Security Awareness For Educators (SAFE) is an element of SafePlans Intruderology™ program that provides intruder and active shooter solutions to improve our clients’ all-hazards preparedness programs. One important aspect of prevention is a layered approach to physical security. For most schools, the final layer is the classroom. From a physical security standpoint, try to keep your classroom door locked during class. This allows you to focus less on security and more on teaching.
While access control is important, it is not realistic to assume a locked door is adequate protection from a mass killer. You need the right plan and mindset. SafePlans’ Operational Environment Analysis is designed to help people understand how their work location (operational environment) relates to the emergency plan and security capabilities.
1. Know the Plan.
Active shooter type attacks are dynamic and it is unlikely you will receive advanced warning or meaningful guidance from the office. When confronted with a violent intruder or active shooter, you have three survival options, Run-Hide-Fight. Run-Hide-Fight is the methodology recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Education as the best practice for K-12 active shooter/intruder response.
Run-Hide-Fight is not a linear concept. Your level of contact and your location determines response. Contact + Location = Response
Contact is either direct (immediate) or indirect. Location encompasses physical issues like your ability to secure a room or escape, but it also includes your responsibilities in that location. Responsibilities include helping others like persons with special needs and young children. Understanding your classroom (location) will help you chose the proper option under stress.
- Run: Implement a rapid evacuation if:
o You have direct contact with an attacker. Or
o You cannot secure your location. Or
o You have a clear path of escape.
- Hide: Deny the attacker access to your location when:
o You have indirect contact with an attacker; AND
o You are able to secure your location
- Fight. As a last resort, fight back and defend yourself when:
o You have direct contact; AND
o You cannot escape; AND
o You are in fear for loss of life.
2. Situational awareness.
Situational awareness is a mindset and an attitude that enables you to observe something dangerous early enough to be able to do something about it. Situational awareness is not hyper-vigilance or paranoia. Unless there is a specific concern, being prepared, alert, and relaxed with an understanding of your environment maintains good situational awareness.
- Encourage students to help identify potentially dangerous behavior by embracing the U.S. Homeland Security “See Something – Say Something” climate in your classroom. Keep it simple, tell them to let you know of anything that causes a concern for their safety or the safety of someone else.
- Utilize the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) concept of Natural Surveillance by positioning your desk and place of instruction in a location that provides maximum visibility of the classroom entrance, hallway (via vision panels*) and outside (via windows). The human eye is drawn to movement and your ability to observe your environment can allow Natural Surveillance to provide maximum warning time.
*In Hide or Heightened Security events where remaining in the classroom is the best option, vision panels may be covered after the room is secured.
- Understanding your environment is more than just the physical space. Analyze your responsibilities and the capabilities of students you are responsible. For example, students with special needs who cannot Run may require you to place a greater emphasis on access control (Hide). These precautions must come in advance of an emergency.
3. Learn Paths of Escape (Run). Evacuation is not just for fires. Determine all available means of escape in the event you have to order students to rapidly evacuate. This can include windows, so make sure you know how they operate. Choose landmarks away from the school, such as a church or bank, where you can direct students to in case you must stay and help others.
4. Practice Denying Access (Hide). If at all possible, make a commitment to keep you classroom door locked at all times. Even if your classroom can be locked from inside, having to lock a classroom door to delay an intruder access requires you to be closer to the door than the intruder and be willing to move towards the door under extreme danger. If you classroom door cannot be locked from the inside, KEEP YOUR CLASSROOM DOOR LOCKED AT ALL TIMES.
- Embrace your inner MacGyver and practice impromptu target hardening. Even if your door is locked, use barricades, blockades and/or tie off methods to further deny an intruder access.
5. Commit to a Survival Mindset (Fight). The body can’t go where the mind hasn’t been. While Fight is always a last resort, you should prepare yourself for this option. Commit to yourself and your students that you are prepared for a violent attack. Consider what resources are available for use an impromptu weapons if you have direct contact with an attacker, cannot run and are in fear for loss of life. Consider the age and abilities of students and determine if they could assist.
SafePlans works with thousands of schools and we understand these concepts can be a paradigm shift from the outdated “lockdown” concept. While our S.A.F.E. training provides greater resources, hopefully these five strategies can help keep your school and classroom even safer.
Coordinate all security and emergency planning efforts with local agencies and state safe!
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Intruderology: The science of active shooter prevention and survival.