Active Shooter Training

When I began as a teacher in 1997, Jonesboro and Columbine hadn't happened yet. By the end of that first year, everything had changed. Now, 27 years later, we must start each year with training designed to prepare staff to respond quickly to a violent intruder in the school. Active events have spread beyond schools to the workplace, churches, and community events. The science of preparedness and response improves with each horrendous crisis and schools continue to evolve in their preparedness for such an event.

The school partnered with Strategos this year. Strategos is an international firm training corporations, schools, and other businesses how to respond during an event to save as many lives as possible. The school invited first responders and the new School Resource Officer (SRO) to observe the training and practice scenario. Five first responders and city workers attended as well as the new SRO, Adam Thomas.

The first two hours were spent covering the history of active shooter events in schools, the psychology involved in causing and dealing with events, watching and listening to 911 calls and interviews from events, and other relevant information to prepare staff.

The next phase was to move into the hallway and go through live scenarios where staff are not prepared, where staff are somewhat prepared, and where staff respond appriopriately. Doing these live drills give a staff member a frame of reference to draw upon in the unlikely case of an actual crisis. 

I was not prepared for how hard just a mock scenario was to experience. Watching the "shooter" move from room to room in the unprepared scenario firing the CO2 gun was scary. My adrenaline shot up, my hands shook, and my eyes teared up thinking about "what if" as this shooter stalked through the hall and rooms shouting and finding people cowering under desks and in closets, occassionally firing the CO2 cartridges that sounded like a 9mm. That's with no kids here. 

Knowing how to hide isn't enough. Teachers have to know how to protect your kids, and that includes taking an assailant out. In the second scenario, when the attacker entered the room, staff fought back by throwing classroom object at him.

The final stage of training was a classroom demonstration of how to lock and layer the room to prevent intruder access. For the sake of safety, I won't share everything, but there are multiple measures in place and indivdiual teachers can add other layers of response beyond the basics in any combination they feel comfortable.

In the 3rd scenario, staff reacted to the sound of shots coming down the hall. They swept kids into rooms and began the secure and layer process. The shooter banged on doors, made threats, pretended to be a child, and pretended to be law enforcement. He was not able to penetrate a classroom with the measures the school has in place that can be deployed in less than 6 seconds.

No one wants to think about these things. But not thinking about them means to not be prepared if it does happen. After this training in their halls and classrooms, staff have been sending me ideas and suggestions. Every morning they enter their classroom, they are running through a mental checklist of what they would do in the case of an event.

Preparation doesn't end with 4 hours of training. The school is working on a tabletop plan that will include first resonders and law enforcement. The school is looking at conducting a threat assessment. The school will be applying for the new round of state grant funding. And thats on top of the measures we've been adding to the district over the last 3 years.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this awful, but necessary exercise. The first priority for any school is the safety of children.

Parents, thank you for entrusting your children to us every day. We are prepared and promise to always continue to improve.