Active Shooter Response for School and Church Security: Part 1

Active Shooter Response for School and Church Security - Part 1:  An Integrated Approach

The lethality and frequency of active shooter incidents and deadly attacks both nationwide and around the world is rising at an alarming rate. We want to do everything possible to help prevent future killings; or, at the very least, reduce their number. Several years ago we published a 4-part article covering Tactical Church / School Security & Active Threat - Active Shooter Response.

We are re-publishing that article series here, beginning with the first part on an “Integrated Approach” to security. We believe there are simple, commonsense steps and preparative measures that every school, church and community can take to dramatically reduce the likelihood of deadly attacks and minimize the number of casualties should an attack take place.

This 4-part article begins to outline our approach to the problem which is covered in depth in Active Threat - Active Shooter Response online training course and comprehensive security team training program.

Note: While this article mainly refers to “school security,” the same principles apply to both schools and houses of worship (churches, synagogues, etc.) 

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An Integrated Approach to Active Shooter Response

What mission could be more critical than protecting America’s children at the schools where they go to learn each day?

Equally important is safeguarding our places of worship where families and communities come together to strengthen their faith and values.

These two missions are similar in nature and both vitally important to the continued survival of our nation and way of life. However, as far as we know, there is still no widely-accepted, comprehensive solution for how to accomplish this mission. 

This 4-part article series offers simple suggestions that might help get us closer to a solution, or at least significantly improve our chances of success in the worst-case scenario. Also, note that while this article references “school defense,” these same principles can also apply to church defense, or to any other community entity.

The reason the article is divided into four parts is because we believe effective school defense demands the effective integration of three different elements:
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • On-site Security Guards
  • Auxiliary guards and/or designated armed citizens
Therefore, this first part of the article provides a general overview of these three elements and explains the importance of their integration. Then, the remaining parts discuss the training, planning and employment for each separate element in succession.
The primary reason why it is essential to integrate of various security elements into a wider school defense plan is simple: lack of manpower and resources.

In a world with unlimited resources, school security is a very easy problem to solve. Simply assign multiple teams of highly-trained law enforcement and security personnel to protect each school around the clock. This solution is most likely not feasible at the moment because there are not enough resources and personnel available. Therefore, the challenge becomes how to take advantage of as many security resources and assets as possible to offset the deficiency. However, as with any military or security operation where multiple elements need to cooperate, the situation can rapidly deteriorate into chaos without effective coordination and plans for integration.

The first step in developing a plan for school defense is for every school to immediately implement at least a hasty or tentative plan for dealing with a deadly attack, then establish a firm schedule for rehearsing that plan on a consistent basis. This will at least provide a temporary solution and buy time to develop a larger, more comprehensive strategy.

Once tentative plans and reaction drills are in place, the next step is to look for all the potential security assets and resources that might be massed against the threat. If possible, schools should employ at least one armed security guard and integrate that guard into the existing emergency response plan and rehearsals. The key point is that once the guard is incorporated, the drill should look less like a “fire drill” and more like a tactical exercise where the guard will have to find and neutralize the attacker while innocents escape according to the evacuation plan.

There will also most likely be untapped security assets that could be of help in a crisis such as school staff who have firearms training, are licensed to carry concealed weapons or are former law enforcement/military personnel. There might also be parents or other citizens with relevant experience and training who are willing to volunteer to augment security. This “auxiliary security force” can provide critical manpower in a crisis. Also, all members of the auxiliary do not necessarily need to be armed. The auxiliary can include people with medical training or simply strong, athletic people who can help evacuate casualties. However, these auxiliary personnel must be identified, properly vetted and then incorporated into the drills along with the armed guards, ensuring they are able to provide support safely and effectively.

The final element is the official law enforcement officers and first responders whose jurisdiction contains the area where the school is located. These authorities must be kept in the loop throughout and consulted during the entire process just described. Ultimately, while the development and implementation of the various plans can be decentralized, law enforcement authorities are responsible for ensuring the various elements fit into a wider plan that ends in the arrival of law enforcement personnel, securing of the scene and evacuation of wounded. If possible, it would be ideal to have at least one law enforcement officer attend each emergency drill as a liaison and remain in frequent communication with school guards and auxiliary team members.

The message of the first part of this four-part article is simple: When faced with limited resources, the critical point is to take advantage of all potential security assets and ensure they are properly integrated into a coherent plan. However, as obvious as this point might seem, there are still many schools and communities that have yet to implement this integrated approach. So, discussion of the importance of integration is a useful starting point for exploring the problem of school defense.

Coming in Upcoming Articles...

The next article in this series will discuss the selection, training and employment of on-site armed security guards and their integration into a deadly-attack evacuation drill.
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