Today, I'd like to write about two diverse advocates of school violence prevention. They represent different aspects of helping to provide solutions to the same problem. One is a strategic, active-shooter-prevention expert in Florida, Rodney Andreasen. The other is Gary Trott, the creator a proactive set of products that can defeat forced-entry attempts through school windows or doors.
I'm excited to write about both of these gentlemen. Also, there are three important strategies for dealing with active (currently occurring) school violence events, also called active shooter events. These are: (1) Shelter, (2) Flight, and (3) Fight.
To start with, I'd like to introduce my friend Rodney who has been a trainer for the last 10+ years in Northern Florida, providing active shooter prevention expertise to municipal centers, churches, and schools. He works as a municipal director in his area and focuses on all types of threats and intentional interventions for them. Rodney's experience is that we need learn from past tragedies in more ways than just having a strong police response.
From his work, Rodney advises those in municipalities saying,
"A multilayer approach is always the best. If we can defeat them prior to entry all the better. But if any of our defenses fail to them, then we are still prepared."
In other words, consider for a moment the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. When the perpetrator of that crime entered the school by shooting out the entry door glass, it became a serious "active shooter event." As such, students and teachers tried the first of three important strategies: they sheltered in place. However, that was successful for many students (the majority), but it resulted in the heartbreaking deaths of 26 brave souls.
It is very hard to talk about this without becoming broken all over again. And the families and that community still have to deal with losses that cannot be erased. But in boldness and ardent compassion, let's continue.
As I bring up the second strategy, I want to introduce the other gentlemen who advocates for schools across the nation. Gary created a system called DefenseLite designed to deter, delay, and defeat forced entry.
As such, he bonds unbreakable polycarbonate clear panels over existing windows and doors, increasing their strength exponentially. The philosophy behind his system is, "No entry, No Harm."
Here is one of his school safety glass products in action. Consider how much this type of product could increase a school's defensibility and create a huge pocket of time until law enforcement would arrive, which often takes precious minutes.
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Imagine for a second two schools. One has safety glass products in use like those of DefenseLite in order to create a time buffer before an intruder can cause harm or widespread destruction and tragic outcomes. The other school has no such aides. Now, if an active shooter event takes place in a protected and prepared school, Gary's hope is to create the necessary time for shelter or flight.
Here is how Gary explains his perspective:
"Sandy Hook was over in 6 minutes. His hope is to stop similar events from happening by simply keeping intruders out until police arrive. Locking the building's doors is not enough even though it is crucial. In the San Bernardino shooting this past December, the facility's doors were open, and more recently in Saskatchewan the doors were even unlocked. In both cases, the intruder just walked in," said Gary Trott.
Locking doors and employing tactics to prevent entry make many potential tragedies preventable.
Gary adds, "By creating more time, an assailant needs to regroup. This allows for alternative actions by those in the school. At present, it can take up to 18 minutes for police to arrive and assemble their response. If the building has been breached, the intruder has a lot of time to cause serious harm. What then are students and staff to do when they are then confronted by the assailant?
"Another benefit of delaying, deterring, or degrading the assailant's entry is that if the active shooter stays outside, they will be easily located by law enforcement and often viewable by security cameras also. With such proactive prevention, the active shooter may give up on their disastrous intentions and just leave or surrender."
Yet even when these initial two strategies, shelter and flight, are used to prevent tragedies, there is still a much more important, and often overlooked step."
The third strategy is to oppose the would-be antagonist in a school. Remember that the goal of the police interventions is often to neutralize a shooter. Let's be honest, this most often means to kill them, although many times they commit suicide. More deaths should not be the goal, however.
Consider Coach Frank Hall in Chardon, Ohio . He opposed the Chardon High School shooter and actually chased him out of the building, preventing countless deaths. While Frank has to live with the insecurity - the haunting fear from that brave action - his choice was a golden one.
Would that we all could have his courage.
I spoke with a Columbine survivor for three hours about this topic, resilience, and the need for intentional interventions during an active shooter event. This person, unnamed here, agreed and in fact explained thoughtfully that school leaders and law enforcement should consider ways to interact with a shooter and stop them ultimately from what is all too common in about half of active shooter events: the shooter's suicide.
By fighting back - whether it be to cause the antagonist to flee or to simply to get them off their game and prevent more tragedies, people in schools can take back the power that so many in this country fear they've lost.
Let me say that again. When we as a country learn to FIGHT BACK and prevent school violence by our own efforts, we just might realize that we are powerful and able to prevent these tragedies. Moreover, we are able to provide supports beforehand so that such tragedies do not need to be as common as they are.
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Dr. Jonathan Doll wrote the book Ending School Shootings (2015), targeting necessary solutions to a national crisis. He also writes a Huffington Post blog on issues of healthy living and student engagement. His most recent article was composed on a cell phone, showing an ardent love for technology as well.