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August 6, 2018
    Article highlights
  • New protocols for active shooter scenarios
  • How to arm your officers with critical content in critical moments

Since the Columbine tragedy in 1999, which claimed 15 lives, nearly 200 additional children, staff, and family members have died from school assaults. Another 300 individuals have been physically injured and hundreds of thousands more emotionally affected.

School shootings like Parkland, Florida, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary and Santa Fe, Texas have led city and state governments around the country to re-examine their policies and training for school shooting preparedness.

As school shootings have become more common, averaging around 10 incidents a year since 1999, law enforcement agencies and schools are working together to plan and train for potential active shooting incidents.

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School Shooting Preparedness

In July 2018, the Secret Service released a threat assessment guide for schools to help them create safety programs and protocols during threatening situations.

From developing assessment teams that include a diversity of faculty, administrators and school resource officers (SROs) and determining the boundaries and triggers for law enforcement involvement, to developing risk management options, the operational guide is an outline of measures to reduce incidents while training school personnel, parents and law enforcement for the “what if.”

This requires clear communication before, during, and after the incident. Police can respond quickly when they have protocols in place, access to school floor plans and open lines of communication with school officials.

Training for School Shootings

Most law enforcement agencies regularly train officers to respond to active shooter situations. In their 2014 report on “The Police Response to Active Shooter Incidents,” the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) noted delays in response can result in more deaths.

PERF recommends departments train every officer for active shooter incidents, and also offer advanced training on location in schools. PERF also stresses policies, training, and communication systems should be consistent between regional agencies in order to ensure an effective multi-agency response.

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While it is noted there is no exact profile of a school shooter and every school shooting is different, there is no exact school shooting “policy.” For school shootings, it is the training and established procedures for responding to an event that will prove the best method for de-escalation and saving lives.

As school resource officers (SROs) and armed guardians provide tactical training, schools can also offer specialized training to staff members on how to respond in a crisis situation. For example, the National Association of School Psychologists’ PREPaRE curriculum and the ALICE Training Institute offer classes on responding to a shooting.

School Shooting Drills

According to theAssociated Press, as of 2016, two-thirds of U.S. schools conducted active shooter drills. These drills take different forms from a teacher playing the role of a “shooter” to children practicing staying silent and hiding.

Of course, the classroom drills are not without controversy as some psychologist feel the drills are merely adding anxiety for children and have not been proven to help in a school shooting incident.

However, others insist school shooting drills can help staff and teachers think through practical responses and issues withexperts advising schools make active shooter drills age appropriate to properly prepare students.

New Approaches for Preventing Shootings

Along with school shooter preparedness and response, governments are also looking at ways to prevent shootings.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, Florida legislators concluded that schools need more protection on campus. They created a new law that requires every school to have at least one armed security guard on campus. Part of the act creates an option to train “armed guardians” to protect school campuses.

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What is the Armed School Guardians Program?

The Armed School Guardians is a Florida program created in the wake of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy and subsequent state law mandating every school must have at least one police officer or someone else on campus with a gun to guard the campus, faculty, and students.

Those hired for the program must have at least two years experience in law enforcement or the military and will train at least 132 hours. The chosen guardians will not have any off-campus authority as their sole responsibility is to protect the campus from threats.

The program has been controversial. Some counties have enthusiastically embraced the idea while others have argued against allowing more guns on school campuses.

The Importance of Policy & Procedures

Policies to address active shooters specifically does not exist as each incident is different. However active shooter policies which establish standard operating procedures, equipment needs, and training objectives is critical as are other comprehensive policies on de-escalation and mental illness, for example.

An active shooter or de-escalation policy may specify the protocols and responsibilities for assessing the threat and the immediate response. How will staff and law enforcement communicate during the incident? Where is the Casualty Collection Point? Where is the Cold Zone? What is the immediate action? What level of use of force does an armed guard or law enforcement officer use when approaching the suspect?

Per the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a delay in responding to an active-shooter situation, where ongoing deadly force is reasonably likely to be employed by a suspect, can result in injury or death. The immediate action by officers at the scene is necessary when such actions are deemed reasonable to prevent further injuries or loss of life.

Schools, law enforcement, and other first responders must collaborate on school shooting policies and procedures to ensure each incident falls under a unified command and the event is neutralized.

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Creating School Shooting Policies & Procedures

Good policies and training help set clear expectations, limit risks and liability issues, and make the program more effective and safe. They ensure that everyone involved understands the role and responsibilities.

Creating policies for an Armed Guardian or SRO program should be a collaborative effort. It should involve input from a diversity of stakeholders within the community, including law enforcement, the school board, school staff, and parents.

Armed Guardian and SRO programs will differ depending on the needs of the particular community. So those involved should come to an agreement on how to structure the program in their area.

The policy will need to spell out exactly how the program will work, addressing questions including:

  • Will current school employees or teachers be allowed to participate?
  • What will be the SRO or guardian’s role and responsibilities on campus?
  • How does the guardian or SRO communicate and work with school administrators and local law enforcement?

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PowerDMS Simplifies Policy Management & Training

PowerDMS is your one-stop shop for your agency’s critical content, including safety policies such as those for a school shooting, SRO or Armed Guardian program.

Policy management through PowerDMS makes it simple to create, update, and distribute policies and standard operating procedures.

PowerDMS can also house content such as school maps, evacuation routes, critical response plans, and more all in one place. This streamlines the content and makes it accessible to everyone who needs it. Having the information all in one place assists with planning and drills.

With PowerDMS’s workflow features, school and law enforcement administrators can easily collaborate with members of different agencies. They can make sure everyone is looking at the same version of a policy or operational process draft, and keep track of notes and changes, all in one place.

Policy management software like PowerDMS also simplifies the process of distributing safety information. Administrators can send out documents with just the click of a mouse. In the midst of a school shooting, this can save lives. Responders can pull up building layouts and communicate essential policies in real time.

PowerDMS can also help agencies track training. Agency leaders can collaborate on training content, assign online coursework to staff, and even create customized quizzes to ensure comprehension. They can also use PowerDMS to track all training hours—online and in person. The capabilities of tracking all training for officers is also beneficial for after action reporting (AAR).

Armed Against School Shootings

A proactive outreach approach between law enforcement, the community and school districts builds awareness and results in a more trained response from all stakeholders. With the software capabilities to manage active shooter, mental illness, and other critical policies, track and record officer training, and distribute school maps to first responders, PowerDMS is the online solution to incorporate as part of arming law enforcement and communities against school shootings.

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