Ohio School Shooting Provides Opportunity to Review Campus Crisis Plans

Here are some of the key points for school shootings and other major crisis events.

As I watch the breaking news this morning relating to a multiple victim school shooting at a high school in Chardon, Ohio, I realize that the news coverage with it’s inherent limitations to accuracy in a fast breaking situation like this one provides a number of key points for school officials around the nation to consider as they naturally ask themselves how well they would respond to a similar crisis should it occur in a school in their community.  As the media accounts at this point are changing rapidly and the Sheriff’s Department has announced that there is much disinformation floating around at this point, I will focus on key aspects that would be relevant regardless of the accuracy of these reports.

None of the following comments are intended to imply that staff at the high school have made any mistakes in any of these areas.  These are instead offered as key concepts that are relevant to past school shootings that have occurred at times when students are not on class and for multiple victim school shootings in general.

  • If     early reports turn out to be correct, the shooting took place early in the     school day in the cafeteria.  This highlights the need for school to     practice key functional protocols like room clear, reverse evacuation,    emergency lockdown and evacuation. 
  • This     type of incident also demonstrates the need for proper supervision by     staff in key areas in the morning, during passing times, lunch periods and     at the end of the day.
  • The     training and empowerment of staff to make life and death decisions during     the first thirty seconds of an incident are critical.  In many     schools, staff have been inadvertently conditioned to contact an     administrator before they take action. The actions of the first staff     members in the first critical seconds of an event are often the best     chance to reduce mass casualty losses. 
  • Mental     simulation of a wide range of types of crisis situations is     important.  An overemphasis on active shooter scenarios can reduce     the ability of staff to function for any type of incident including active     shooter situations.  Research has demonstrated that having a broad     base of knowledge can help staff and students make better decisions     regardless of the type of crisis they face.  
  • School     officials and local public safety responders should be prepared to make     decisions, communicate with each other and effectively communicate with     the public relatively quickly but accurately in the wake of a major school     crisis event.  Formal training or school staff in the National     Incident Management System is critical.
  • School     and public safety officials should be well prepared to perform key functional     protocols such as evacuation, emergency lockdown, off site family     reunification and to initiate these actions very quickly.  For     example, the decision to begin off site family reunification should     normally be made in the first five to ten minutes of the incident’s     beginning. 
  • School     and district plans, training, drills and exercises relating to off site     family reunification, interaction with the media are critical as these are     often very challenging functions for large scale incidents where parents     may be in fear for the safety of their children.

In addition, these types of incident should cause all school officials to re-evaluate the prevention measures they have in place.  Key preventive measures that have helped to prevent these types of incidents have included a wise combination of security technologies with current research – based concepts in the ability of staff to detect indications of danger.  Some of these that have been relevant in past multiple victim school shootings include:

  • Modern     strategies for improving student supervision
  • Training     in visual weapons screening to help staff recognize the specific physical     behaviors that can indicate that a person is carrying a gun
  • Training     in pattern matching and recognition to staff to better detect problematic     situations
  • Multi-disciplinary     threat assessment teams
  • Efforts     to improve the connection between students and staff
  • Informational     efforts to educate students to report potentially dangerous statements and     behaviors
  • Dress     codes that make it harder to conceal a firearm and easier to detect guns     if they are carried by students
  • Evidence     based bullying prevention programs
  • Effective     access control approaches
  • Effective     utilization of security cameras, metal detectors and access control technologies

I have seen some of the above strategies work to prevent these types of incidents. Since our nation’s first multiple victim school shooting in Pennsylvania in the 1700s, this type of crisis has been deserving of our attention. Today’s tragedy reminds us once again that these types of incidents can occur in any school, in any community on any school day.  

Related Articles:




If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ