Active Shooter Threat: How K-12 Teachers Can be Better Prepared

This is not a lesson included in most teacher trainings. It's not something any of us want our teachers to need to think about. But it is clearly something that K-12 teachers, unlike anyone else in society, must be schooled in.

We have been involved in active shooter trainings in office environments for years. And with recent interest in K-12 active shooter preparedness, we have modified that training for K-12 campuses. What is particularly striking about the difference is the unique necessity for teachers to take responsibility for others -- for children. That responsibility is not typically a consideration in office environments, where presumably the majority of people involved are autonomous independent adults with their own judgment and capable of acting on instincts. Further, research shows that schools are much more likely to see an active shooter incident than workplaces. 

Teachers can prepare themselves by knowing the school’s layout and plan and participating in their drills. It is critical to know what the institution’s plan is. But, you need to prepare yourself. If you are ever in a situation you need to be ready to take action. It will be your job to evaluate the situation and either get the kids out or hide them, without missing a beat. This requires preparation and practice.

Your class should be prepared to get out fast, and to shelter in place. These should be part of your institution’s emergency drills. If your classroom has younger kids, you can incorporate “get out fast” and “shelter in place” drills into your classroom in a game format, so your kids can drill without even knowing it and in a fun way. 

Call an “UP AND OUT” or “FAST RECESS” game where everyone stops what they are doing and gets to the field / play ground as fast as they safely can. 

A “SCATTER AND HIDE” game can be incorporated to not be seen by the school mascot or other fun “culprit”. Call this drill “close the shade,” “secure the door,” and “scatter, hide & silence.” These “games’ can allow you to drill weekly without causing undue alarm. If you are ever faced with a threat, you have your keywords and practice to fall back on.

Teachers should have the following tools to prepare:

  • How will you be notified in the event of an active shooter? Campuses must have a notification system that creates a distinct and recognizable notification.

  • Know what a gun shot sounds like (clue -- it does not sound like in the movies. If you don’t know what a shot sounds like visit a shooting range with some fellow teachers). if you hear something that could be a gun shot take action. Don’t ask “was that a gun shot?” -- take action as though it is and, at worst, be a little embarrassed if it was not.

  • Know the best ways out of your classroom and out of the building. If you need to get out, know where you are going. In an active shooter scenario, you can still see the campus you are too close.

  • Know how to lock your classroom door from the inside. Schools are re-thinking deadbolts that can lock from the inside. You want this option and you also want to know how you can barricade the door from the inside. Use a “fireman’s” door wedge to wedge the door from the inside (if your door opens in). 

  • Have something in your classroom you can use as an improvised weapon to throw. It could be full metal soda cans, pipe metal fittings used in counting projects, or anything you can have nearby. Urban Alarm has more information on preparedness “toolkits” which may include these items plus a high intensity strobe flashlight, wasp spray, hammer and screwdriver, and other items that are reasonable (and not readily identified as weapons) to have tucked away in a classroom without violating campus policies.

As unlikely as it is you will ever be faced with an active shooter in your school, being prepared could make the difference between you and your students surviving. A little planning and preparation can make all of the difference in the lives of dozens of kids.