Protection Professionals Debate Campus Active Shooter Response

Experts explain the pros and cons of the various methods of response currently available for civilians, including Run, Hide, Fight; ALICE; and Window of Life.

Lockdown May Be Best Option for Small Children

<p>“Run, Hide, Fight” is a video released by the city of Houston and endorsed by the DHS that demonstrates how adults working in an office setting can chose to run, hide or fight if an active shooter attacks their facility. To view the video, visit</p>There are other hospital security professionals who believe staff shouldn’t leave their patients to flee the scene of an incident. Many K-12 campus protection professionals also are concerned about the ability of teachers and staff to effecti
vely manage young children during a chaotic evacuation.

“The principle of en loco parentis ensures that we have a responsibility to others, and one of the assumptions of Run, Hide, Fight is that you are a free agent,” says Guy Bliesner, health and safety coordinator for the Bonneville Joint School District No. 92 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. “Lockdown still offers the best option in most cases. However, we allow flexibility in options for our teachers. We train with a move, secure, defend protocol. Move to a secure location (most often, but not always a classroom); secure the location (lockdown); prepare to defend if required. Students outside at the onset of a lockdown move to a predetermined location.”

Bellino also emphasizes flexibility with his hospital’s response to active shooters.

“You have a plan for where the incident is happening,” he says. “You have a plan for above and below and adjacent to [the incident]. Those plans can prevent loss of life if you know what you are doing and have the ability to lock doors and barricade. There are a lot of things you can do before running and escaping.”

In hospital settings and on campuses with small children where the occupants are totally dependent on staff, prevention strategies are extremely important. Those include locks, access control, threat assessments and more.

Are We Too Focused on Active Shooters?

All of this talk about campus community active shooter response may convey to some that this type of incident is extremely common. Not so, according to research by Dorn and Satterly. The odds that a child would die in school by homicide or suicide are no greater than one in one million.

So, are schools, universities and hospitals paying too much attention to active shooter incidents at the expense of other emergencies that are more likely to happen?

Related Article: Avoid the Active Shooter Trap: K-12 Edition

“Yeah, it’s understandable,” says Satterly. “The media really overplays it, and that’s what sells, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of good when you are looking at the realities of a situation and how to prepare for those realities.”

Satterly believes schools should approach the active shooter issue from an all-hazards perspective because it can be applied to active shooters and other disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes, Hazmat situations and more.

The active shooter response debate is also affecting campus design and construction. For example, at NOVA, some are debating the wisdom of putting in glass walls, which don’t allow people to hide behind them in the event a gunman comes on campus.

“Although that is true, there is still a greater likelihood that something will be stolen or a sexual assault will occur,” says Dusseau. “If the light of day is shining on that, it reduces its likelihood.”

Related Article: Avoid the Active Shooter Trap: Hospital Edition

Despite these challenges, many believe the focus on active shooters can have the positive effect of increasing overall awareness of campus security issues.

“Students are walking around all the time with their ear buds, and they are completely oblivious to their surroundings,” says Lt. John Weinstein, who is the commander of NOVA’s Safety District 3. “The shooter at our Woodbridge campus [in 2009] brought the rifle in a hockey bag. A student walking around campus with a hockey bag is a little out of the ordinary. We say you have to look at people critically, and if you do see something that is out of the ordinary, then you need to call the police.”

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About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray

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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