There have a been a shocking number of active shooter incidents across the United States over the last few years, resulting in mass injuries and deaths, many in K-12 schools. It’s heartbreaking to turn on your television or radio to hear of another horrifying incident and young lives lost. School safety and security measures are constantly adapting and growing around the premise of active shooters on a campus. It’s extremely important to continue to perfect an emergency response plan by running active shooter drills, testing your emergency alert system, and educating students and staff on what to do in the case of an active shooter. But how far is too far?
In Indiana a few teachers came forward to report they were left with welts, bruises, and abrasions after an active shooter drill back in January 2019. They anonymously told IndyStar that for the training teachers were asked by law enforcement “to kneel down against a classroom wall, before being shot across their backs with airsoft guns.” Although all active shooter drills are to educate and inform students and faculty of what to do in an emergency situation involving a shooter, being shot at close range for practice seems to push the limits of some educators. One teacher said, “They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing.’ They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times. It hurt so bad”.
8 Active Shooter Drill Best Practices
Alice Training Institute released a list of best practices for active shooter drills in collaboration with NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) and NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers).
- Create a School Safety Team
Alice Training Institute recommends each K-12 school should create school safety teams made up of an administrator; school mental health professional; school nurse; teachers; security personnel; parents; and students. There should be somebody on this safety team that takes charge in coordinating all school safety efforts, including school safety drills. The leader should also be clear in communicating responsibilities to those on the school safety teams, and identify appropriate emergency preparedness activities for the school.
- Conduct an Assessment of the School Community
It’s important for the school safety teams to identify the types of crises that may occur, and what the current school culture and climate is like. For example, this would include determining if there are high rates of bullying incidents in your K-12 school. Assessing the policies in place for active shooter drills and considering if there should be any additional policies added is also key.
- Implement a Cost-Benefit Analysis
Your school’s cost-benefit analysis should consider financial costs in relation to the likelihood of a particular crisis, and the current knowledge and identified needs of staff & faculty. The cost-benefit analysis should also identify resources, activities, or preparedness trainings that must be replaced or postponed to engage in an active shooter drill.
- Tailor Active Shooter Drills to the Context of the School Environment
Your active shooter drills should take into consideration the following - the primary goal of the drill; the age of students, cognitive and developmental levels of awareness of students; students with physical, sensory, or other disabilities who may require unique instructions; the trust and comfort among staff; optimal timing of the active shooter drill; relationships with law enforcement; and lastly the layout of the school.
- Create a Plan of Progression
Your K-12 school should have a plan of progression that identifies specific goals and objectives for the active shooter drill as well as a timeline and metrics to help determine how the drills are performing, and whether more complex exercises are needed.
- Prepare for Logistics of the Active Shooter Drill
It’s important to keep in mind several factors when running active shooter drills such as students or staff who have experienced previous traumatic events. These individuals may want to be excused during a drill, but must have parental consent to do so. Alice Training Institute also recommends having school mental health professionals available to help.
- Develop a Communications Plan
Having an effective communications plan is important before, during, and after an active shooter drill. It’s important to keep parents, guardians, and the school community informed of when drills are planned. This is easy to do with your school notification platform.
- Establish a Long-Term Follow Up Plan
Schools should establish a long-term follow up plan to support sustainability that considers the following – what additional training is required; how the drill integrates with other school safety efforts; how current and previous training and knowledge can be maintained; and when/ how often a follow-up should be conducted.
For more in depth steps for conducting an active shooter drill at your K-12 school, please see the Alice Training Institute ‘Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills’ report.
One of the important points in active shooter drill best practices includes having a communication plan. At Alert Solutions we help many K-12 schools with their emergency response efforts by providing an award-winning school notification system, SwiftK12.
SwiftK12 enables administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes. In the case of an active shooter situation, seconds count.
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