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How To Help Your Child Survive An Active Shooter

Today has been quite a tumultuous one in the United States with not one, not two, but three different active shooter emergencies.

I wrote this intro a year ago yet one year later, it applies again as the US has been mired by 3 back-to-back active shooters in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, OH in the past week so I’m sharing yet again, this post about how to prep your child to survive an active shooter situation…again.

It’s pretty sad and scary because no longer can we be assured that we can avoid the type of places that these incidents occur at because there is not typical target any longer.

We may have heard the story of the little girl who survived the Sandy Hook shooter by pretending she was dead and staying still. Most kids are not prepared for such a situation and wouldn’t necessarily be that quick on their feet to think like that. It then leads us to the inevitable. We have to prepare our children for surviving an  active shooter situation.

Here are some basic pieces of advice, adapted from instructions and policies created by the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training Institute

What is an Active Shooter?

An active shooter emergency involves one or more persons, using a firearm, engaging in a random or systematic shooting spree. The vast majority of shootings in this country are over in a matter of minutes, involve persons known to one another, and are confined to a particular area.

An Active Shooting incident does not follow this template. It may last for minutes or hours, range over a large and constantly changing area, and threaten everyone within close proximity of the shooter(s).

Do You Get any Warning?

Persons may or may not receive advance warning of an active shooter. A witness, personal observation or the sound of gunshots may be the only alert you receive, leaving little time to react.

What Does an Active Shooter Emergency Sound Like?

The sound of gunshots, unlike special effects in movies and television, may sound muffled and make a “pop, pop, pop” noise. It is reasonable to assume that a series of such noises are gunshots and you should begin to take necessary precautions.

What’s Wrong With the Traditional “Shelter In Place” Process Police Use?

Traditional response to this type of incident has been to shelter in place and wait for the police to arrive. While this type of response is not wrong, case studies of several active shooter incidents have shown there may be instances where it is not possible or a secure location has been breached, resulting in an increase in casualties.

What is a Good Alternative for Pre schools and Day Care Centers?

The “ALICE” response plan has been identified to assist you in your response should this type of incident occur.

Pre-Schools and Day Care Centers come with unique factors and questions in dealing with this type of emergency. Building layout and features, the high number of younger children, and the consideration of possibly having only the option of “Lockdown” in some areas presents issues outside of normal protocols.

The staff should become skillful and think in terms of “when…then…” for an alert mindset.

Why Pre-Schools and Day Care Centers Present a Problem

Unlike most buildings, Pre-Schools and Day Care Centers usually only have one identifiable entrance for the public, but have several egress points for those in the building to escape in case of emergency. These points usually lead to playground areas that are fenced in order to keep children from wandering from the premise.

Consideration should be given to these fenced areas being gated and easily opened by staff to exit. Whether in an Active Shooter Emergency or Fire, the ability to move large numbers of staff and children away from the premise should be paramount. Once away from the building, the issue becomes one of keeping the children together and moving them to a safe haven. This location should be planned out and drilled into the children in much the same way we evacuate for fire drills. Campus Safety Has an Excellent Plan for administrators of schools and day care centers you can download HERE!

What should You or Your child do in an Active Shooter Situation to Survive?

What follows is a simple, example of an ALICE for Pre-Schools/ Day Care Centers.

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ALICE

“ALICE” is an acronym for 5 steps you can utilize in order to increase your chances of surviving a surprise attack by an Active Shooter. It is important to remember that the “ALICE” response does not follow a set of actions you “shall, must, will” do when confronted with an Active Shooter. Your survival and the survival of the children are paramount in this situation. Deal with known information and don’t worry about unknowns. You may use only 1 or 2 parts of the response plan or you may have to utilize all 5. In this type of incident, your perception is the reality and you will be deciding what the appropriate action is for you to take.

  • Alert- Can be anything.
    • Gunfire
    • Witness
    • PA Announcement
    • Phone alert
  • Lockdown- This is a semi-secure starting point from which to make survival decisions. If you decide to not evacuate, barricade to secure the room.
  • Lock the door using all securing mechanisms.
  • Cover any windows in the door if possible
  • Tie down the door, if possible, using belts, purse straps, shoe laces, zip ties etc.
  • Barricade the door with anything available (desks, chairs, rolling cabinets, etc.)
  • Look for alternate escape routes (windows, other doors)
  • Call 911
  • Move out of the doorway in case gunfire comes through it
  • Move children to the safest location in the room
  • Silence or place cell phones on vibrate
  • Once secured, do not open the door for anyone. Police will enter the room when the situation is over.
  • Gather weapons (coffee cups, chairs, books, pens, etc.) and mentally prepare to defend yourself or others.
  • Put yourself in position to surprise the active shooter should they enter the room.
  • Inform- Using any means necessary to pass on real time information.
  • Given in plain language.
  • Can be derived from 911 calls, video surveillance, etc.
  • Who, what, where, when and how information
  • Can be used by people in the area or who may come into it to make common sense decisions
  • Can be given by “Flash Alerts”, PA Announcements or Police Radio speakers
  • Information is a two-way street, if you have information share it with the police dispatch or the office
  • Counter- This is the use of simple, proactive techniques should you be confronted by the Active Shooter.
  • Anything can be a distraction device
  • Throws things at the shooters head to disrupt their aim
  • Give children the command to act (disruption tactics) or move
  • Create as much noise as possible
  • Attack in a group (swarm) if possible
  • Grab the shooters limbs and head and take them to the ground and hold them there
  • Fight dirty-bite, kick, scratch, gouge eyes, etc.
  • Run around the room and create chaos
  • If you have control of the shooter call 911 and tell the police where you are and listen to their commands when officers arrive on scene.
  • Commit to your actions, this is the last resort.
  • Evacuate- Remove yourself and the children from the danger zone as quickly as possible.
  • Decide if you can safely evacuate
  • Assist children in moving to secure rally points away from the building
  • Run in a zigzag pattern as fast as you can if alone
  • Do not stop running until you are far away from the area
  • Bring something to throw with you in case you would encounter the Active Shooter
  • Consider the distance to the ground if you go out a window. 3 floors up is considered the survivable drop zone.
  • Break out windows and attempt to quickly clear glass from the frame
  • Consider using belts, clothing or other items as an improvised rope to shorten the distance you would fall
  • Hang by your hands from the window ledge to shorten your drop
  • Attempt to drop into shrubs, mulch or grass to lessen the chance of injury
  • Do not attempt to drive from the area
  • Once at the rally point move children to most secure position possible and account for all the children in your care
  •  

Secondary Issues

  • Anyone may call 911 should they perceive a threat. Don’t worry if it turns out to be no issue, error on the side of caution.
  • Responding Police will have their weapons drawn and ready for use. They do not know exactly who the shooter is and will probably point weapons at you. Just remain calm and follow any directions they may give you. You may be asked questions, patted down, and given orders to exit certain ways.
  • Responding Police are there to stop the Active Shooter as soon as possible. They will bypass injured people and will not help you escape. Only after the shooter is stopped will they begin to provide other assistance.
  • If you come into possession of a weapon, do NOT, carry or brandish it! Police may think you are the Active Shooter. If possible, put it in a trashcan and carry it with you. If you come across Police, calmly tell them what you are carrying and why. Follow their commands.
  • Be prepared to provide first aid. Think outside the box. Tampons and feminine napkins can be used to stop blood loss. Shoes laces and belts can be used to secure tourniquets. Weighted shoes can be tied around a person’s head to immobilize it. Remember it may be several hours to secure an entire building and safely move an injured person. The actions you take immediately to treat injuries may save their life. Equip rooms with “GO Buckets” containing water, bandages, medications, zip ties, kitty litter to absorb moisture in the bucket should it be utilized as a toilet, etc.
  • If you are in lockdown for a long period of time, give consideration to issues such as bathroom use, keeping people calm, games, books, etc.
  • Pre-select Rally Points away from the building and practice with the staff and children moving to these locations. Make sure that the locations you are evacuating to know why and where to place you should an emergency occur. Involve local Law Enforcement in this planning.
  • Consider setting up classrooms and offices to make it harder for an Active Shooter to enter and acquire targets. Remember, posters and signs on windows, while welcoming, may obstruct your view of people entering the location.

These measures are meant to provide you with the knowledge and skills you may need to make decisions for your safety and the safety of the children. There are no mandates on how to survive, you are empowered to make decisions and won’t be second guessed.

What Can Parents do To Prepare for Non School Active Shooter Situations?

A book from the Alice Institute called “I’m Not Scared, I’m prepared” ($8.55)  tells the story of a teacher who has to tell her students what to do if a “dangerous someone” is in their school. Because we live in the world we live in, a book like this is needed for educators and parents so that their children are prepared for surviving a possible attack. It teaches the concepts taught in the training school for all children in a non-fearful way. Children learn things like:

  • Listen to the teacher and the announcements
  • There are ways to help the teacher barricade the door
  • There may be a time to go to a rally point with or without the teacher

and more.

photo: Screengrab WBUR/Getty

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