On February 14, 2018 yet another gunman wreaked havoc in an American school. This time in Parkland, Florida, a madman violently took the lives of seventeen innocent victims – brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, innocent young minds, and seasoned professionals. We’ve heard this story one too many times. The atrocious act gets played in the media repeatedly, and the question still lingers: Why does this keep happening? The answer that those “in the know” give; it’s mental health. No, It’s guns. It is mental health and guns. Really, it’s all bull.
While the debate continues, mental health being the scapegoat for some politicians, and stricter gun-laws the definitive answer for others; it seems that neither side will ever come to an agreement exactly how to mitigate these active shooter incidents.
If, therefore, the government can’t or won’t protect you and your loved ones, who will? The answer is – YOU. While taking action by voting, protesting, and lobbying for your proposed solution at the federal and state level is an admirable and a potentially worthwhile endeavor, it is a long-term distant goal that seems will never come to fruition. School shootings have been going on for decades, yet they are still occurring, and no one is doing anything about it.
Taking matters into your own hands at the local and school board level is what needs to happen. What can parents, teachers, and school administrators do while federal and state politicians play their rendition of “hot potato” with this issue? Prepare, train, prepare and train some more. Parents, pressure your school board administrators to make this training mandatory. Teachers, urge your leadership to take drills seriously. School boards, pressure county, and state governments to focus on funding and preparation.
Realizing that educational institutions ultimate existence are to educate our youth, and understanding educators are under extreme pressures pursuing intense curriculum requirements to meet state standards, administrators must still endeavor to find time to train and prepare their staff, faculty, and students. You should train, you should prepare, you should do it with a purpose and intent – every time.
The continued argument that training and drills are too time-consuming should no longer be acceptable. Drills don’t have to be time-consuming. Be creative and be willing to sacrifice, in some regard, few educational goals to meet these necessary training needs. Just as state educational requirements are mandatory, active shooter drills should, too, be mandatory. Too many schools are unprepared, and we need to fix that.
For those schools with limited resources, below are ten tips that Fidelis Global Group (FGG) has used in the past to prepare, train, and drill staff efficiently and effectively. Also, we have added some relatively cost-effective security measures that can be employed across schools to help augment your current security program.
10 Tips to Get Schools Started In Developing an Effective Security Program
Have a Plan
Every organization, whether a school or business, should have an emergency action plan in place. The plan should be thorough, but not complicated, simple but sufficient. It should address any and all emergencies relevant to schools and your geographical locations. Active shooter, fire, bomb threat, natural disasters, Chem-Bio (white powder), and more should all be addressed.
Develop an Emergency Action Board (EAB)
No one individual should be the “end all, be all” of security. Security is everyone’s responsibility. Develop a team from different sections, collaborate with security professionals, and come up with the most effective plan. Have the highest ranking member chair the committee, and if necessary, make the final decision on matters of which not everyone can agree.
Create Floor Wardens
Accountability in a critical incident is vital. Ensuring effective participation during drills is just as important. Create floor wardens in different sections to help administrators and security gain accountability of staff, faculty, and students during critical incidents. They should also be your “eyes and ears” during drills to ensure everyone is participating, give direction, and answer questions.
Conduct Creative and Effective Training
Drills don’t have to be full staff all the time. Some can be partial drills with just the EAB, or some drills only staff and faculty, and others can be full-blown mandatory participation for all drills. Drills can be tabletop exercises where review takes place and scenarios are discussed. Or they can be a walkthrough of a facility to identify and familiarize everyone with best evacuation routes, hard rooms, emergency equipment location, lock and door details (which way the door opens, what type of lock is used), and more.
Don’t Overcomplicate Communication
Create a simple but effective communication plan. The EAB should come up with code words that make sense to everyone. If all else fails, just state clearly what needs to be done: “Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown” is a novel idea. Overly complex codes and covert phrases to notify faculty, staff, and students of an active shooter are ineffective. Keep it simple.
Training and Drills Should be at Random Times
Don’t tell everyone about the drill. Keep it between the EAB and floor wardens. Certainly, do not advertise it to the public. Understanding that you don’t want to scare the students or staff, a solution is to sound the alarm, then over the intercom state “this is a drill, this is a drill, this is a drill” within seconds of sounding it. Ensure everyone moves with a purpose. Train how you “fight.” Train hard, and train often.
Take it Seriously
Are you concerned students won’t take the drills seriously if you announce “this is a drill?” I understand it is difficult to have a group of teenagers take drills seriously, so set up some reward system, or consequences if they do not. Use your teaching skills, appeal to their self-interests. There is a way, find it.
Create Goals and Standards
Create goals to meet or exceed your standard baseline time for evacuation, accountability, and more.
Stop Trying to Accommodate Everyone
Students, staff, and faculty schedules may be interrupted. Leaders will never be able to make everyone happy. Accept that and push on. You’ll be grateful in the end.
Invest in Cost-Effective Security Upgrades
Purchase industrial strength heavy duty door blockers or door stops for every room to augment the locks. Procure magnetic locks for doors so you can lock down remotely. Place a slide latch lock in every room. Invest in a multi-tone sound system that will indicate exactly what type of incident is occurring.
Emergency training, including active shooter drills, in schools, should be taken seriously and made mandatory. Don’t sit back and depend on the government to make changes; they won’t. Let’s take matters into our own hands and protect our students, our teachers, our loved ones.
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