In 2014, the FBI initiated a study to better understand how to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from active shooter incidents. This study looked at 160 active shooter incidents that occurred within the United States between 2000 and 2013—39 of them occurred at educational facilities, making them the second largest location category.1
Active shooter scenarios are unpredictable and can develop quickly. It’s impossible to predict any pattern or method used in the selection of locations or intended victims.
Knowing the statistics and random selection of locations for active school shooters, first responders need to identify the personnel resources available to help us during an incident, as well as provide these individuals the proper training and equipment to better care for our children.
TEACHERS AS RESPONDERS
The Bergen County (N.J.) Technical School District has developed a comprehensive plan to protect the district’s children to the highest level possible.
During the past couple years, an innovative pilot program was initiated at the district’s Paramus Campus, where staff members were trained to be self-sufficient in an emergency. Teachers and support staff are a crucial resource to include in planning for active shooter incidents at schools. Students and parents know these individuals, and school personnel have a great understanding of their facility and activities going on throughout the school.
The staff received training in incident command, active school shooter preparedness, CPR/AED deployment, the proper use of a fire extinguisher, and how to control bleeding from subject matter experts from the Bergen County EMS Training Center, the Bergen County Fire Academy and the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management.
Additionally, the school purchased a wireless security badge for each teacher that can be worn on a lanyard, allowing teachers to instantly initiate two-way contact with the administration, security and a 9-1-1 public safety dispatcher if needed.
Once a teacher activates the security badge, the communication center is contacted and is immediately provided with the name of the teacher and their exact location within the school.
With these security and safety procedures in place, teachers can calmly take control of their classrooms and provide the necessary care to any injured student or staff member. Although teachers know safety protocols and drill on safety procedures, they must be able to react quickly and calmly in dangerous and unpredictable situations. If a teacher remains calm during an emergency, students in their classroom will most likely remain calm.
With the support of our Superintendent Howard Lerner, PhD, Assistant Superintendent Andrea Sheridan, and the Bergen County Technical School’s Board of Education, the district is committed to the ongoing training teachers as responders and to the goal is to continue to provide in-depth training in the use of tourniquets, instruction in first-aid skills and participation in real-life training exercises.
During these exercises the staff will be able to interact with the local first responders to identify strengths, gaps and insufficiencies. This will allow for improved communications and better coordination prior to an actual incident occurring.
This training program to educate teachers to be on-scene responders is extremely important in light of recent events such as the Boston Marathon Bombing and the San Bernardino, Calif., attacks, the increase in school shootings and civilian attacks overseas, as well as current Homeland Security threats.
As educators and first responders, teachers must walk a fine line, delicately balancing the vital need for increased security without allowing it to overshadow the need to provide a positive learning environment where students feel comfortable and safe and are able to learn.
In recognizing the value of training teachers and support staff as on-scene responders, school administrators must allocate money from a stretched school budget to purchase the necessary equipment. Administrators must also work to integrate the training into their already extensive required continuing education programs.
Unfortunately, it’s likely tragic incidents in educational facilities will continue to occur. We must utilize this crucial resource by expanding Bergen County’s efforts in providing training in incident response and situational awareness to teachers and support staff. By being proactive and training educators in emergency response skills, the community can feel more at ease knowing they’ll be better prepared in an emergency situation to initiate immediate care and help save lives.
1. Blair JP, Schweit KW. A study of active shooter incidents, 2000– 2013. Texas State University and FBI, U.S. Department of Justice: Washington, D.C., 2014.