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Does Your School’s Level of Active Shooter Preparedness Meet National Standards?

Following the Columbine High School attack in 1997, schools across the United States have adopted lockdown plans to protect students from active-shooter attacks.

However, in the following years, it was determined that a lockdown-only approach to active shooter response was not sustainable – students and educators needed more options.

This blog post outlines recent updates to preparedness and training standards for schools, defined by the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, this post identifies several ways in which our AlerT Active Shooter Defense training improves upon new school safety standards – ensuring schools meet the national Standard of Care for their students and staff.

Download Your Copy of the U.S. DOE’s Active Shooter Preparedness Recommendations Summary

AlerT U.S. Department of Education Active Shooter Defense Standard of Care for Schools Paper

The U.S. Department of Education Updates Active Shooter Preparedness Best Practices – Redefining Standard of Care for Schools

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education released a comprehensive manual – outlining emergency operation-planning best practices for schools, titled: Guide for Developing High Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.

An intention of this guide was to communicate the Federal government’s updated view of Standard of Care for schools, with regard to active shooter preparedness.

What is Standard of Care for Schools?

 Standard of Care is a legal term that outlines the level of caution required to satisfy a school’s Duty to Protect. Schools have an expressed duty to protect students, and if a district or schools fails to protect students, they may have failed to meet the Standard of Care – which could result in legal action against the school administration or the school district, as a whole.

How the Standard of Care Relates to School Active Shooter Preparedness and Response

 As we noted above, schools that fail to protect students – resulting harm or loss of life – could risk severe legal action. With a sharp rise in the number of school active-shooter incidents, schools should ensure their students and staff are properly trained to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from an active-shooter attack.

U.S. Department of Education's Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Opertions Plans

Examples of Updated Active Shooter Preparedness for Schools from the U.S. DOE’s Guide

1. Need for Prevailing Mentality Training – “Training provides the means to regain your composure, recall at least some of what you have learned, and commit to action…Train staff to overcome denial and to respond immediately, including fulfilling their responsibilities for individuals in their charge.”

2. Lockdown is not Enough – “You can run away from the shooter, seek a secure place where you can hide and/or deny the shooter access, or incapacitate the shooter to survive and protect others from harm.”

3. Utilize Critical Decision Making “While they should follow the plan and any instructions given during an incident, often they will have to rely on their own judgment to decide which option will best protect lives.”

4. Option to Evade the Attacker – “If it is safe to do so for yourself and those in your care, the first course of action that should be taken is to run out of the building and far away until you are in a safe location.”

5. Adults Resist as a Last Resort“If neither running nor hiding is a safe option, as a last resort when confronted by the shooter, adults in immediate danger should consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by using aggressive force and items in their environment, such as fire extinguishers, and chairs.”

AlerT Active Shooter Defense Response Options - lockdown, evade, resist

How AlerT Training Meets and Exceeds the National Standard of Care for Schools

 AlerT active shooter defense training was developed as the evolution of Run Hide Fight, a popular and widely-adopted active shooter response system. While Run Hide Fight addressed the issues of a lockdown-only approach, it was not developed as a sustainable program for schools.

Additionally, Run Hide Fight functions only as a response system – failing to address essential elements of active shooter preparedness, such as prevention and recovery.

Using the above examples from the U.S. DOE’s guide, you can clearly see how AlerT meets their recommendations.

AlerT Active Shooter Defense Logo

1. Need for Prevailing Mentality Training

AlerT was designed to help educators and students combat the danger of normalcy bias – this is why the training is called “AlerT.”

Our training helps staff and students maintain a heightened degree of situational awareness with several tools like Cooper’s Color Code and John Boyd’s OODA Loop Decision Making Cycle. 

2. Lockdown is not Enough

Lockdown procedures can save lives in the event of an active shooter. However, a lockdown-only approach is not a sustainable strategy – educators and students need additional options to maximize safety and prevent or mitigate loss of life.

Lockdown is an element of the AlerT response options, but deployment of this option is only exercised if certain variables are met. For example, if you are not under direct contact with the shooter and are in an open space – your best option would be to evade or run. 

3. Utilize Critical Decision Making

During an emergency, most people default to their most basic level of training. “Assess” is the first step in the AlerT system for that specific reason.

AlerT training combines our PAINs (Pre-Attack Indicators) with John Boyd’s OODA Loop Decision Making Cycle – empowering educators and students to observe and identify persons of concern or implement the best response, in the event of an attack.

4. Option to Evade the Attacker

While the “Run” is addressed by several popular active shooter defense programs, AlerT utilizes the term “evade.” Running may be an element of evade – but “evade” is meant as more mindful and tactical option.

Depending on the circumstance, instructing students to run could contribute to the chaos during an emergency. For instance, there may be times when it is more practical to implement a structured evacuation.

AlerT trains educators and students to understand the various applications of the evade process.

5. Adults Resist as Last Resort

Similar to “evade,” many other active shooter response systems address the “resist” or “Fight” option as a response to an active shooter. AlerT differs in that this option is never taught to students. Furthermore, this option is taught as more of a mindset opposed to physical engagement with an attacker.

Adults are only taught to resist if they find themselves in direct contact with the shooter – and are unable to lockdown or cover and conceal.

Additional Ways AlerT Meets and Exceeds the National Standard of Care

Our AlerT training system enhances existing lockdown plans – integrating them into a standardized, all-hazards framework based on active shooter preparedness best practices. 

In addition to the five examples above, AlerT redefines active shooter defense best practices by:

  • Integrating easily into existing all-hazards emergency operations plans.
  • Enhances lockdown protocols with impromptu classroom hardening techniques.
  • Trains staff to remain situationally aware – supplemented by training cards and additional resources.
  • Allows staff to deviate from standard response protocols.
  • Trains staff to overcome panic.
  • Addresses each of the five missions of preparedness, defined by FEMA: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

Our active shooter defense program is currently the only system that meets all of these standards.

Get a Summary of the U.S. DOE’s Active Shooter Preparedness Recommendations to Use as a Quick Reference

Summary of U.S. Department of Education's Active Shooter Preparedness Recommendations for Schools

Just as the Tactics of Mass Killers has Changed – so Must our Training

AlerT training, much like the U.S DOE’s guide, was developed to address the evolving tactics of active shooters. We understand that lockdown, alone, is not a sustainable strategy for the safety of our nation’s students and educators.

Be Prepared – Be AlerT

Contact us today to schedule a training or to discover more about our various AlerT training options. Additionally, we encourage you to take advantage of free AlerT resources.

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