Nobody wants to think about the possibility of an active shooter in any setting, but especially not in a school with thousands of defenseless children and faculty gathered in closed spaces. But mass shootings happen all across the country, and unfortunately, they are a lot more common than any of us would like to think.
One of the most basic ways to mitigate some of the risk in schools is to implement changes to the standard classroom layout. While these events often are not predictable, there are several ways that school systems can bolster their security systems. Keep in mind that the exact application of these tips will depend on the physical layout of your classroom, the resources allotted to you for these changes and the willingness of school authorities to make changes in the classroom.
1. Know the School Layout and Exits
Teachers need to be aware of the overall school layout, classroom numbers and hallway names. Emergency exits and escape routes should be ingrained in every teacher’s memory. In the chaos of an active shooter event, any information regarding the situation will be crucial to you making survival decisions for yourself and those in your care. Unfamiliarity with the layout of the school might mean that the information you receive during the crisis will be of little use. Knowing exit routes and making quick getaways can often be a better solution than locking down in place where the shooter can go from room to room finding easy targets.
2. Know the Type of Door Your Room Has
Knowing the type of the door that exists on your classroom will determine how you barricade your room. Does your door open in or out? What type of handle does it have? Does the door handle lock with a pushbutton inside or do you have to go outside to lock it? Does it have a hydraulic opening arm at the top? Is the door frame metal or wood? Is it solid or hollow? Does the door have glass in it or beside it? Is the door in good working condition? Know this information prior to needing it in a life or death situation. There are many anti-intrusion devices that can be effectively engaged to hinder or stop an intruder from gaining access to your classroom.
3. Create a Path
You can create a natural barrier into the classroom by arranging an obstacle near the door where it can be quickly moved to block it, that an intruder would have to work around to gain entry into the room. By placing a bookcase at the entrance that blocks the line of sight or slows someone down from storming into the classroom, you will increase your chances of survival during a violent situation. Your job in planning the layout of your classroom is to make it more difficult for the attacker to succeed in finding targets.
The Department of Homeland Security recommends locking and barricading doors when sheltering in place. Should an active shooter situation occur, it is imperative to have systems and devices that can barricade classroom doors, keeping a shooter at bay until authorities are able to neutralize the threat. Assess the overall environment of the room and figure out the ways you can barricade the door. You can arrange your furniture in ways that facilitate quicker barricading.
4. Know How to Open Windows
In an emergency situation, teachers must also consider alternative ways of evacuation from their classroom. If you have windows, do you know how they open for evacuation purposes? Do they open on hinges or do they slide open? Can people fit through the windows? Is it safe for people to drop to the ground without injury? What floor are you on? Be prepared to safely break the window if necessary. In this example, these particular windows do slide open. Do you need to stand on a sturdy piece of furniture to reach the window? If so, place a table beside the window for quick access.
5. Keep Your Door Locked When Students Are In the Classroom
Finally, while it can be inconvenient to keep your door locked, it is the first line of defense should an attack begin just outside your classroom. A locked door may buy you a few seconds to begin responding should someone try to gain entry into your room. Doing these things should not disrupt your daily teachings but could save lives in the unfortunate event that an active shooter chooses your school.
Get Trained, Be Prepared
If your school does not already have active shooter training and drills, let your school administrators know that it is important to start training now and contact ALIVE Active Shooter Survival Training for information on available training options. ALIVE is committed to increasing survivability in an active shooter event through training proactive response options. There are several ways to be prepared for a violent event. Whether you are in the classroom, in the cafeteria or on the playground, you have options. When ALIVE response strategies are implemented, unwilling participants in the event are empowered to choose their best survival option. Seconds count during a violent event and being prepared before the event begins can significantly increase survivability while you wait for law enforcement to arrive.
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