At an ever increasing rate, our children’s schools are experiencing an influx of violence. Parents dropping their children off at daycare centers or public or private schools should feel confident that they are placing their children’s lives in the hands of a school who believes as much, or even more, in the safety of the children as they do for providing quality education.
Mandates of Required Drills
As a current law enforcement officer and SWAT operator in south Florida, I specialize in conducting school safety drill exercises at both public and private schools. Through Guardian Defense, I have created training programs for teachers and staff on how to respond and prepare for an intruder, active killer or other terror attack.
Currently, there are no mandates within the state of Florida to conduct a set number of monthly drills for the following:
- active killers
- bomb threats
- hazardous materials.
Following the tragic incident in Parkland, Florida, the state of Florida has passed a bill regarding mass shooting drills. However, this bill requires two mass shooting drills per year. This is a major step, but two drills a year is not enough.
In order to prepare properly for these incidents, one must understand the differences between them and the different responses every teacher and staff should know.
Fires, bomb threats, suspicious packages and hazardous materials are incidents that all require an evacuation. These threats also have a common thread: the threat is typically isolated. For example, a suspicious package is located on the south side of a school. The school’s response will be to evacuate the entire campus. The teachers and staff will be in control of the movements and typically these evacuations are controlled and structured very well with minimal stress.
An intruder on campus requires a lockdown response in most cases. The administration needs to empower each teacher to make their own plan based on the knowledge that they have. With this knowledge, they may choose to evacuate. When I state “intruder”, I mean any person not authorized to be on campus.
There are typically two different types of lockdown responses that a school will experience. For the purpose of this article I will call them a “standard lockdown” and an “emergency lockdown”. A standard lockdown is any incident occurring off campus.
The second, an emergency lockdown, occurs when an unauthorized person is on school grounds. For an emergency lockdown, teachers and staff are required to react on their own. There is no group response or following what the teacher in the next classroom is doing.
Expect a Communication Disconnect
If an active killer begins creating havoc inside a school, one can anticipate a large disconnect in communication. This means teachers and staff have to react to the situation and not rely on the traditional intercom system they may use as a tool to train with once or twice a year. Even in this case teachers should be reacting the same way they do for an emergency lockdown. There are also appropriate times for teachers to evacuate and evade the killer based on the sounds of gunfire and screaming.
Therefore, a teacher should already have a plan with the children for whatever scenario occurs and take control of the situation. These situations are stressful, but prepared teachers will fall back on what they were taught. For an on-campus threat individualized responses are necessary.
Why is the Success of Fire Drills Important?
Fortunately, American schools have not lost a child in a school fire since December 1, 1958 in Chicago. This success is a result of mandatory fire drills and fire codes that require anti-flammable equipment to be installed into schools around the country. The result: no more child deaths due to school fire.
Even if this country moved aggressively in the direction of lockdown drills and training, as they did for protecting our schools from fires, there is no guarantee anyone could stop a dedicated adversary that is willing to kill and die for whatever cause they believe in. However, with training and drills, schools will mitigate mass casualties in the event of an active killer. The quick implementation of a teacher’s plan will save time and get police on scene faster to deal with the threat.
My proposal is for all schools to recognize how important it is to seek out training for lockdowns. Make this imperative as you would for fire drills. Administration should implement an annual school safety drill schedule, to ensure that these drills are being executed accordingly.
I urge you to recognize that this crisis could happen to your children and their school. There is no pattern to when and where these incidents take place. The only fact to focus on is that intruders on campus, violence in our schools and active killer incidents are occurring more frequently than ever before. Your school must have an individualized plan to protect against an active threat.
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