Even above the noise of the day’s first lunch period, the sound of gunshots near the school’s office can be heard in the cafeteria. As the loudspeakers call a lockdown and classroom doors slam shut all over the building, the teachers on lunch duty quickly open the room’s emergency exits and send the students racing outside. Some may remember to gather at the designated meeting spot two blocks away, others may continue to run home, or go to another location in the neighborhood.
Regardless of where they run, all of them will reach safety, because their faculty and administrators took Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training offered by their local law enforcement agency, and incorporated the principles of that training into the school’s safety plan.
In 2013, Texas State University added a third component (along with active shooter and medical assistance) to its training package for law enforcement officers. The CRASE module, offered free of charge through grant funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (a component of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice), builds on the Avoid, Deny, Defend (ADD) strategy developed through Texas State’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Program in 2004. The one-day classroom-based training teaches law enforcement officers how to present strategies and guidance for surviving an active shooter event; this train-the-trainer course addresses topics to include the history and prevalence of active shooter events, the role of professional guardians, civilian response options, medical issues and drills.
"When it comes to dealing with active shooter incidents, the focus has been on increasing the speed of the law enforcement response. However, even when officers reach the scene quickly, casualties have still been high, which shows the importance of training civilians to do what they can to delay the shooter and prevent casualties," says Dr. Pete Blair, an associate professor of criminal justice at the university and one of the course’s developers. "The basis of the training is that while lockdown is a good option, it’s not the only thing administrators need to consider."
In order of preference, the ADD strategy says to first run away and get out of the building (Avoid); if that is not possible, close and lock doors and put up barricades (Deny); and finally, if the shooter enters your space, fight back (Defend.)
Blair says CRASE does not teach specific hand-to-hand combat strategies, and it emphasizes that various state and local jurisdictions vary in their policies on fighting back, particularly when it comes to involving older high school students: "We do talk about positioning yourself in the room. Traditional advice during a lockdown is to stand as far away from the door as possible, but this leaves you vulnerable. We recommend that teachers position themselves near the door so they can engage the shooter, and to remember not to fight fair. This is not about who’s the toughest kid on the playground, this is about who gets to go home that day."
Before beginning to teach law enforcement officers how to take the ADD approach back to their communities, staff from Texas State University took the training to some local school districts as part of course development. They then began providing on-site training at law enforcement agencies in Texas, and are expanding nationwide in 2014. Any agency interested in participating in the training only needs to provide a classroom that will hold up to 50 students, who will then be able to spread their knowledge throughout local school districts.
"It’s really designed to fill the gaps that exist around the standard lockdown response. Administrators find lockdown attractive because it includes accountability, but a responsibility for accountability doesn’t override the need to keep students safe. At Sandy Hook, they had planned as well as they possibly could, and they were still finding children scattered around the neighborhood a couple of hours later, because they had the chance to run away from the school, and they did," Blair says. "This training will help administrators learn to plan for multiple eventualities."