The sound of gunfire brings the math quiz to a halt, far faster than the effect of a “pencils down” command. As a second shot follows the first, there is no hesitation on the part of the teacher or her students: they’ve practiced and planned, and they know that as soon as she checks her cellphone for a text message that may give them the location of the intruder, they’re either running for the stairs at the end of the hall or piling desks in front of the door.
One path to fostering that sense of readiness in a school’s students and staff lies through Active Shooter Preparedness Training offered by the Indiana State Police (ISP). The agency’s full training package, including a Microsoft® PowerPoint presentation, presenter’s notes, a lesson plan and several videos, can be accessed and downloaded via the ISP website.
Sgt. Chris Kath of the ISP’s school safety program explains that the agency recently revised and expanded this curriculum to make it more specific and user-friendly: “Our intention is that not only can an Indiana State trooper go in and use it to give presentations, but that a police officer in another state can also use the training materials as well.”
In fact, it was a presentation by an officer from another state, F/Sgt. Kenneth Runk of the Maryland State Police at the 2013 National Association for Pupil Transportation, that gave Kath the idea to develop videos that train bus drivers on how to handle an active shooter situation (See “Video Training Encourages Bus Drivers to Plan for Safety,” https://School Safetyinfo.org/indiana.html.) These videos, which can also be used independently, make up one component of the expanded training package.
Moving from the original training’s basic concept of “Run, Hide, Fight” training in 2013 to the expanded 2015 version, Dr. Richard Hogue, program content developer, used suggestions and input from participants and trainers from more than 150 training sessions to modify the program to its present form. The ISP package expands on those concepts and adds a Prevention component because “we feel like prevention is always the best option. The program identifies early warning indicators and encourages schools to set up intervention teams that can monitor and assist troubled individuals. And in the event that an incident does occur, planning and practicing are key. We know that law enforcement and educators will give their lives to save children, but we are not asking them to die for the children in their charge. Quite the contrary, we ask them to by exercise these response options so they can live to protect those in their charge.”
“We’re trying to teach people to think more like law enforcement officers do, to be aware of their surroundings. As a police officer, when I go to a restaurant, I don’t sit with my back to the door. I pay attention to what’s going on around me. We need administrators, teachers and bus drivers to prepare the same way,” Kath says.
“If you look back at Columbine and other shootings, a lot of the victims were those who just froze and did nothing. We firmly believe if you’re prepared and you have a plan beforehand, if you know what you’re going to do if something like that happens, you stand a better chance of living through it.”
In order to help people improve those chances of living, the training expands on the “Run Hide Fight” options, starting with adding “Escape” to the Run component. Hogue says the objective is not for students and staff to run blindly (possibly straight toward the shooter), but rather to make intelligent and well-planned decisions that lead to a controlled escape.
“Then in the second component, we’ve added “Lockdown” to Hide because we want people to do specific things, like barricading doors and taking cover, as opposed to just hiding. We’ve found that people who just hide aren’t as safe as they think they are,” he says. “And under Fight, we’ve expanded that with information on how to improvise weapons and how to figure out strategic locations to gain the advantage of surprise.”
All of these expanded components come together to foster greater cooperation between law enforcement and educators, as presenting the training gives officers an opportunity to become familiar with a facility and its staff, and it also gives educators an opportunity to interact directly with law enforcement.
“This program’s overall objective is to change the paradigm, to provide prevention strategies and response options. In addition to that, another big thing that really sets it apart from some of the other programs out there is that we filmed the video in Indiana schools with Indiana students and teachers, rather than using actors,” Hogue says. “You don’t find many active shooter videos that are both school-specific and deal with the components of Run, Hide, Fight. Most of those trainings instead seem to focus on the workplace.”
Because of the scarcity of similar products, ISP has received inquiries from all over the country, and Hogue says “it’s great to be able to tell them it’s free when they ask how much it’s going to cost them. There’s something that the Indiana State Police should be really proud of.”
“There are companies out there that train individuals for a profit, but we’re a public service agency and we’re doing this for free. We’re putting it out there for any school or any law enforcement officer that wants to improve school safety,” Kath says.
And he emphasizes that plans for improvement always need to take school policies into consideration: “We are advocating that they plan, and if they see flaws in the policy, address them now. The fact of the matter is, schools know their jobs better than we do. We’re just coming in and showing them the law enforcement perspective.”