When a person faces a life-threatening situation, like an active shooter, higher analytic functions shut down. But training can ensure that the proper response to the threat occurs almost instinctively. That’s the basis of boot-camp training for soldiers. Police and private security professionals have long understood the need for strong training programs. In the wake of deadly shootings at Columbine and elsewhere, K-12 schools have come to realize that one or more attackers with modern large-capacity weaponry can cause massive loss of life before the police are able to arrive on the scene and intervene. Thus, students and staff will have to confront the threat on their own. Given that reality, schools are starting to put more emphasis on the importance of training students and staff in various response scenarios.
The approaches to active-shooter training are evolving, especially in light of the recent Newtown and Aurora shootings. Not everyone can agree on the best approach, but they all agree that any training program must be tailored to the school, taking into consideration the facility’s layout, the makeup of the classes, and other characteristics.
When a school orders a traditional lockdown, it includes shutting and locking doors, turning off lights, and having students hide as best they can. In some situations, this is still the safest approach. However, in other cases, students end up being defenseless targets for the shooter or shooters to easily and cruelly pick off. This was the case at Columbine when students were shot while hiding under tables in the library. (Though if the students had evacuated at the point that they knew there was a shooter, they may have met the gunmen in the hallway as well.)
Although many schools still teach traditional lockdowns, there has been a movement toward newer approaches that enhance the traditional techniques, says Amy Klinger, educational administration professor at Ohio’s Ashland University, who spoke on the topic at the GovSec conference earlier this year in Washington, D.C. Klinger is also director of programs for the Educator School Safety Network, a nonprofit school training organization.