Active Shooter Training: Just The Right Measure of Reality

November 21, 2017

Active Shooter Training: Just The Right Measure of Reality

For Law Enforcement and Education Officials

by Ian D Scofield

I was watching YouTube videos today when I saw a video about active shooter in a school where police officers responded to the school with weapons drawn and a lockdown was announced.  This drill wasn’t announced and the students were scared and texting their parents that they didn’t know what was going on.  This brought an interesting point, is it possible to push active shooter training too far?

In the case I mentioned above, it is obvious that the school pushed the training too far.  By not telling the students and teachers what was going on they created a panic in the school.  Students believed that there may have been an active shooter.  What officials didn’t expect was that parents started speeding towards the school.  One parent interviewed stated they drove to the school at 130 MPH to ensure that their kid was okay.

But we all know that training is most effective when we train as if the situation were real, so how then do we effectively prepare for an active shooter situation at a school?

Announce and Schedule Training

Just because training is announced and scheduled, doesn’t mean that you can’t train as if it were real.  Telling students and teachers that they are to act as if the situation were really happening, will do part of the job for you.

The other thing that you can do is test the students and teachers.  Try doors, ask questions, and have teachers instruct their kids on what to do.

Blue Gun Training

During school hours, blue guns should be used for training for an active shooter.  Students will know that a blue gun isn’t real.  That way, even if they forgot about the drill, it won’t create a scare.  Some agencies already use blue guns for their active shooter training when civilians are involved.  This is the safest option.

Table Top Exercises

While you have to train regularly on the physical nature of a lock down and responding to a school, that doesn’t mean every exercise has to be a full exercise.  Having a table top exercise can help you to assess plans and help to suggest changes. 

A table top exercise can also help you to find problems that may exist with your response plan.  Sometimes you can’t see the problems when you are physically carrying out the drill.

Train After Hours

Practice clearing local schools and knowing the ins and outs of the school in a real situation is invaluable.  While you can’t train with your weapons out when kids are in class, you can do it after hours.  This will allow for extra practice and to get a good feel of the land.

Adding the teachers to the training helps them to get a full understanding of what happens during an active shooter situation.  The volume and the impact of a full exercise will impress upon the teachers the importance of being prepared.  Something that can help to save lives when it comes down to the wire.

Inform The Students and Parents

Students and parents should know ahead of time when a lock down drill is going to be happening but that doesn’t mean that a simple email or announcement is all you can do.

Having all school meetings with law enforcement coming to the meeting and talking about lock downs can make a big difference.  It will reassure the students that the police are there to help.  Another benefit that it will have, is that it will familiarize the students with the law enforcement officials.

During these meetings introduce the students to what happens during a lock down; from both the law enforcement and student point of view.  Letting the students see officers in full kit will also help them to recognize officers during a situation.

As police officers you might not be directly involved in communicating with students and parents but you can work with your school district to send out notifications to parents when a drill has been scheduled.  This will help parents to be reassured that their kids are safe during the drill.  You won’t have any occurrences of parents speeding to the school in order to make sure their kids are okay.

Incorporate The Students

High school students see the news and they know what is going on during a lock down drill.  Speak with local schools and ask that students be incorporated into the planning and preparation for lock down drills.  Getting input from the people going through the drill and who would be potential victims will help you to develop a better plan.

Make Sure That School Districts Have Someone Available To Talk To Students

Students have reported feeling emotional after recent active shooter drills.  Speak with local schools to make sure that they are properly providing for their students during and after drills.  The last thing that you want to do is traumatize students during a drill so much that they panic during the actual scenario.

Active shooter situations are a difficult topic in todays world but preparing for them is important.  However, you have to prepare right.  Use these suggestions to help your department work with local school officials to train as often as needed.  Stay safe out there and keep others safe.



About The Author:

Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice.  He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer.  At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content.  Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.

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