Layers of Resistance for School Safety

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza moved around Sandy Hook Elementary with unrestricted access to victims and executed our most vulnerable and precious gems with minimal resistance.

The release of the After-Action Report (AAR) detailing the incident’s investigation revealed many points in the report that are noteworthy of attention. The most notable point being the importance of implementing layers of resistence.

What Happened At Sandy Hook?

The Sandy Hook AAR states that Lanza murdered his mother, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary. Armed with an assault rifle and two handguns, Lanza made his approach to the front entrance doors of the school. Up to that point, the rules during the hours of operation were to funnel any visitors to a single point entrance at the front of the school. At the front entrance, the school had installed a camera and intercom and outsiders could only enter when buzzed in.

At this point Lanza met his first layer of resistance. He fired the semi-automatic weapon at the glass window next to the secured front entrance doors. Lanza then entered a first grade classroom through the unlocked door. He executed two adults and fifteen children and then emerged near classroom number ten. Again, Lanza was able to freely move into a second, unsecured classroom and killed two more adults and five children.

This is where Lanza decided to take his life with a self-inflicting wound to the head. In my professional opinion, Lanza decided not to pursue the remaining children in the room or move on to another classroom because he met his second layer of resistance: the approaching sounds of police sirens.

Locked Doors are a Layer of Resistance

After studying the sequence of events mentioned above, I can presume that if all classrooms had their doors locked, Lanza would not have been able to murder 26 people that day. In fact, during my review of many active shooter incidents I have yet to find a time any assailant came to a locked door and forcibly breached it. That is why locked doors can be an important layer of resistance.

Why are Layers of Resistance Effective?

When layers of resistance are placed in front of the assailant it provides them with fewer opportunities to complete their mission. If layers of resistance are present it creates time to be controlled in the favor of the victims.  Whether staff call 911, alert the rest of the school, barricade the room, hide children, evacuate or prepare to fight back, these additional layers prolong the attacker from harming victims. When Lanza shot his way into the school he met his first layer of resistance. This barrier caused him to waste ammunition, and alerted the school. This layer of resistance also sparked several staff members to call 911 and hide.

After Lanza moved into the school he did not meet another layer of resistance until he heard police sirens. On an everyday basis, keeping doors locked is easy and free of cost. At Sandy Hook Elementary, they had solid wood doors that opened outward toward the hallway. Consequently, if they were locked then Lanza would’ve had to breach the door by prying it open. In addition to simply locking doors, barricading doors can be another effective layer of resistance.

This allows for time to lapse in order to wait for first responders. Additionally, the sounds of law enforcement arriving on scene are a layer of resistance because it tells the attacker time is up. The attacker is forced to execute their final objective and that is traditionally suicide or surrender. I believe if all classroom doors were secured at Sandy Hook we may have only lost two adults that day.

In Conclusion,

It is important to remember the lessons learned from Sandy Hook. Thankfully, schools are taking steps to improve their safety plans and security features. Our company strives to educate administration, teachers and parents on what today’s trends are regarding safety risks. In order to combat violent attacks to the masses, layers of resistance have to be in place along with the implementation of training and drills.

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Stay Safe, Stay Prepared

-Steve

About Steven S. Smith

Steven S. Smith, the President and Founder of Guardian Defense, offers active shooter training programs to staff within schools, colleges, churches, law enforcement agencies, businesses, and hospitals; in order to build confidence and save time in the event of an intruder, active shooter or killer, or other terror attack. Mr. Smith is a current certified law enforcement officer and has a range of experience on school and public safety, and investigation work. He is currently a team leader and instructor on the SWAT Team, for which he joined in 2009. Mr. Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a concentration in Criminal Justice, in 2005 from Nova Southeastern University.