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Lesson Learned to save our Students and Teachers from an Active Shooter event

There is a very strong example of how to save and protect both students and teachers in the school environment from a possibly deadly threat. This example has worked so good that not a single student has been killed in the United States in over 50 years from this particular event. Fire prevention, fire safety and fire drills have ensured that no student has died in over 50 years. I heard another source stated the last student to die in a school fire was in 1958 but I cannot verify that.

When schools were heated with wood, oil or coal burning stoves, there were multiple school fires where students and teachers were injured and killed. On March 4, 1908, in Collinwood, Ohio 175 people were killed in Lake View School (172 students, 2 teachers and 1 rescuer). This problem has been meticulously addressed with a continuing effort in research, development and adoption of proven systems. Fire death prevention efforts include having fire hydrants outside the school, fire trucks close by, having fire sprinklers in the ceilings, having fire exit signs over doors that lead to safety, fire extinguishers in designated locations, fire alarms to notify fire department and occupants of the school, and of course, the fire drills that practice how to safety evacuate the school. One more effort that is often overlooked is the building materials and products in the school are either fire retardant or fireproof (translation cannot catch on fire). That is a great model that has been proven to work with no deaths in over 50 years. This model has a multi-level layers of protection that are overlapping or redundant. Not just one effort. And, there is still research and development going on today to improve these capabilities or design better replacement items or invent new items altogether.

Now slide forward to the 21st century, and while fire deaths in schools are zero, deaths for active shooters are starting to become commonplace. This same approach to developing multiple layers of protection with access control, time delays, physical barriers that are time-consuming to overcome, audible alarms, communications, response force and the last layer, if everything else fails, is the safe room or its equivalent, such as the VAST6. Schools today try to address the Active Shooter threat with a wide variety of efforts. The first effort is to identified what they think the active shooter will be, will do and how he will act. The average school has a plan to address this probable threat scenario, a notification procedure, simple and easy efforts such as locking doors and remain quiet. Some schools indicate the matter is address by having a School Resource Officer (SRO) and one school has the plan to have their students throw canned food at any intruder. With one or two of these efforts identified as their response to an Active Shooter event, the school has addressed the issue. Sometimes, meetings are held and other efforts are recommended but normally not adopted. In the military, the well-known saying paraphrased is “the plan is great and will work, but goes off track after the first shot is fired, and it is adjusting to the situation for the remainder of the fight.” Having a multi-layer, redundant and overlapping levels of protection greatly improves the chances of survival and allows law enforcement response to resolve the matter quicker.


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