Safety Issue: Preparing for Active Shooter Situations

US active shooters

The rates at which active shooter events take place have risen rapidly over the past few years. In the U.S. alone, there were as many as 38 school shooting incidents that took place in 2023 and resulted in 42 injuries and 21 deaths. Data like this only highlights the importance of increased school safety and security measures.

Although unpredictable, active shooter situations can be dealt with in a much more effective manner when those involved in these incidents are well equipped for the situation at hand. For that to happen, there needs to be an active approach towards addressing this major safety issue. With that in mind, here are the most effective steps educational facilities can take when preparing for active shooter situations.

Create a plan for your particular educational facility

Part of addressing active shooter situations successfully is creating a solid plan that everyone can follow and stick to in case of an emergency. Whether we’re talking about a high school, a college, or an elementary school, an emergency action plan can enhance the level of preparedness and provide everyone involved with options that can help manage the situation more effectively. Some of the most important steps that these emergency plans involve include:

  • Developing a communication plan with your local law enforcement
  • Developing a communication plan with school employees (e.g. emergency hotline)
  • Perform an assessment of the school building and establish the necessary procedures for locking down the building in case of active shooter situations
  • Develop a plan for handling patients
  • Familiarize staff and students with different risk mitigation strategies as well as procedures involved in these events (protecting patients, reporting active shooter events, and teaching them what to do when law enforcement arrives at the crime scene)

Provide students and staff with an active shooter response training

When it comes to preparing for active shooter situations, it’s also important to consider the most effective programs designed for responding to such events. One of the most popular programs at the moment happens to be ALICE. First, let’s answer one of the most questions such as what does ALICE stand for and what do training like these involve. An easy-to-remember acronym, ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. These practice drills that consist of role-playing exercises and simulations are key to providing an active response to critical situations and protecting oneself and others from harm.

Rather than remaining passive and waiting for help to arrive, staff and students are encouraged to address the issue at hand by applying the options that seem the most appropriate in their particular case. During active shooter situations, saving as many lives as possible is a priority. Training programs such as ALICE aim to achieve just that by empowering those involved by offering them options.

Get the students involved

Another important thing to mention when talking about preparing for active shooter situations is the importance of getting the students involved. One way to do this is by encouraging students to learn how to recognize signs of potential threat. Many times, violent intruders will tell someone about their plans before initiating the active shooter incident. Even certain social media posts can sometimes indicate that there’s a potential threat lying ahead, especially the ones where the users are posting about firearms or openly talking about planning a shooting. Social withdrawal, severe isolation, aggressiveness, access to firearms, open violent threats, and being bullied are also some of the signs to watch out for.

Unfortunately, many of these signs go unnoticed or unreported until the actual incident takes place. This is why students are highly encouraged to actively look for warning signs in order as this could help prevent potential incidents from arising.

Focus on fostering a healthy climate in your educational facility

One of the main roles of schools and other educational facilities is to provide their students with a respectable and safe place for learning and socializing. This has a lot to do with the overall climate in such facilities. A safe learning environment is the one where students feel like they’re understood, their needs are met, and their opinions valued and respected. For those students who are struggling, this also means offering the necessary help and support.

Other than improving student-teacher relationships and fostering understanding and unity, another way schools can foster a healthy climate is to invest in mental health resources. By connecting students with necessary help and addressing issues such as harassment and bullying in a timely manner, schools can ensure a safe learning environment and prevent more serious problems down the road.

Preparedness as key for successfully managing active shooter situations

Given the frequency at which active shooter events occur, it goes without saying that employing preventative safety measures is imperative for modern-day learning facilities. By taking proactive steps towards educating staff and students, educational facilities can ensure a much higher level of preparedness for unpredictable events such as school shootings. All this can go a long way in addressing active shooter situations with more confidence, thus increasing overall survival rates.