Verbal De-Escalation Techniques Save Lives

Electronic security equipment, weapons and emergency preparedness drills aren’t the only tools you can use to protect your campus.

As the details about Thursday’s Taft Union High School Shooting are coming to light, we’re learning that two brave school staff members, teacher Ryan Heber and school counselor Kim Lee Field, were able to distract the shooter long enough so that the rest of the students in Heber’s class could escape the room unharmed. Heber and Field were then able to convince the suspect to hand over his weapon.

I don’t know if either of these individuals have ever received any type of training on how to verbally de-escalate incidents, but it sure sounds like they knew what they were doing. It also helped that the alleged shooter and Heber, a popular teacher on campus, appear to have had an amicable relationship.

The Taft Union High School shooting demonstrates the importance of providing training to campus teachers, staff and public safety officers on verbal de-escalation. Unfortunately, according Campus Safety’s most recent opinion survey, a significant percentage of these individuals are not receiving enough training on workplace violence or on how to safely restrain individuals who are harming or might harm themselves or others.

I strongly encourage our university and school readers to follow the lead of our hospital readers and train all of their employees on these life-saving techniques.

The following articles, which we’ve run over the past several years, provide some basic guidance.


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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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