Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

Schools are now “hardening,” and training more. Our school conducts planned and unplanned, announced and unannounced practice drills for an armed shooter event.

There are many controversies over which method is more effective. I would like to hear from professionals in all fields their thoughts on this, and the statistics to back their opinions. Here are the portions I considered:

The idea is to use planned announced drills to practice your plan and fine-tune it – just like we do for teaching any subject. Plan, teach, revise. Then conduct unplanned unannounced drills to test everyone’s preparedness.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

Difference Between “Announced” and “Unannounced” Drills

An announced or planned drill is one we know is coming because, in a faculty meeting, we are told we have one scheduled sometime soon. At my school, these are conducted with an announcement over the intercom that we are in lockdown or modified lockdown.

An unannounced or unplanned drill is one we were not aware would be conducted, and conducted in such a manner that it sounds and feels very real – we don’t know that it’s a drill, we don’t know it is planned.

Different workplaces and schools probably have various methods of communicating whether they are conducting a drill or experiencing the “real thing.”

A drill conducted as “the real thing,” elicits even more controversies; the effectiveness of putting employees and customers (students in my case) through a very realistic situation that they later learn was a drill.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

How Employees Know the Difference

In my workplace, I have some additional indicators of a planned or unplanned drill. Every workplace has some “insider knowledge” that unintentionally allows employees to determine if an event is “real” or not if they know for what to look or listen.

There are so many indicators along those lines, that employees are often able to determine if an announcement is “real” or “just a drill.” Sometimes, however, employers conduct a drill in such a way that nothing adds up, and the “real” indicators are implemented, so employees believe it must be real.

School Drill Predictors

One huge predictor of a planned drill in a school is when students are talking about a drill – that means someone overheard something as they were passing through the front office.

Students might not remember when homecoming ticket payments are due and claim they did not hear any of the 24 announcements. But, like ants, they are able to instantly communicate to each other school holidays, a soda machine accidentally left on during school hours, or anything else they deem newsworthy. Upcoming drills of any type are newsworthy. We might go outside or stop working. It might be exciting. The first to know and tell gains instant status.

Then there are some common-sense indicators. If we are administering statewide assessments, the SAT for instance, with proctors in place, test booklets numbered, counted, and recounted, and we have a lockdown announced in the middle of that – it’s probably not a drill.

The same would apply if we have an important guest speaker on campus, an important awards event, or any other even that took a lot of planning. If that gets interrupted, it’s probably not a drill.

In schools, that could mean instead of an intercom announcement of a lock-down; someone comes to your door and tells you, or another co-worker announces it instead of an administrator, or a school resource officer broadcasts the instructions.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

Difference Between Lock-down and Modified Lock-down

For us, our lock-down procedure is to cover our doors’ windows, turn off lights, stop teaching, stop talking, and go to the safest area of our room. Our doors already are locked during classes, but if there’s time, we might double-check that.

A modified lock-down, is announced when there something happens in the community, and we are on a higher state of alert. There’s not an active threat actually on our campus. So, we can continue teaching, our lights can be turned on, however, students are not allowed out of classrooms. We are ready to go into full lock-down from there.

The Benefits of Unannounced Drills

An unannounced drill causes you to implement and run your plan under extreme stress. If you have a plan that you practiced. Afterward, the individual should assess if they followed their plan and if their plan needs any fine-tuning or changes. Hopefully, people do this and learn.

It feels good to realize you developed a plan, and that you executed it swiftly and thoroughly, adapting to the evolving situation.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

Our Unannounced Drill

Recently, we ran such a drill, and I implemented my own plan flawlessly. If it were a formal evaluation, I would receive an “Innovating” scoreI adapted to an managed an additional situation in the room.

For our unannounced drill, an outside vendor was in my classroom. I knew this person already was uncomfortable about our school’s Guardian Program with armed administrators. Earlier in the year, she asked about my Classroom First Aid Kit, and when I explained why I have it, she indicated that she was very nervous about knowing there are firearms on campus. It’s stated openly by the front doors in the schools in our county.

We already went through a couple lock-downs the previous day and again that morning due to circumstances in areas around our school, and she and I were discussing her getting out of the school before anything more happened. Everyone already was on edge from the community events.

A very realistic drill happened then. We did not know it was a drill. I thought my vendor would faint or pass out. She was so pale, hyperventilating, speaking rapidly and at a high pitch, trembling, and she began sweating. I’m no EMT, but I can spot distress when I see it.

Wrap my arms around her and sink to the floor with her was my plan to save us both from damage. I took a reliable, strong student aside and quickly told them how to do that and instructed them to act as my backup while I grabbed my survival gear. She did not faint. She was pretty pale, though; my students all noticed.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

What I Learned From Our Unannounced Drill

The unplanned drill made me realize what I did not really know. Though designed to demonstrate what it really would “feel like” and “be like,” you cannot create the confusion and stress of an actual, in Ron Pincus’ words, “critical dynamic situation.” He writes some really thorough books on preparation for those situations, including Defend Yourself. I’ve read some of them twice.

His books are not about school active shooter events; they are about preparation. They are about the mindset of planning ahead at work, at home, and anywhere you are.

The realization that I really did not know what might happen resulted in several positive effects on me. I knew what I practiced worked. Also, I knew my system was smooth and dependable. Plus, I knew I could accommodate the unexpected. All those contributed to my confidence in myself and my system.

In addition, I learned that there was a lot I did not know. So, I decided to conduct more research. The ability to recognize a weakness and triple down on it is almost as good as a strength. Swiftly, I began researching and reading.

A list of what I read is in What I’m Reading to Prepare for Active Shooter Response Training // Bleeding Control. My experience influenced that article.

The Drawbacks of Unannounced Drills

Reading through social media posts after our unannounced drill recently, so many points came up in the discussions.

Students with anxiety problems might suffer. Commenters on social media referred to studies about PTSD from active shooter drills.

One of the drawbacks of conducting an unannounced drill at my school that I observed our students said they now won’t believe “it’s real,” on future drills. We lost our credibility in their eyes.

At our school, I know from television interviews, student comments, and social media comments that some parents were absolutely terrified. When they received texts from their children, who were with teachers who were frightened… it created chaos. I know a real event creates chaos, and learning how to deal with that confusion is a challenge.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

Unfortunate Topics to Cover

“Isn’t it sad we’re talking about this. It’s terrible we’re talking about this,” commented our Bleeding Control Training faculty meeting trainer Michael Patterson from the Florida Department of Health. He advised us to continue seeking training and stay safe. His emphasis was on practicing with models, sample tourniquets, and staying safe.

“Isn’t it sad we’re talking about this. It’s terrible we’re talking about this,” he repeated. His parting address was, “Stay safe. Learn the ABC’s of bleeding. Look at your area. If a child is out in the hallway and bullets are flying by, don’t step out,” he cautioned. “The deputy has a gun. He can return fire. We can’t. Call 911. Virtually every kid has a cell phone,” he said. “Stay safe, secure your room.”

What Trained Experts Say

While he did not address what type of training is most beneficial for teachers, many professionals currently and formerly in the military, as well as police and firefighters, write about their experiences in their respective services. They stress that drills and training are unfortunate, but necessary.

However, many of them said they were never put in a position of having to perform their skill under a misconception. Firefighters said when they fought a practice fire, they knew it was a practice. And when they arrived at a real fire, they knew it was real. They said they were never presented with a practice fire and told it was real. I’d like to know more about that.

Military and former military personnel stress that all drills on their watches were announced as drills. “This is a drill, this is a drill, this is a drill” would be repeated, then the drill begun.

I’ve read a little about hospitals conducting drills, but I’ve only heard about drills that were planned. I’d like to hear more – are they ever unplanned? How does that go? What were the drawbacks? What were the benefits?

I really want to know some concrete statistics – is there any data showing that realistic training is worth the mental stress inflicted?

The Benefits of Announced Drills

For every topic, I suppose the pros of the other method in any situation is simply the opposite of the cons from the other method. However, I imagine there are some specific-to-this-situation pros of conducting announced drills.

For me, the number one reason for conducting announced drills is for the opportunity to practice my plan. With additional drills, I can practice over and over until it is perfectly choreographed. Then I can make adjustments and practice again.

My dad made me practice changing a tire on my car before I could drive. I had a few more non-emergency practices, and on the one day I had to do it completely by myself, I looked like a Daytona 500 pit crew. With not an extra move, I had the parking brake locked, tire iron out, spare tire out, lug nuts loosened, jacked car up, finished nuts, swapped everything, started nuts, lowered car, finish nuts, spare in trunk, tire iron on back seat and zoom.

Due to the repeated drills, my hands knew exactly what to do. I was 16 years old, alone, with no cell phone. My flat was adjacent to some migrant worker housing located across a field. Some men were approaching, probably to help. At 16… I wasn’t sure. I wish I timed myself, because I finished before they made it across the field.

The Drawbacks of Announced Drills

The most apparent drawback from conducting announced, planned drills is the employees/teachers and customers/students might not take them seriously.

Also, these types of drills may not result in the identification of serious lapses in training since they are not full of stress and pressure.

Student apathy could be one of the worst problems as students lose interest and fail to take the drills seriously.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

Student Views on Drills

Twice, we experienced a Code Red Drill in my fifth period class. The last one, unannounced, and unplanned, began with an intercom announcement that there was an intruder in the math hallway, and a description of what they were wearing.

My students were very vocal afterward.

“What is the point of us doing these drills, other than to get us all scared and nervous? We already know what to do, either fight or run,” from a student in my fifth period class. “I don’t know why they had to make the last one so real. It was TOO real.”

“They need to stop doing those, the last one I was so scared! This one, my heart dropped.”

“The fire drills – we do them way too much. Because, at my house recently, we had a fire alarm go off, and it didn’t even faze me because we hear it here so much.”

Our Latest Drill

This time, I was just working on this article during my lunch break, so it was still on my mind as fifth period arrived. We were practicing for the Adobe Photoshop industry certification exams coming up the next week. Then, shortly after roll call and getting logged in to the practice platform, we experienced a Code Red Lock-down. It was brief.

We spent about five minutes on lock-down, then another two minutes on modified lock-down. Then the Code Red was lifted.

Within a few minutes, I received an automated phone call from the school. It said the Code Red Lock-down Drill was successful. Administration probably planned and added the call after the very realistic drill earlier, to allay concerns of parents who received texts from worried students during the previous drill.

Fire drills are mandated at once a month, although I did read in a Campus Safety article that fire drills are a waste of time and should be renamed “evacuation drills.” But, that is a topic for another article…

Teacher Views on Drills

Sometimes, the idea of conducting a drill might be better than it’s actual execution.

A friend of mine who teaches elsewhere in the state at the elementary level described a recent armed intruder drill at her school.

She said one of the administrators announced on the intercom “A disgruntled former employee is in the cafeteria threatening with a knife.”

What the announcer said and what her students heard really changed the reality. What they could understand of the message – think about those kindergartners – they heard, “employee, cafeteria, knife.” The rest of the message was lost completely on them.

Who knows what those children thought. Maybe they thought that the people supposed to protect them were so unable to handle an employee with a knife in the cafeteria, a person so bad that a school-wide announcement must be made.

Should drills be run differently at different schools? What about K-12 schools? I suppose the answer is that there are no easy answers to any of this.

, Active Shooter Lockdown Drill – Best Practices

Back to My Plan

There are so many questions. What works. What doesn’t…

Here’s what I DO know.

Get training.

Crisis Medicine – excellent training. The precise attention to details is crucial in medical training. Also very graphic, and also what serves you well to experience. Dr. Shertz from Crisis Medicine says the first time you see blood shouldn’t be wit a loved one or student bleeding in front of you. Please use my link above and my code “DeepWH” for 20% off the Tactical Casualty Care TC2 online course.

Get supplies.

MyMedic has affordable, yet high-quality products. This link and using my code “KimW” saves you 10%, and I earn a small percentage of your purchase that I can use for stocking my own kits, but your price does not increase. Add in a few North American Rescue CAT tourniquets, and you are even more ready.

What to read next: Finding a Good Bleeding Control Kit for Your Office or Classroom

Updated: May 15, 2019


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