perimeter of a school should be secured. If its doors have large areas of glass, they should be covered with decorative bars that will prevent the shooter from entering even if he shoots out the glass. A ballistic film can be added to the doors if decorative bars are not utilized, however, it may be costly. 2. Once children are in their classroom for the day, the perimeter of the school should always be locked so that no one can gain access without being identified. 3. All schools should have a lockdown alarm that is different from the fire drill alarm. Alarm activators should be placed in many different areas around the school so that anyone can set the alarm off. Once this alarm is activated, everyone will know that the school is in lockdown mode. This alarm will also immediately notify police that the school is in lockdown and that an attack may be in progress, allowing law enforcement to respond immediately. 4. Institute lockdown procedures that include a procedure for both the perimeter and the classrooms. • Every door and window included in the perimeter on the first floor should be locked immediately. • All classroom doors should be locked and barricaded with a desk or large object with children inside. • Windows in classroom doors should be shaded so that if the shooter gains access to the school he cannot see inside the classroom. Decorative bars need to be in place if the windows are large enough for a shooter to break and gain entry. • Shades on the first floor outside windows should be drawn so the shooter cannot look into the classrooms and acquire a target. • Children should be told to lie down on the floor and keep quiet, taking cover behind upturned desks. • Teachers should grab for something that may be used as a weapon, such as scissors, fire extinguisher, even a pen. • In the event the shooter does access the classroom, the teacher should attack aiming for the eyes, throat, groin or knees. • Children should be told to run outside to a previously chosen safe area in the event the teacher attacks a shooter who has gained accesses to the classroom. • Children should not be told to bunch up in a corner, as bunching can make it easier for the shooter to shoot more at once. 5. All school staff should be educated on these procedures and two drills per school year should be conducted. 6. It is imperative that each school works with its local law enforcement agency when developing an emergency action plan. Although there is no 100 percent foolproof method, I believe my basic procedure is the best and most cost effective way to deal with the problem of school shootings. If followed, these procedures will delay an attack and reduce casualties until police arrive. Children are our most precious commodity and we must protect them at all cost.