Back-to-school season is underway all across the country. For students and parents alike, the upcoming school year is prompting growing anxiety over the prevalence of active shooter situations. With gun violence is on the rise many parents are finding themselves face-to-face with the horrifying question of “What if?”
Fifty-nine incidences of gunfire on school grounds have already occurred in 2019, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Parents wonder: what should I do if my child’s school goes on lockdown?
Don’t Go to The School
Charlie Moore, instructor and owner of Charlie Moore Training, LLC, trains civilians and experts on what to do in an active shooter situation. A parent himself, Moore understands a first impulse may be to get to your child’s school as quickly as possible. Moore explains to Parentology why that’s a bad idea.
Each school district has its own Emergency Response, Operations or Action Plans. This includes a designated reunification location for emergencies that call for school evacuations. Students and staff members will be transported there, where parents and guardians can reunite with their children. Moore says parents should go to this spot, instead of the school. This will ensure out of the way of emergency personnel securing the building and helping any injured.
Alternative Routes and Communications
There may also be an alternative reunification point in the event the initial site has been compromised or there’s a safety issue. Don’t be alarmed if things change in an emergency. Some of these locations won’t be disclosed until required.
Similarly, Moore advises against calling the school’s phone line or using cell phones near the school grounds to avoid overloading communications systems. “Emergency and Incident Command staff should be sending out periodic updates on all crucial information.”
What Your Kids Know
Traditionally, schools across the nation employ “lockdown” drills as the basis for their active shooter drills. This training basically teaches staff and students how to secure the classroom, turn off the lights and put everyone in a location that will help keep them concealed while they wait for first responders to arrive or the drill to end.
Moore says many schools continue to rely on the “lockdown” only drill even though in 2013 the US Department of Education made the recommendation that “lockdowns” were no longer effective. While Moore doesn’t believe the practice is bad or should be discarded, he thinks there should be enhancement training that covers additional methods. He recommends the following additional protocols be put in place for students and staff:
- Avoid: Students should run (if that’s the best option) to the nearest safe place like a fire station, police station, church, or other close location where they can contact authorities and parents.
- Deny: If running is not an option, students should put a barricade between themselves and the shooter using secure entrances or by blocking doorways that can’t be locked. They should also seek to create barricades, obstacles, barriers with concealment or cover between themselves, others and the shooter. Students should also immediately silence their phones, not put them on vibrate, when they get to safety.
- Defend: If there are no other options, students should be prepared to defend themselves. Moore says students should be taught where to position themselves in a room and how to utilize anything available as a weapon to defend themselves and others (depending on the age of the student).
Moore tells parents not to accept the status quo, rather they should get educated and empowered for our children’s sake. He recommends parents ask their school superintendent, principal, Board of Education (BOE) and others what the school response plans are, and how and when they’re practiced.
Shepard Humphries, owner of Shepard Security Solutions, advises parents not to get too worried about the possibility of a shooting at their child’s school. “The probability of your child being harmed in a school shooting is a tiny fraction of the probability they will be injured in a collision on the way to school,” he says, adding awareness and basic preparation are wise even when the probability is low.
No matter the reason for contact, you’ll always want to make sure that your child’s school has the most up-to-date contact information for you. “Schools must wade through bureaucratic tasks, even in an emergency,” Humphries says. “It is unlikely that you will receive a call within the first 30 minutes, so if you forgot your phone charger that day, go to the convenience store and prepare yourself to be reachable.”