Take Action! How Improving School Security Against Active Shooting Events Can Save Teachers and Students
TL;DR: This is a summary of the current climate of schools regarding active shooting events and the actions that can be done to prepare teachers and students. Each article details the need for further improvement in our school's security against active shooting events. For more details, visit fightingchancesolutions.com.
Active Shooting Event Crisis in America
News stations deliver reports on the active shooting crises in America every year. Since the 1970s, active shooting events have spread in schools, workplaces, and homes.
In recent years, the FBI has stated that these incidents have been increasing. FBI Special Agent Christopher Combs told CNN, ʺIf you look at the numbers, we're looking at an active shooter every other week in this country.ʺ
As of October 22, 2020 there has been 519 mass shootings this year. And while the pandemic has kept schools closed for a long time, there have already been 91 shooting incidents in schools. And the year isn’t over yet!
Source: Gun Violence Archive 2019 | Gun Violence Archive | accessed October 22, 2020
With the noticeable increase of active shooting events, the question in everyone's mind is: are teachers and students safe at school?
Yes, they are safe because, at each school, there are safety and security protocols in place. Schools handle the threat of school shootings differently. Most are implementing lockdown drills, upgrading school door security, and providing training to teachers, staff, and students.
Parents are concerned with their children's safety and security. According to a Gallup survey, 34% of parents are scared for their child's physical safety at school. These concerns are also related to the school's safety measures.
Source: Brenan, Megan. "Parents' Concern About School Safety Remains Elevated" | News.Gallup.com
The highest percentage of worried parents were back in 1999 at the height of the incidents at Columbine. The lowest was back in 2007. From then, it increased again. The most recent high percentage was in 2018 when the school shootings in the U.S. reached 116, the highest in two decades.
It's important to note that data on school shootings were not as detailed before 1999. Although the data from The Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) goes back up to the 1970s, the data is not as accurate as of the data we have today. This is because we have faster information transfer than we did back then.
Also, the definition of a school shooting has changed from time to time. FBI's definition of an active shooter is "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area." Meanwhile, the CHDS defines it as "each and every instance a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time of day, or day of the week."
Despite the differences in data and definition, the public perception was that schools were safer before 1999. Before the incident in Columbine, school safety and security measures are more focused on school violence and disaster management. Most drills teachers and students train for are for fires and earthquakes.
After 1999, schools faced a new kind of threat and adjusted safety protocols. In the 1990s, schools implemented the backpack ban. Schools also upgraded its security measures, such as limiting the entrances and exits of schools, implementing ID policies, and installing security devices such as security cameras and metal detectors.
Schools also improved their facilities by improving door locks. However, such improvements cost a lot of money, and not every school district can afford to apply it to all their schools.
Beyond improving infrastructure, schools need to focus on improving their training for active shooter responses. School staff, teachers, and students need to conduct lockdown drills such as ALICE training or the FBI's Run. Hide. Fight. Training.
Teachers play a crucial role in the school's safety and security. They are one of the front liners when an active shooter event happens in a school.
Beyond that, teachers are on-hand with tasks before and after an incident. They are responsible for training the students on what to do before the event happens. After an incident, teachers process students' concerns about the incident.
Before any incident, teachers are on the lookout for any signs of pre-attack behaviors from students, co-workers, and everyone else in school. According to the FBI's study on the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters from 2000 to 2013, each active shooter displays four to five concerning behaviors before their planned attack.
In CHDS's data, 103 of the active shooters from the 1970s were students. Also, 27 of them were former students. There were three that were teachers or former teachers. In this case, most of these active shooters can be observed by the teachers themselves during class hours.
Source: ACTIVE SHOOTER: SHOOTER'S AFFILIATION | K-12 School Shooting Database | Center for Homeland Defense and Security | accessed on October 22, 2020
Aside from discerning behaviors, teachers also need to train students on how to respond when such an incident occurs. They explain the situation, protocols, and process. They also facilitate simulation drills and ensure safety for students at school.
In the event of an incident, teachers process the events with their students. They counsel students and help them sort their emotions after the traumatic event.
Teachers play a big part when it comes to active shooter preparedness. They also have a big role in helping their students after an incident. To be able to fulfill these responsibilities, teachers need the necessary knowledge and training. There are two active shooter preparedness training in the U.S.: the ALICE Training and Run. Hide. Fight. program.
According to research, active shooter events do not last for more than 19 minutes. Threatening events like these are sudden and unexpected. Staff safety training is key to good school security procedures. Therefore, training like the ALICE Training and the Run. Hide. Fight. helps create an automatic response in case of active shooter events.
ALICE stands for Alert. Lockdown. Inform. Counter. Evacuate. These are simple steps that can save lives during an active shooter event. ALICE Training Institute conducts training for schools, businesses, organizations, and private individuals.
The FBI also created an active shooter preparedness program called the Run. Hide. Fight. Similar to the ALICE training protocols, the Run. Hide. Fight. program aims to inform how to survive shooting attacks. However, this active shooter response is more suitable for adults such as college students and workers.
Teachers and students benefit from getting the ALICE or Run. Hide. Fight. training. Going through the motions, as highlighted in each program, can help them react fast. It also helps them perform the right actions in a short period of time.
Despite some differences in the two training programs recommended action, both highlight the need to go on lockdowns. Getting out of the building is the primary response to fires or earthquakes. However, in an active shooting event, it is the opposite.
School administrators need to spearhead these emergency preparedness procedures. After the training, schools should implement regular lockdown drills to ensure that everyone is up-to-date and prepared when an incident happens.
During the active shooter incident, teachers and students need to keep away from the active shooter. It is also important to keep the active shooter from getting access to rooms, halls, and the building itself. Going on lockdown can block these accesses for active shooters.
In a 2013 FBI study, it was found that active shooters move on after they encountered locked rooms. Most of the time, the shooter does not have a specific target in mind. So, when they cannot enter a room, they stop trying to gain access and move on.
Similar to fire and earthquake drills, lockdown drills prepare teachers and students for an active shooter threat. By having lockdown drills, everyone can refresh their mind on the safety procedures that each school has in place. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nine out of ten schools implement a lockdown drill in the U.S.
Despite the advantages of having lockdown drills in place, many opposed these drills because it brings anxiety to children. Parents voiced out their concerns about exposing their children to unnecessary stress during these drills.
At one point, a school in Missouri used the drama class to act as victims. It was a full production that used fake blood on the volunteers. Many students were traumatized upon seeing their friends and classmates lying in pools of blood. Some schools used pellet guns, which bruised and harmed teachers, school personnel, and students in the process.
David Langer, a Psychology Professor at Suffolk University, advises, "if you're going to have drills, they should be done in the least anxiety-provoking way possible and focused on what behaviors you're looking to teach."
Classroom lockdown drills save lives. It also provides peace of mind to teachers, students, and even parents. At the end of the day, they know that if an active shooter event happens, they know what to do.
Teachers facilitate lockdowns. In a lockdown, teachers and students need to go inside classrooms. Once inside a room, it has to be secured.
Then, door panes and windows must be covered to ensure that the view inside the room is blocked. Next, teachers and students must hide and keep away from the door to minimize attracting the shooter's attention.
Once safely hidden, teachers can alert law enforcement about the status of the situation. When the situation is handled, everyone can safely evacuate the school buildings.
During an active shooter event, every second matters. The faster the classroom door is locked, the more time there is for everyone to hide. This also gives the active shooter less chance to do any damage.
The lockdown response time can be improved when classroom door security is upgraded. Schools should also improve door locks alongside improving the entire school security system.
Conducting training and implementing drills are just half of what schools need to do to ensure school safety and security procedures against active shooters. Overall, there should be an improvement in school security. Most schools upgraded their facilities, such as installing CCTVs and metal detectors in school entrances and exits.
However, there is little improvement when it comes to each classroom door. This is because schools need to follow strict building codes and adhere to the recommendations of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).
According to the NCEF, a school door should be able to prevent entry but must never prevent people from exiting. This is why most school doors (and public doors) swing outward. People can exit a room or a building through doors that open out by pushing them.
This design is crucial for disaster responses like fire and earthquake or any event that needs people to exit rooms and buildings as quickly as possible. However, for active shooter events, the goal is to keep teachers and students inside rooms until the situation gets better. Thus, outward-swinging doors are not ideal in this case.
In most cases, outward-swinging doors can only be locked from the outside. This means that in an active shooter situation, a teacher or student must step into the hall to activate the lock. This puts them in possible danger.
The easiest way to improve classroom door security is by upgrading all the locks of classroom doors. However, this entails a big budget. Installation of security door locks with labor averages from $875 to $1075 per door. Not all school districts can afford to upgrade each classroom door.
Different door security locks can be added to classroom doors. However, there should be considerations for the type of locks to be installed. These considerations are important in ensuring safety in an active shooter event.
What are the considerations?
- Does not violate building or fire codes
- Can be installed or activated within seconds
- Can be installed or activated without causing noise
- Easy-to-use with its intuitive design
- Does not break or fail when force is applied
These considerations take into account the dangers of having an intruder or an active shooter in the building. Locks such as door reinforcement plates, deadbolts, reinforcement locks, and door chain locks do not fit these classifications.
In times of active shooter events, the best door security solutions are lockdown devices.
Barricading outward-swinging doors can be done using lockdown devices. These door locking devices can help secure classroom doors quickly and efficiently. It saves time for teachers and students to hide and keep away from harm. However, not all lockdown devices are appropriate for classrooms and for active shooter situations.
Without a lockdown device, teachers and students barricade outward-swinging doors by tying ropes to the door handle and pulling. They use their weight to keep the door shut. Sometimes, teachers can use their belts to secure the door's closer mechanism.
All these techniques can lock the door, but it's ineffective. Pulling on the classroom door cannot ensure it's locked. For a class of kindergarten students, this is not an option. Plus, teachers and students need to keep away from the door in case the intruder tries to shoot at it. They cannot do that if they are pulling the door shut.
These methods are also time-consuming. During high-pressure situations, humans go into the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Panic paralyzes a person into inaction. In a panicked state, most people lose their finite motor skills. Tying knots or looping belts can be challenging to do and will take much time.
Lockdown devices can be deployed in a short time without much effort. However, these devices should be:
- easy to install
- complies with building codes
- durable to withstand any attempts to break down the door
The best lockdown device for classroom doors is The Sleeve. It's an effective outward-swinging door lock that can barricade doors within seconds. It has an intuitive design that lets anyone use it without previous instruction.
Simply slide The Sleeve on the classroom door's closer mechanism. Once it's placed, the door is barricaded and cannot be opened from the outside. The Sleeve is made of solid 12 gauge carbon steel and can withstand a force of 500 lbs. So, teachers and students are safe even if an intruder tries to force their way in.
It's designed to be portable. Teachers can place it on their desk or have it ready in their bags. There's also a hook that comes with The Sleeve that can be used to mount it on a wall closest to the door. So, that when an alert is given, it's easily accessible to teachers and students.
In the case of inward-swinging doors such as in faculty lounges or bathrooms, a suitable lockdown device is the Rampart. It is a door security bar constructed with a solid aluminum frame. It uses rubberized ends that help it withstand any pressure from an external force. The Rampart is portable and can be used in all types of inward-swinging doors (even at the office or in homes).
Both The Sleeve and the Rampart have been tested for their durability. When used, doors are secured and barricaded well even with extreme force is applied.
Take Action Now! Get The Sleeve and the Rampart in classrooms to protect teachers and students from active shooter events.
Prepare your teachers, faculty staff, and students from active shooting events. Equip each classroom with The Sleeve and the Rampart. Provide each classroom with the best lockdown device for active shooter preparation.
Take action! Help in strengthening school security safety against shooting events.
- Campaign to get The Sleeve and the Rampart during the school general assembly meetings.
- Suggest adding lockdown devices in each room.
- Disseminate correct school safety information.
- Petition an increase in emergency preparedness budget from the school boards.
- Discuss school safety and security best practices from school resource officers of other school districts.
- Engage with the community about school safety planning.
- Train staff, teachers, and students for emergency preparedness.
- Participate in school safety roundtables and help create school emergency plans.
- Better yet, purchase The Sleeve and the Rampart and donate them to your school.
Prepare your teachers and students better. Take action and save lives!