Preparing for Active Shooter Attacks: One School’s Story
By Greg Howard
BANG, BANG, BANG. A school shooting is in progress, and everyone is on high alert. There is chaos and confusion, panic and disorder. Chilling screams echo through the halls, and people run frantically for cover.
Students rush into classrooms and teachers barricade doors with desks. Meanwhile, bodies – some alive and injured, others dead – lay strewn across the hallway. A voice on the intercom announces where the shooter was last seen in the building. Those in hiding hold their breath and listen closely, trying to hear if the shooter is coming near their room.
And then the police come. Room by room, classroom doors open and officers enter with their guns drawn. Hands go up as officers sweep across the room checking for threats. After officers declare an area clear, it’s time for the bystanders to get out. Students and teachers come out from their hiding places and scatter out into the halls, running to the exits the officers are pointing them to.
Fortunately, this was just a drill. The announcer on the intercom declares that the active shooter drill is over, and everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief. Students who were hurt or deceased just a moment earlier laugh about their Academy Award worthy performances. People discuss how they hid under desks or squeezed themselves into broom closets. And then it’s time to get back into position for the next drill.
Although it’s easy to talk casually about the drills when the day is over, the experience was intense. The noise of the gunfire and loud screams were unsettling. Drills that lasted for just a few moments seemed to go on forever. And the rush of adrenaline that everyone felt was real.
That was our experience when we attended an active shooter drill in Rolla, Missouri this week. School administrators and students from all over the local area gathered at Rolla Junior High School to help first responders prepare to respond to school shooters. Over the course of a few hours, several scenarios were executed, and different groups of officers played different roles as each scenario took place.
Sadly, incidents of school violence like those seen during the 2012-13 school year have made drills like this one necessary for first responders. What gives us hope for the future are the moments like the ones we experienced in Rolla. The sight of so many community members coming together to support one another was impressive. All participants were volunteers, so no one had to be there; it was a midsummer day, and students and school leaders could have been off enjoying their summer vacation. The fact that people in the community were willing to volunteer their time to help law enforcement officers was a very positive thing. We should all look to their example and seek out ways to support the first responders in our own communities.
We’d like to thank Sgt. Wayne Rapier, the Rolla Police Department, and everyone in the Rolla School District who welcomed us to participate in the active shooter drill. We’re happy we were able to attend and see firsthand how active shooter drills work.
Keep up with our Professional Development Series for more info on school violence prevention. Click the following links for free PD webinars on:
- Active shooter preparation and emergency response planning
- How to prevent school violence
- Threat assessment for K-12 schools
- School lockdown planning
You will be taken to the SchoolReach website to view these webinars.