What is the Best Active Shooter Training for K-12 Schools?

Active shooter training remains a pressing issue for education and public safety leaders, as they learn that lockdown drills alone are not enough to prepare for this ever-growing threat.

While the need for training seems to be widely understood, the training methods, especially as it relates to different age groups, has become a subject of great debate.

 Just Sit and Hope?

Programs like Standard Response Protocol (SRP) rely upon the lockdown concept in the hopes that students will be in securable classrooms, should an active threat scenario occur. As an after-thought, SRP  likens fleeing an active shooter to a fire evacuation drill. “Lockdown” does not mean evacuate and the confusing nature of these messages work only to create more disorder during an actual emergency,.

Why Innovative Thinking Does Not Occur Under High Stress Conditions

It boils down to science.

In times of extreme danger, such as an active shooter situation, human beings rely upon their Freeze, Flight or Fight response, or what is commonly referred to as “Fight or Flight.”  This brings about several physiological changes.


  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Faster breathing
  • Release of stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline

Resulting in the forebrain, which controls higher thinking functions, essentially shutting down. Leading to a combination of the following effects:

  • Freezing
  • Poor decision making
  • Hearing loss
  • Perseveration
  • Distorted time
  • Submissive behavior
  • Shaking
  • Tunnel vision
  • Poor communication

As an emergency ensues, the human heart rate continually rises, further accelerating basic function deterioration. This can exacerbate the Freeze response and create what is called extreme survival stress. Extreme survival stress greatly limits a person’s ability to act, let alone strategically attack an active threat.


How Heart Rate Impacts the Human Body During an Emergency [Infographic]

At 115 BPM a person will generally lose control of fine motor skills. At 145 BPM complex motor skills are lost. At 175 BPM tunnel vision occurs, as well as

Heart rate has a significant impact on a person’s ability to respond to an active shooter.

A Child’s Heart Rate During an Active Threat

Now, as any emergency medical professional will tell you, the resting heart rate of a child is significantly higher than that of an adult – heart rate average for 3 – 12-year-olds ranges from 84 –110 BPM. The a normal resting heart rate for an adult is between 60 – 100 BPM.

Therefore, a child is more likely to experience extreme survival stress before an adult during an emergency.

Most children have not been exposed to extremely high-stress situations, and it is even less likely they, let alone most adults, have experienced a life-threatening situation requiring them to fight for their lives.

Teaching children to engage with an active shooter will inevitably lead to dire consequences. Even as a last resort.


How does AlerT differ from other Active Shooter Defense Training?

In an effort to counter programs that would like to teach children this training, we are here to remind you that there are other options.

Three states and five of the 50 largest school systems in the U.S. have adopted SafePlans’ active shooter training program. SafePlans’ AlerT system – which stands for “Assess, lockdown, evade, resist, and Tell,” is a measured approach that follows (and helped to establish) current best practices for schools.

As the name implies, AlerT is founded on the concept of situational awareness – teaching administrators, staff, and students to assess the situation first to determine the best course of action.

This concept is reinforced throughout the training.

AlerT empowers educators with:

  • Prevention Strategies
  • Ways to Secure Classrooms
  • Survival Options
  • Enhanced situational awareness
  • Improved Decision Making in an Emergency
  • Drill Guidelines with Classroom Curriculum
  • An Understanding of the Body’s Response to Fear

Schools are given the option of instructor-led, E-learning and train-the-trainer courses to meet the needs of districts large and small.

Resist is a Last Resort – for Adults Only

AlerT active shooter training does not advocate teaching students to fight an intruder.

While our resist method is taught to adults as a part of the AlerT program, we explicitly advocate that children not be instructed to physically engage an attacker.

In addition to this, our instruction reinforces the fact that resisting an attacker should only be exercised in the event that the lockdown and evade options have failed and direct contact with an intruder is imminent.

Unlike other active shooter training courses, this point is made consistently throughout all AlerT training materials and presentations, to avoid any confusion.

An Active Shooter is not a Fire Drill

 Thanks to effective fire safety measures, no student as died as a result of fire in a U.S. K-12 school for over 50 years.

Fire drill evacuation works for fires, not active shooters.

SRP attempts to standardize active shooter response when there is not a standardized classroom for lockdown. Additionally, the best path of escape is a variable that cannot be pre-planned.

AlerT empowers people to evade danger. While run might be the best option under direct contact and immediate danger, there are other times when students must be escorted rapidly to safety.

Students associate fire drills with an orderly, pre-planned, lemming-like evacuation. Under AlerT, teachers are trained to evade the attacker using any available exit (or window), and taught how to use cover and concealment while moving students.

AlerT: An All-Hazards Approach to Emergency Response

The AlerT system easily integrates into existing all-hazards plans. Our all-hazards approach helps schools provide a positive and safe learning environment, all while reinforcing the necessity of situational awareness during any emergency.

Be AlerT

If you would like to learn more about the AlerT program visit our AlerT resources page for access to free active shooter training materials.

Still not convinced? Read our recent blog post detailing how AlerT directly stacks up to the Standard Response Protocol (I Love You Guys Foundation) active shooter training methodology.


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