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Why Active Shooter Training In Non-Traditional School Settings is Necessary

Across the United States, K-12 schools are exploring new and innovative ways to improve safety and security for students. There are a variety of tools to consider, from visual security measures such as cameras to increased school entrance security.  The current climate calls for local administrations to implement these tools as part of a comprehensive safety plan. These safety plans should include active shooter training, which has evolved significantly over the past couple of years to meet rising threats.

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These can include emergency drills or lock down exercises, and may vary depending on the facility’s unique layout or security challenges. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are key components to an emergency active plan during an active shooter emergency. The training should teach participants how to recognize the sound of gunshots, react quickly when gunshots are heard or if a shooting is witnessed including run, hide, and fight protocol, call 911 as fast as possible, and react appropriately once law enforcement arrives. However, these practices are most easily put into action in the classroom or other locations in the main school building. It’s important for teachers, students, and staff to be prepared for these emergencies in non-traditional settings as well.

School safety doesn’t start when the first bell rings and end at the conclusion of the day, and administrators must be prepared for an emergency at any time, even when students are not on campus. It’s important for students and teachers to be prepared no matter what the school setting, whether that is on the bus or during a school-wide sporting event. Training should include all school personnel, including bus drivers, crossing guards, and coaches who may not otherwise be included in faculty-wide programming. 

During an attack, every second counts. The faster teachers and administrators are able to react and respond, the more likely the violence is to be prevented or minimized. Here’s how several institutions have instated inclusive active shooter training in non-traditional settings to bolster safety for the school community. 

Active Shooter Training for School Bus Drivers

The school administration must consider how it’s going to manage safety outside of school day hours, and this includes during transportation time. The bus can present a variety of safety concerns, and it’s important to empower drivers and chaperones how to identify and address these challenges. It’s important that drivers know what to do if a student has a medical emergency, if a student threatens another student with a weapon or brings a weapon onto the vehicle, if there is a bomb threat while en route to campus, or if a stranger or non-student guardian attempts to come onto the bus without prior permission.

For drivers, school bus crisis intervention training that presents with realistic situations that might arise on the bus are essential. By exposing those in charge of student safety on the bus to these scenarios, drivers can practice how to react, giving them the skills needed to perform appropriate behavior during an active shooter event. In an interview with WLWT5 news, Jesus Villahermosa of Crisis Reality Training explained why these trainings are necessary.

"Four active shooters in this country so far have boarded school buses carrying there firearms on the bus before they started the massacres at the school," Villahermosa said. “We're teaching kids what to do in lockdowns. We're teaching administrators what to do in lockdowns. Who aren't we teaching? The bus drivers. Which is crazy because who are they transporting? Your kids. And they're transporting them in a condensed environment.”

"...Four active shooters in this country so far have boarded school buses...We're teaching kids what to do in lockdowns...Who aren't we teaching? The bus drivers. "

The school bus company DATTCO implemented several essential training practices for drivers. The training must follow Transportation Security Administration and federal guidelines, and aims to teach drivers to be more aware of surroundings. The program prepares drivers for an an active shooter situation, giving them tactics to overtake and disarm the attacker. Drivers were also given tactics to help respond if a weapon is fired, handling a bomb threat, how to react if an intruder attempts to board, and how to use the bus as a defense mechanism.

Drivers were taught “seven steps to safety” approach to escape harm and make sure that law enforcement arrives on the scene as quickly as possible. The objective is to minimize damage and injury until the appropriate first responders are on the scene. Part of the seven steps includes pre-trip inspections to identify any suspicious items, as well as protocol for removing the threat if an item is found.

The training also should cover how to handle an active shooter situation that occurs during drop-off or dismissal, with a focus on getting students out of harm’s way. In Westport, Connecticut, bus drivers were able to assist with an orderly early dismissal during a shooting threat.  If bus drivers are trained to assist during an evacuation scenario, it can help bolster first response during an active shooter event for the entire community, which demonstrates why these programs are worth investing in.  

Training is most effectively conducted through scenario videos, staff training discussions, and threat assessment tool s as well as safety technology training, school bus drivers will be better equipped to handle an active shooter situation. These practices should leave drivers better able to engage in positive communication with students, communicate with law enforcement effectively during stressful situations, and cultivate an overall safer transportation service for themselves and other.

Training For Coaches & Outdoor Event Coordinators

During the Fall and Spring sports seasons, students often spend long hours outdoor on school fields.  It’s important for coaches to be prepared in case of an active shooter event, even during the hours before and after school. Coaches and athletic trainers spend a large amount of time working on a high school grounds, and they should be aware and prepared for active shooter incidents. By including these employees in an emergency action plan, schools can better look out for the entirety of the school community. 

In June, 2017, Congressman Steve Scalise and his aide Zack Barth were shot in Alexandria, Virginia while participating in a Congressional Baseball Game For Charity event. The shooting highlighted a dark reality that these attacks can occur in any setting, and that emergency communication is essential. If first responders had not been able to quickly transport the injured government workers to the hospital where they were treated for severe gunshot wounds, the attack could have been deadly. The incident highlights the power of effective communication - no matter where students are, even if they are participating in sports and far from the main campus, it's important that help be able to reach them in a timely manner. 

Related Article: Why We Should Consider This Emergency Management Process for  Ending School Violence

Leveraging Technology to Manage Safety Across School Settings

One way to make a safety plan that works in a variety of settings is by using a panic button app. Traditional physical panic buttons are often placed under the desk, though there is key-ring version of the tool. However, even with  a portable button, there are still complications when the button is utilized outside the classroom. The button often redirects the call through an alarm company, when time is already precious. If you are on a bus or in a nearby field, law enforcement will need more time to locate the caller and time is too precious to waste. Similarly, the button will not provide location data to the emergency dispatcher and more time will be spent attempting to reach the area of campus or surrounding area where the emergency call is coming form. 

The panic button app can remedy both of these issues, making it an essential tool for off-campus use. The app can be made available to bus drivers and implemented in a variety of emergency situations. It will not only notify law enforcement of the nature of the emergency, whether it is an active shooter threat or a medical emergency, it will also provide coordinates to the unit. This way, first responders will be able to arrive on the scene faster and with the appropriate equipment to address the emergency. 

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Todd Miller
Todd Miller

Todd Miller manages all field operations at Rave. Prior to joining Rave, Todd managed the self-service consulting Practice at Oracle where he was responsible for the delivery of customized software solutions for clients in North America, supporting millions of users. At Oracle he was awarded recognition as a member of Oracle’s top 10% in Consulting. Todd’s previous experience includes leading consulting teams for Siebel and edocs in North America, Europe, and Australia. Todd is a graduate of Babson College.

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