Mt. Comfort Elementary (MCE) recently hosted an "Active Shooter" drill for staff with the Indiana State Police (ISP) after school; (no students were present). Several ISP officers presented information on many topics including: prior shooter incidents, profiling the perpetrator, early warning indicators, and how the police will react when there is an "Active Shooter" call.
Staff learned how media sensationalism has played a part in the perpetrators becoming involved in an active shooting due to the fame other shooters have received. Violent video games, television shows and movies also have a role in creating the fantasy script in the perpetrator's mind. It is important for ALL staff to control entry into the building; if one staff member makes a "friendly" gesture to let someone in and not go through the front office visitor protocol, everyone is vulnerable.
Staff learned to trust their gut instinct and have situational awareness. The options during an "Active Shooting" include escape/run, lockdown/hide, or fight. Different scenarios were viewed in a video, as well as discussed. The ISP said statistics show that 93% of active shooter events are planned and 80% share their intentions with someone.
The presentation was followed by an actual drill with a policeman pretending to be an active shooter at MCE. Staff went to their morning classrooms and another officer announced the amount of time that has passed and where the "shooter" was. The ISP had an imitation handgun and an imitation shotgun, both filled with blanks. The pretend perpetrator (ISP) fired several loud, fake shots throughout the hallways while trying to enter some classrooms. After the average responding time, a policeman entered and stopped the violence/perpetrator.
The officers stated how important it is for staff to hear and smell what gun shots sound like, and how the gun smoke can set off fire alarms (which can hinder communication.) It is important to have a back-up communication plan, as after the incident cell phones/towers may be jammed due to volume. Staff learned about safety plans and the roles of the police throughout the incident, as well as their best line of defense in different scenarios.
Principal Heather Whitaker felt it important that her staff go through this exercise to learn what they can and should do to be prepared. With her husband as an ISP officer, she is aware of the situations officers prepare for in today's society.
Whitaker states, "safety is always the first concern when we think about our schools, our churches, our stores and pretty much any community place. I feel that we have worked hard at MVCSC to develop a strong written plan with input from many stakeholders. I wanted to make sure my staff had the chance to hear and experience the difference. I wanted to make them think on their own and make decisions on their own. While we did not have to do all that with our live drill, it really did make them think 'What would I do?', 'How would I respond to have the safest outcome for all?'. God forbid we were ever in a real active shooter situation, I believe those staff thoughts would come much quicker because they have already been placed in their minds. I want to prepare my staff for as many emergency situations as I can, hoping that we will never use our learned knowledge on this topic."