10/07/2019 | Kevin Davis, J.D., CPP
Students should not be instructed to hide under desks or other objects that would hinder their ability to run away or to fight if the shooter was able to gain entry to their locked classroom.
- The program is simple. Our brains are like computers, we only have so much RAM (processing speed). During times of tremendous stress, such as an active shooter situation, our brains are overloaded by stimuli. This overloaded effect can cause us to be indecisive to the point of not being able to function. However, Run. Hide. Fight provides three simple options for our brains to process and will hopefully spur us into action.
- Run. Hide. Fight was produced by the City of Houston through a Department of Homeland Security grant. It is backed and recommended by the Federal Government. It provides a standard system that is widely recognized and accepted. If a school was to get sued over the preparedness of their staff regarding an active shooter situation, the school can state that they were trained utilizing a nationally recognized system propagated by the Federal Government.
The first response of most schools in an active shooter situation is to go into lockdown (Hide) mode. Teachers are responsible for all of the students in their care under the doctrine of in loco parentis. Imagine a kindergarten teacher trying to herd 20 five and six-year-old students as they run away from the school building. Because of the constraints involved in safely protecting all children, the safest solution for most classrooms is to lock down. This is the area of Run. Hide. Fight that deserves the most attention in training, because it is the most likely “go to” response for schools.
When teaching the program in schools, it is important to incorporate the specifics of the school into active shooter preparedness training. Security administrators should conduct a walk-through of each school before training so that you get a feel for the security measures in place and current policies and procedures. This allows you to address specifics when talking about lockdowns. Point out physical security measures such as access control, video surveillance, hardened areas in rooms, windows/doors, etc. Also, it’s necessary to address procedures with staff to make sure each teacher and staff member know what to do in active shooter situations.
A specific item to address with a school is the use of code words or phrases to initiate lockdown procedures. I am not a fan of code words. Code words are often times obscure and/or overused.
When it comes to initiating a lockdown, keep the code word simple. Use the word “lockdown,” and say it repeatedly over the intercom or any other way that the school has of communicating with their teachers. Announcing a lockdown should immediately set teachers and staff in motion and should result in every classroom and office being locked in seconds. Saying the word “lockdown” won’t provide any special advantage to the shooter. In fact, by clearly announcing lockdown, schools actually hamper the shooter’s ability to easily find potential victims.
It is very important that schools understand that locking students in classrooms will not keep students and staff 100 percent safe. However, quickly locking doors and moving away from doors and windows provides a relative amount of safety for the majority. Students should not be instructed to hide under desks or other objects that would hinder their ability to run away or to fight if the shooter was able to gain entry to their locked classroom. If a shooter enters the classroom, be prepared to do whatever it takes to survive.
Run is a very important strategy that cannot be ignored in the active shooter preparedness toolbox. Even in the K-12 setting, where lockdown (Hide) is the default, run plays a very important role. Many times, running away from danger is the best option and is a natural reaction when the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in. For the K-12 setting, many factors come into play when assessing whether to run is an appropriate option. Those factors include:
- The age of the children: Can everyone in the teacher’s care run to safety? Or would it be more prudent to secure the children in a classroom or other locked room? Herding a class of kindergartners would be a much more difficult task than asking a group of high school students to run away.
- Proximity to the shooter: Would running away place children in harm’s way because the shooter is close at hand? Typically, shooters are looking for victims in their line of sight. When a shooter is close, it might not be the best option to run into the shooter’s vision.
- Abilities of the children: Just like age, ability plays a huge role in deciding whether to run is appropriate. A teacher in a special needs classroom is much less likely to exercise the run option and most likely will need to lockdown their students.
- Size of the group: Smaller groups are easier to control and keep track of than larger groups. Educators have to ensure every child can safely run away if the run option is chosen. Teachers are then responsible for accounting for the students in their care.
If run is the chosen option, teachers and students must run until out of danger, The old HazMat adage, “Rule of Thumb” is appropriate here: When you hold out your thumb in front of your face, if you can still see the building where the danger is occurring, you are still too close. Keep moving until everyone is safe. Teachers must remember to keep their students together as a group so everyone can be accounted for.
When you choose to run, use the nearest exit, or create your own. Use the nearest exit (even if it is alarmed) or create your own exit by breaking a window if necessary. Do what it takes to get out.
The final tool in the toolbox of the Run. Hide. Fight training strategy is fight. Fight is listed as the option of last resort when lives are in immediate danger. When fight is chosen, commit to the fight wholeheartedly with the attitude of “it’s either him or me.” Fight involves the most danger of the three options because of the proximity to the shooter and the actions being taken stop the threat.
There are a multitude of different active shooter preparedness training programs in existence, some of which place more emphasis on fight then the Run. Hide. Fight program. Here are some of the reasons to not overly emphasize fight:
- Training to fight can lead to injuries. There have been several instances where teachers and other personnel have been injured during “fight” training. Any time there is a hands-on, physical component to training, steps must be taken to mitigate and minimize injuries. There is a fine line between realistic training and taking training a little too far, resulting in injury to participants.
There are many different ways people can fight back. Some might have martial arts or defensive tactics training, others might use objects that are available in the room, still others might let natural instinct take over (scratching, biting, hitting, and clawing). Skill levels and abilities vary drastically, making it difficult to teach one particular fighting method over another.
- Personalities vary by a wide margin. Some people are naturally more aggressive than others. Expecting someone with a mild disposition to overcome their instincts and personality traits to fight off an armed aggressor might be expecting too much from them. Fight training can be very stressful, and it might overwhelm personnel who are not mentally prepared for it.
- The age and physical abilities of the children in the classroom make a huge difference on whether fight is an option. Older children (typically junior high and high school students) have a much better chance of helping teachers and staff to physically intervene in an active shooter situation.
Schools must take all of the above factors into account when deciding whether a fight component will be incorporated into active shooter preparedness training.
With that being said, if fight is the chosen option, or the only option available, fight with everything you have. There are no rules to this fight — everything is fair game.
Run. Hide. Fight is designed to be simple to maximize surviving an active shooter incident. The three components of Run. Hide. Fight should be viewed as tools in a response toolbox ready to be called into action if needed. It should not be expected to follow the steps in order in every situation. The bottom line and goal of any active shooter preparedness training is to do something. Preparedness might help save your life.