Active Shooter Training: Not Just for Adults Anymore

School security management is a major concern.

Active Shooter Training

Last week, I questioned whether warehouse burglary is becoming an epidemic. When it comes to active shooter incidents, there is no question. We are seeing more and more cases of active shooter than ever before. Some are terrorist related, but many are not. Just last week, a 14-year-old boy in South Carolina shot and killed his father and then went to an elementary school and shot a teacher and two students. One of those students, a six-year-old boy, died Saturday.

Recent active shooter statistics are sobering:

  • Between 2000 and 2013, the FBI identified 160 active shooter incidents in the United States that killed a total of 486 people and injured 557 more. And since those statistics were compiled, two of the deadliest active shooter incidents in U.S. history have occurred; San Bernardino in 2015
  • Statistics show that about 70 percent of active shooter incidents identified occurred in a school or business setting, and 60 percent of them ended before police arrived. All but two of the incidents between 2000 and 2013 involved a single shooter.
  • Sixty-four of the 160 incidents, or 40 percent, would have qualified as a mass killing under a new federal statute, which defines a mass killing as “three or more” people killed in a single incident.
  • Twenty-seven of these incidents, or nearly 17 percent, occurred at schools, resulting in 57 deaths and 60 injuries. Two occurred at school board meetings, and another 25 occurred during school hours – 14 at high schools, six at middle or junior high schools, four at an elementary school and one at a PreK-12 school. Of the 20 active shooter incidents at high schools and middle schools, all but three were carried out by students that attended that particular school.
  • In 64 incidents in which the duration of the active shooting was proven, 44 of them, or 69 percent, ended in five minutes or less, with 23, or 36 percent, ending in two minutes or less.
  • There were an average of 6.4 active shooter incidents per year from 2000 to 2007, and an average of 16.4 between 2008 and 2013. During that 14-year period, shootings occurred in 40 of 50 states and in the District of Columbia.
  • The FBI identified another 40 active shooter incidents in 2014 and 2015 – 20 in each year.
  • According to the Gun Violence Archive, an online mass shooting tracker, there have been 291 incidents in which at least four people were either injured or killed by gunfire.

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Active Shooter Training and Drills

Recently, shots rang out in the hallway of the Upper Grade Center in Bourbonnais, IL. This time, however, the shots weren’t meant to hurt anyone – they were blanks. The local police were conducting an active shooter drill at the school.

The teachers were ready. One group piled up whatever they could find against their classroom door. If an active shooter came in, they were ready to throw anything and everything. On the other side of the building, another group of teachers rushed outside to safety.

It should be noted that during the portion of the training that involved students, only announcements were used to begin the drill, rather than a starter pistol. After the drill was over, Bourbonnais police officers assessed how well the school reacted to the mock active shooter situation.

School Resource Officer Travis Garcia arranged the active shooter training to teach his middle school and faculty the best way to survive an attack. Garcia stated that “traditionally, students and teachers have been told to lock down and put their trust in a wood or metal door. We’re not doing that anymore. We’ve seen what’s been going on in the world around us and we’ve evolved to empower to make sound decisions that will decrease their chances of becoming victims. Now, instead of just hiding and hoping, teachers and students are taught barricading techniques, throwing objects and swarming – anything to slow the shooter down. Then they are taught to escape at soon as they can safely do so.”

In Bourbonnais’s case, they learned the acronym ALICE: Alert, Lock Down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. ALICE is one of the leading active shooter response methods based on what has worked for survivors of active shooter incidents. One eighth grader said it made her feel that “no matter what the situation, we could band together and do anything to protect ourselves.” Another eighth grader said the training gave them “a sense of power and the confidence to respond.” One of the teachers observed that the training “gives you a different perspective when you have a classroom full of kids. Their safety comes first.” That same teacher said she felt “empowered to respond” if an actual active shooter incident occurred.

Yes, the statistics are alarming. And active shooter incidents seem to be on the rise. But some good news is that active shooter response techniques are evolving to reflect what has actually proven successful in real-life situations. More and more, school children are taking part in drills to lessen their chances of becoming victims.

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