In March, 2018 East High School in Anchorage, Alaska put an active shooter lockdown drill they were conducting on steroids.
They did this by having the school resource officer of East High walk the halls of the school while firing blanks to make the active shooter lockdown drill seem more realistic: East High active shooter drill simulates real gunfire
They also did this to try and give students and staff a way to help discern the difference between actual live gunfire and firecrackers going off.
More than a few mass shooting survivors have opined they thought firecrackers were going off before they actually became aware something was drastically wrong.
So, from that perspective simulating live gunfire with blanks during an active shooter lockdown drill seems like a reasonable thing to do, right?
Not necessarily – especially if one listens to those advocating against lockdown drills of any kind, and they are many.
Meredith Corley, who taught math in Colorado in the aftermath of Columbine, says: “It (lockdown drill) re-traumatizes kids who have experienced violence. Getting the kids settled back into the work of learning after lockdown drills is a nightmare. That mind-set has no place in a learning environment.” (Taken from What Are Active-Shooter Drills Doing to Kids?).
Since the massacre at Columbine lockdown drills have become a sort of gold standard when it comes to preparing staff and students for an active shooter in their school.
Most lockdown drills do not include simulated live gunfire, though.
Was the East High lockdown drill over the top?
Was it too realistic?
Did it harm students rather than help them?
Are active shooter lockdown drills even necessary?
What we appear to be faced with is a ‘damned if you don’t – damned if you do’ conundrum:
- If we don’t at least try to prepare for an active shooter, our kids won’t be safe, but
- If we do try to prepare for an active shooter, our kids might suffer psychologically.
What to do? What to do?
As Will Smith once said:
Fear is a choice.
Do not misunderstand me. The fear that lockdown drills may be causing psychological harm may be real. Right now, though, that fear is still a choice especially if it paralyzes to the point of inaction of any kind.
What if there’s a better way to do this?
What if other options might be available to help?
Actually, there are. They’re called:
They look like this:
- Every component can be used in both simulated and real scenarios.
- Every component is related to the same goal – providing for the safety of our kids while in school.
- Every component can be exercised individually or in combination with the others.
- Takes the onus off the lockdown drill being the only practice method used.
- Allows for different scenarios for different simulations – gotta keep it exciting and interesting, right?
More information on the Standard Response Protocol can be found at this website: i love u guys.
The video that follows shows how the Jefferson County School District in Colorado, home of Columbine High School, approaches active shooter practice and training methods. Lo and behold, they use the Standard Response Protocol:
But wait! There’s more!
Any emergency manager worth their salt will tell anyone willing to listen that lockdown drills are a component of a well rounded emergency exercise program.
An emergency exercise program includes orientation seminars, tabletop exercises, functional exercises, full-scale exercises, and, you guessed it…drills (yes, there are other kinds of drills beside lockdown drills).
For more on this, click here: Ready.gov – Exercises.
And, finally, taking it even one step further, involve the kids for crying out loud!
Teen CERT might be a good place to start.
CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. As the name implies, the CERT is made up of teens whose training is provided by adult professionals in emergency response:
Whether we like it or not, kids are key stakeholders in all of this.
Age appropriate students should, therefore, be involved in, and have a say on, how their school safety needs should be met.
More on Teen CERT Resources here.
None of this is rocket science. It’s simply a way to help address our own fear of danger by not allowing our fear to become dangerous by doing nothing.
My two cents.
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