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Shots Ring Out in Your K-12 School…Do You Know What to Do?

Photo of yellow tape reading Crime Scene Do Not Cross with a background of a school bus with a stop side folded against it and reads For Official Use Only.
Category - Education
by Lisa Eifert on April 10th, 2017

You’re sitting in your office at school when you hear a loud noise outside in the hallway. It sounds like gunfire. Before you can even rise from your chair or pick up the phone, you hear another shot. Then another. Next, you hear screaming and footsteps outside your door. What do you do?

Unfortunately, this real-life scenario is increasingly playing out in schools across the country, and knowing what to do—and making sure all members of your school community do, as well—can mean the difference between life and death.

Active Shooter Incidents Happen

Whether we like it or not, active shooter incidents happen. In fact, they happen every day, with perpetrators are motivated by many different ideologies, according to Dr. Jeffrey Simon: “They really cut across the spectrum of political and religious ideologies and other grievances,” he told the New York Times. “You have personal motivations, political motivations, religious motivations, criminal motivations, or just no motivations at all, as the shooter acts out their fantasies. And the line between them sometimes is very blurred.”

And while the targets are also variable, ranging from workplaces and mass transit to churches, movie theaters, and nightclubs, one common active shooter target is particularly troubling: K-12 schools.

The takeaway for school administrators? While the blame is often laid on everything from mental illness to lack of gun control, there’s no real way to know what will send an active shooter into a school on any given day. And because of this ambiguity, there’s also no guaranteed way to prevent it from happening.

Understanding Active Shooter Incidents

The average duration of an active school shooter incident is less than 13 minutes. The average response time for law enforcement? 18 minutes. That equates to five minutes until help arrives… five full minutes which can feel like a lifetime, and during which critical decisions will have to be made.

And while we often talk about the importance of a fast response, something else is even more important: a smart response. Which begs the question: Would you rather wrestle with life-or-death questions on the fly during an emergency event, or would you rather have pre-established protocols in place and available should the worst happen and an active shooter enter your K-12 school? This question can be an even bigger one for charter schools and private schools who may not already have district-wide policies in place.

Think an active shooter event will never happen in your school? You might be right. But if you’re wrong and catastrophe does strike, we can think of no better application of the expression, “Plan for the best. Prepare for the worst.” Because while we may never be able to “make sense” of active shooter incidents, the more we understand them, the more proactively we can respond in a way that optimizes outcomes.

The good news is that you don’t have to navigate this uncertain territory alone. In fact, a breadth and depth of resources are available aimed at helping K-12 schools just like yours take steps to safeguard the members of your community. To start formulating a strategic response plan for your school today, download our comprehensive guide, “Is Your K-12 School Prepared for an Active Shooter Incident?” today.