By: Allison Austin Achibane
“POP POP POP”; half-deaf and confused; screams dying out; a putrid smell filling the air. Just like in real life, we were given no warning before the police officer training us fired off fake rounds inside the very small auditorium. Volunteers were pulled onto the stage to play out different scenarios; angry parent with a gun, unseen shooter, and dude with a very big gun. We all learned one important lesson that day, none of us were prepared.
An active shooter is defined by homeland security as, “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) [sic] and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims” (dhs.gov) As mass shootings are on the rise, education is slowly becoming one of the more dangerous positions. Yet, no one seems to be talking about the danger that teachers face and I don’t just mean the angry parent who doesn’t understand that little Suzy is failing because she didn’t turn in work. So let’s go over the three main things you can do if an active shooter happens to be on your campus.
If the option is there and you can safely get out do it! Take as many people as you can with you. I know that as a teacher, the last thing you want to do is leave any students behind but you have to get those you can to safety and trust your colleges to help the others. Being outside is in no way putting you out of danger or the action. Keep aware of your surroundings and watch for anyone trying to enter the building. You know that one student who is almost always late. You might be the only thing keeping them from walking unknowingly into a crazed person with a gun. As soon as you are safe, write everything that you saw, heard, even smelled before the adrenaline wears off and you are surrounded by upset parents. This way you can give as much information as possible to the cops when they arrive.
The hide method is the one you will most likely be trained to do. This is where you, the teacher, turn out the lights, lock the door, and put you and your students in a corner. You also usually have some kind of means to alert the outside (the police) whether or not your room is safe/secure. All of this is practiced with a run through that the students take part in just like a fire or tornado drill.
It is important that both the teacher and the student know what to do as adrenaline and fear take hold. Routine is something that scared children need most. This is also the best option for those who are by themselves, can’t get to an exit, and have a decent place to hide.
However, there are many issues with this procedure, and one example of this is the shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook elementary school. The hide method was used here and still 20 students were killed and 6 adults (Smith, 2013). Putting everyone in one small area makes it easier for the active shooter to kill as many as possible.
Another issue is that a large majority of active shooters are students. This means that they have been through the training and know what the procedure is. What is to stop them from hiding in a classroom, forcing the teacher to give the “all clear” sign? This is the method trained by majority of school systems and although it has its issues, it is important that teachers stick to the protocol.
There is an argument for a new method that is a bit controversial but might be worth bringing to your admins’ attention. In this protocol the teacher and the students fight back.
Throwing books, pens, erasers, whatever they can get their hands on to distract while the teacher or adult goes for the gun. If an active shooter enters your room, this is the best way to go. It is no more risky then cowering in the corner.
This is a more aggressive move but it is gaining in popularity. One instructor of this, Ryan Hoover, feels that if the students and teacher(s) can’t escape, fighting back is the best method for survival. When comparing the two, hiding and fighting, the numbers are undeniably in favor of fight.
For more information on what to do in the presence of an active shooter, please check out Homeland Security’s website.
For more on flee, hide, fight, check out this video.
For more of Ryan Hoover’s fight back method and to see a simulation of hiding verses fighting, click here:
Active Shooter Preparedness. (2016, June 16). Retrieved Septmeber 29, 2016, from Homeland Security: https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness
Orr, T. (2016, March 7). ‘For the Record’: Fighting Back Against a School Shooter. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from The Blaze: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/03/07/for-the-record-fighting-back-against-a-school-shooter/
Smith, M. (2013, November 26). Sandy Hook killer took motive to his grave. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/25/justice/sandy-hook-shooting-report/