Active Shooter Response for School and Church Security: Part 2

Active Shooter Response for School and Church Security - Part 2:  Armed Guard Employment

The first article on school & church active shooter defense focused on integrating three elements into a cohesive plan of action: 1). local law enforcement,  2). auxiliary security/support personnel, and  3). on-site armed guards. In this second article of the four-part series, we will delineate seven suggestions for employing armed guards for school or church defense and how to integrate those guards into a larger plan for responding to a deadly attack. 

While more armed guards make a school safer, even a solitary armed guard on campus can significantly improve security. Many schools and churches now utilize armed guards. However, we suggest an unconventional model for armed security. To that purpose, we offer the following seven suggestions to highlight innovative perspectives on how to make armed security more effective and efficient.

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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1. The Guard must be Heavily Armed

The armed guard should not be a traditional guard armed with nothing more than a pistol. Frankly, pistols are better than nothing, but no professional gunfighter would choose a pistol as his primary weapon when expecting combat. Recent attackers have rarely limited themselves to pistols, often perpetrating attacks using powerful cartridges in combat-capable platforms, or even automatic weapons. Therefore, the guard should look more like a “one man assault team” than a traditional guard.

The guard should wear level III or level IV body armor, carry a weapon with an expanded magazine capacity, extra magazines, and the appropriate optics to engage targets at range.

Many people consider it inevitable that security guards will be outgunned in a fight. The obvious solution to this problem is to bring a better gun to the fight.

2. The Guard will Stage in a Secure / Hidden Location

Ideally, the guard would not be visible. Instead, he will remain on standby in a secure location. This will prevent attackers from trying to ambush the guard first, and it will solve the problem of many schools objecting to having a scary-looking, heavily-armed guard visible on campus.

While a visible guard might deter threats, it might also frighten students and inadvertently accomplish the core terrorist objective of causing fear and paranoia in society and changing our way of life.

There are countries where tanks patrol the streets and people live in constant fear. America should avoid that path if possible. If we can provide a “low-visibility” security solution, we prefer to do so. A deterrent effect can be effected using signs, warnings, and information campaigns announcing the presence of armed guards on campus.

3. The Guard will be Centrally Located

A deadly attacker will probably not initiate the attack at the entrance of the school, but instead will attack closer to the center where most students are located. Therefore, while an access control point is helpful, the heavily armed guard should be more centrally located to respond to an attack anywhere on the campus.

For more adaptive and comprehensive security, a school should establish multiple staging areas to position the guard closer to the highest risk areas depending on the time of day. For example, during lunch hours the guard would stage near the cafeteria.

4. The Guard will be Highly Trained as an Assaulter

Because armed guard training was designed around less lethal threats of past eras, conventionally trained armed security guards may likely lack the skills required to rapidly find, fix, and finish a hostile, heavily armed and rapidly moving threat.

Today, a guard’s training should include skills traditionally reserved for military and tactical units including tactical combat casualty care (TCCC), barricade shooting, long-range marksmanship, and close quarters battle (CQB). A great many military and law enforcement veterans already have experience and training in these skills.

Furthermore, veteran military personnel and law enforcement officers who have experienced combat will have an increased degree of “stress inoculation” to reduce the chances that they will freeze or panic in an emergency.

5. The Guard will Stage Ammunition, Medical Supplies, and Other Equipment in Secure, Hidden Locations around the School.

It is impossible to predict the duration or scale of the next catastrophic attack or to know how long an engagement will last. Therefore, the guard should maintain secure caches of ammunition and critical supplies across the campus.

While ammunition should remain securely locked and hidden, the medical supplies can be visible and marked for emergency access by other personnel. This will also allow the armed guard(s) to carry a lighter combat load, providing them greater mobility and getting them to the fight faster.

It might also help to stage heavy tactical equipment, such as ballistic shields, around the campus that the guards can use in an emergency.

It is important that these caches be both hidden and well secured, so as to not be known or accessible to potential attackers, or to curious or troubled students. 

6. The Guard will Stage Ammunition, Medical Supplies, and Other Equipment in Secure, Hidden Locations around the School.

The school must have a special alert system to activate the armed guard and to trigger an evacuation.

Ideally, the system should help identify the location of the shooters and rapidly direct the guard to neutralize the threat while the students and staff evacuate along pre-designated movement corridors.
These corridors should provide covered and concealed escape routes. There should also be established recognition signals to ensure the students and staff know who the guard is and vice-versa.

While we have methods to accomplish these objectives, we will not go into too much detail here because specific procedures work better if they are inaccessible and/or unknown to potential threats. 

7. The Drill will look more like a Combat Scenario than a Fire Drill

If possible, the deadly attack drill should include someone role playing as the deadly attacker, and the armed guard will have to locate, engage, and neutralize the threat while students and staff evacuate.

This drill can be executed as a dry-fire drill, but it is also possible, and preferable, to use training ammunition or laser technology for the simulated engagement to enhance realism and better prepare for a real event. 

Include simulated casualties, casualty evacuation, and emergency medical treatment in the drill. While the armed guard should be trained in TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care) and other first aid, other personnel should be similarly trained in treating gunshot wounds and related injuries and should be involved in this scenario as well.

In Summary

These seven recommendations merely scratch the surface of the thought and planning required for maximum effectiveness in employing on-site armed guards to protect our churches and schools.

We understand that the approach we advocate here is not the standard model for armed guard employment. Furthermore, we would support employing additional, visible armed guards at entry points in a more traditional role, if resources permit.

However, if a church or school can have only one guard, we believe our model will provide the greatest chances of success for thwarting a crisis.

Our next article in this four-part series will discuss incorporating auxiliary security and support assets in the greater security plan.
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