School Safety Hacks - Protect Your Classroom From Active Shooter Events With These Simple Ideas!
As the new school year fast approaches, it appears that most schools will be going back to in-person learning full time.
As a company composed completely of current and former educators (including many of our spouses), we understand that going back to school brings with it many concerns and anxieties in the school community.
In-person learning is important, but it also brings back into focus some of the issues many of us haven't had to acknowledge or deal with for a while.
A major concern for all teachers is classroom security. We have many important jobs as educators, but most importantly is fulfilling the implied agreement we have with parents that their children will be returned to them safely at the end of each school day. From the moment your students arrive at your classroom, from the moment the last one gets on the bus we are entrusted with a parent's most precious gift, their child…what an awesome but huge responsibility!
We aren't psychologists, but most teachers would tell you that prior to March of 2020, the mental health of students and an increase in school violence were major concerns for them.
It is unclear what effect the pandemic will have on increasing these issues, but one can only assume it probably won't decrease them.
While the odds of a full-on active shooter event happening at your school are still very rare, it is important to be prepared with safety measures. As many of our coaches or musical instructors taught us growing up…”The way you practice usually determines how you will play.”
Nobody wants to think about the worst-case scenario happening, but there are a few simple steps you can take as an educator to prepare yourself in the event it does (just like fire drills).
Below we have a few simple and subtle classroom hacks that will put you and your students in a safer position. It's also important to know these “hacks” will not affect the learning environment. Nobody wants to feel like they are teaching or learning in a prison environment. Most of these hacks are things that your students won't even notice.
Our hope is that these hacks will empower you as an educator to know that you have taken proactive steps to give yourself some sense of “taking control” during a very chaotic and scary situation.
We have broken these steps down to coincide with the foundational steps of most popular active shooter trainings (Run, Hide, Fight ALICE, etc.) These are hacks that you won't see in most drills. They are things that we have picked up along the way. Steps that only a teacher's eye would spot. They are creative and they are things that work within the rules of the school.
School Safety Ideas For “Run”
Here are some of the things we highly recommend having around for instances when you can run from the perpetrator.
Escape Through the Windows With a Window Hammer
This is something that isn't pertinent to all classrooms, but some schools have windows that do not open making “escape” tough. The trainings always talk about, if you can get out, get out.
These hammers are extremely inexpensive and can easily break a window.
***Most people's instinct is to hit the center of the window, but that is actually the strongest part and hardest to break. Hit the corner of a window. It is the weakest part and will be the most effective!
But Be Careful of Sharp Glass! Use a Window Blanket to Get Out Safely
Once the window is broken, you still might have shards of glass to deal with. To ensure safe passage through the window, we suggest having a heavy-duty blanket ready to lay over the door frame. We suggest a heavy wool style blanket like the army uses or something made of canvas. The thicker the better.
Can't Reach The Window? Use a Ladder
Depending on your height from the ground, your latter choice will vary, but it is always good to have something for students and yourself to assist in closing the distance between the window sill and the ground below.
We have had several reports of staff breaking bones or injuring themselves during trainings while practicing this move, so don't overlook this important tool. It can also be used for other purposes in the classroom.
Grab a Step Ladder to Make Things Easier...
We like this style because the backside is vertical, straight up and down, rather than angled, so it can lean up flush against the outside wall of your building without creating a gap to the step over in reaching the top step.
… Or Multi-Story Ladder if Your Classroom is High Off the Ground
School Safety Ideas for “Hide”
When running is not an option, the next best thing you can do is to hide. Staying hidden away from the shooter until local law enforcement arrives will greatly improve your chances of survival.
Instead of just hiding in a closet, here are a few other safety efforts you should consider when hiding:
Block-Off Your Windows With Classroom Blinds...
It is important that you have the ability to prevent an assailant from seeing what is going on in your room. As educators, we also know that it is important (especially for liability reasons) that people CAN see into our classrooms the majority of the time. We have nothing to hide, we just want to make sure we have the ability to restrict vision in the rare case it is needed.
… Get Official Lockdown Blinds...
These are a great option as they affix to any window without making any modifications, they stay nice and rolled up, but with the pull of a simple string, will unfurl to restrict the view into your classroom. This is expedited by the use of a weight built into the bottom of the fabric. Make sure you measure length, height, and width about an inch or two wider to ensure it covers the window fully.
… Or Use Free Blinds
Most major home improvement box stores offer custom cutting of the popular “accordion” blinds that you can pull up or down. The beauty of this is that they usually just throw away the excess sections that get cut. Some of these sections can be quite large. Depending on the size of your classroom window, a simple “ask” to a manager will be enough to secure free window coverings. You can then create your own “lockdown blind”
Use Furniture to Barricade Your Classroom Door
Classrooms are full of lightweight metal cabinets and other things that can easily slide in front of a door. These tools can provide an extremely quick way to reinforce a door.
Intentionally setting up your room so that large, easily movable furniture is close to your door can save you precious seconds. This could be a table(s), movable whiteboard, cabinets, etc. Anything large that will fill the void.
Make sure you practice your barricade strategy before school starts so that you know exactly how you want to configure your barrier. Active shooter events are all about buying time until the good guys arrive to help. Any way that you can make entry into your classroom more difficult is an important step in keeping your students safe.
Or Better Yet, Use a Secondary Securement Device Like the Sleeve
Barricading your door with furniture is a great idea, but it isn't perfect. That is why the best emergency plans always include a door barricading device, such as the Sleeve.
During emergency situations, there is very little time to think. That is why a good door barricading device should be fool-proof. And that's exactly what the Sleeve is.
The Sleeve is a door barricading device designed to slide into the door-closer arm of most classroom doors.
It can be deployed in only 2 seconds and requires no fine motor skills to completely lock off a door.
Here's a quick demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yF0_W2AV7Zo
The Sleeve is one of the best safety resources you can have in your school, and it only costs $85/piece.
Grab a Sleeve today and drastically improve school safety with it.
Intentionally Setup Your Classroom for Emergency Situations
Thinking about the design of your classroom is equally important. Some of the ways you can improve your setup include:
- Setting up your classroom so that your back is rarely to the door while you are teaching.
- Making sure students' desks or tables do not prevent easy access for window escape.
- Knowing the best corner of the room that reduces possible “shot angles” from a weapon firing into the room and making sure you have cabinets or other items set up for students to hide behind in that area.
- Keeping enough room free in a closet that you could Sheppard your students into it if necessary.
School Safety Ideas for “Fight”
This is the hardest step to talk about. No teacher wants to think about the idea of confronting an assailant especially without the authorization of a weapon on school grounds for most districts.
So what can we have in our arsenal that doesn't break the rules but gives us our best chance of at least blinding or disorienting an assailant without the use of other banned items like Mace or Bear Mace?
Here are some of the items you can use to give yourself a fighting chance.
This is clutch. Most classrooms already have a can of this, but check the label.
Many wasp sprays offer the distance they can shoot. We recommend at least a 25-foot shot, but the longer the better.
Make sure you have a can designated for actual wasp use, but also a full can that you can unload the entirety of its contents at the face of an assailant.
The further it shoots, the further away from the door you have to be. If you can connect in the face area, you have a good shot at blinding the assailant.
Similar to wasp spray, discharging a fire extinguisher at the assailant if they enter your room has the ability to disorient them, it also has the advantage of working as a blunt object to hit or throw at the assailant.
I always had a baseball bat in my room because it was “sports-themed” but if you don't feel comfortable having a bat in the open, keeping one in a closet that is off-limits to students is a great option. Many security companies also offer retractable asps that you can conveniently keep your desk drawer, but that can be easily extended and used if combat is necessary.
Again, these are the last options, because it requires you to get close to an assailant, however, if in this situation you basically have two options. Submit, or fight.
This is only about 9 inches when retracted and extends over two feet when deployed.
Ready to Apply These Hacks?
While we don't recommend using these hacks as a replacement for more formal active shooter training programs, these hacks complement most active shooter protocols and improve your chances of survival until local police arrive.
To learn more about how you can improve school safety, you may check out our other resources on school safety on the “resources” tab at the top of the page.
Or, if you want to learn more about the Sleeve classroom door barricading device, you may do so by visiting our product page here: