Four words can change a life.
“Lockdown. Not a drill”
Is this really happening right now? What do I do? Is the door locked? A panicked shout of confirmation comes from across the room. “Locked!’ The lady in the blue sweatshirt just checked to be sure. Now she, along with the rest of us, were frantically looking around the room for a safe haven somewhere among the student desks and shelves full of books which lined the classroom. There is no cover to be found. We are left resorting to attempt to find concealment in this sudden and sickening game of hide-and-seek.
Crash! Pop! Pop-pop-pop! Shrieks and gunfire are coming from the other side of the wall.
The older gentleman standing next to me abruptly demands help turning the table at the back of the room over. As he is raking it’s contents onto the floor my mind races. “Help me!” he pleads again. I grab the end I’m standing next to. As I am turning this table onto it’s side, the gunfire keeps sounding. Was that eight rounds now? Or was it ten? I’d lost track. The man is motioning for me to get behind the overturned table with him. I know it’s not going to stop a bullet. I know that once the gunman gains entry into the room he will know people are hiding in this obvious spot. What can I do? I was trained to lock the door, hide, and wait. So, I climb behind the table and the man pats me on the shoulder. Out of habit, I nod and try to force a grateful look. On the other side of the plaster wall the gunman is still laughing. Making jokes about fish in barrels and shouting, “Gotcha!” as he fires again and again. I can hear people screaming. People I just saw, people I just spoke to; screaming, yelping, and all the while the gunman is laughing. The firing stops. All I can hear now is my heartbeat in my ears. Ba bum-ba bum-ba bum-Bang!
The door! The lock held.
Bang! Bang-bang-crack! He’s in. I look at the older man next to me. He looks defeated, weary. I must look the same to him. We know what is coming. Footsteps, then that laugh again. “I wonder what’s behind that overturned table?” Pop! “Thought you could hide behind the door, did ya?” Pop-pop! That shelf didn’t help you did it?” Pop! “I can see you!” One by one, he makes his way around the room. He has time to spare, jokes to make. He even stops to lean on a desk and laugh at one lady who is trying to hide behind a stack of textbooks. Pop! He is right on the other side of the table now. I hold my breath. Pop! The man next to me is shot, point blank. I’m next. I did exactly what I was told by my school administrators to do. I did everything just as they said. I look up...Pop!
We are back in the library now. Nervous, rattled, and trying to joke about the welts the airsoft gun used in the training had left on us. We had all just sat in this room for an hour listening to Lieutenant Curtis Hall and Lieutenant Doug Waterman, from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, tell us about the active shooter training program, ALICE. They explained that mass shootings, more aptly referred to as active killing events, since not every mass killing event is executed with a gun, has over the years had one common denominator. They happen in gun free zones. Areas where the criminal can do the most damage with the least amount of personal risk. Lt. Hall pointed out that the average response time to a 911 call in our district is between five and six minutes. However, that does not include the time it takes for someone to realize the severity of the situation, get to a phone, physically dial 911, be connected to the proper dispatch for the district, convey the distress to the dispatcher, and dispatch contacting the emergency responders in the area of the event. All of those variables, provided the gunman doesn’t find and kill the person making the call before they can go through all of these steps, extend the response time to somewhere between ten to twelve minutes.
Research has shown that the average active shooting event lasts around ten minutes, and as reported in The Stopwatch of Death, on average one to two people are killed per minute, not including those who are injured and survive. Therefore, in twelve minutes, the odds are that we will have 24 children and adults die while we hide and wait for the police to come rescue us from behind overturned tables and stacks of books.
Ever since the tragic events at Columbine High School in April of 1999, police have known that teaching our children to cower in fear behind their desks or in a closet does not save lives. We as a nation witnessed that fact again during the killing spree at Virginia Tech in April of 2007 and then Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012.
Yet, across the nation our children and their school staff are still being trained to turn off the lights and hide in a corner. They are not given the chance to escape or fight back in any way. They are being trained to wait their turn to die.
Lt. Hall does not believe that hiding and waiting to be shot by an armed intruder is the best option we have available. He quotes Theodore Roosevelt, “In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” He is concerned for the lives of our children and how they will react to life threatening encounters as they grow into adults. He fears that we are being trained from early childhood to be, “sheep stuck in a pen, awaiting slaughter, because we’ve been trained to hide.”
The ALICE program is based on easily learned and adaptable principles. ALICE is simply an acronym which we use to asses each unique situation and deduce the most effective method of survival. Afterall, that is the goal, to survive.
A - Alert: give as much accurate and updated information, to as many people as you can, as fast as you can; call, text, facebook, twitter, scream, send someone, use the intercom system, any method of communication you have available, get the information out
L - Lockdown: We must learn when to lockdown, is there a code? How do you lockdown? Do you lock the door? Does it lock from the inside or the outside? Do you turn off the lights? Do you barricade? What is concealment and what is cover? When should the door be opened?
I - Inform: (Much like Alert) Give as much information to as many people as possible. Give accurate and updated information in real time. Inform about everything from the active killer's clothing, to what weapon he is using, to where he is, and who has been contacted. Be flexible. The key is to give the victims the chance to determine which option is best taken at any given moment to increase the odds of survival.
C - Counter: Noise, screaming, banging tables or chairs. Distance, how far are you from the shooter, can you get further away? Movement, running past a distracted shooter through a doorway, running in zigzag patterns away from the shooter. Disturbance, throwing anything and everything that is not nailed down at the shooter. Attacking is a last resort, but given the choice of waiting to die and trying to survive, attacking may be your last best option. It’s a continuous series of Observe - Orientate - Decide - Act. As Lt. Hall remarked, “Make the bad guy react to what you are doing instead of you waiting to react to what he is doing.”
E- Evacuate: Run, get out, get away, find safety. Previously settle on a reunification point and once it is safe to do so, meet there. Do not try to use your car, run. Cars cause traffic jams and give the killer the opportunity to find another group of unarmed people to continue his attack.
Lt. Hall stresses that victims resolve two and a half times more incidents than police officers do simply because the victim is on scene and the police officer is not. He reiterated, “If you have to wait for the cops to show up, you are waiting too long.”
These students being forced to hide in the dark and wait their turn to die are our children. The school staff are our spouses, our family members, our neighbors, our friends. What are we doing to protect these vital members of our communities? Putting up plastic signs? Will those signs disarm a person with evil intentions? Will the sign stop a bullet? Can that sticker you walk past on the door everyday save a single life? No, of course they can’t. Signs cannot, and will not, create crime free zones. They are not metal detectors or security guards. They are not first responders. They are pieces of painted plastic that announce that the individuals inside are unable to defend themselves.
There are a number of other programs being taught across the nation in every classroom setting, from elementary through the college level, such as FASTER [fastersaveslives.org] which takes the basic principles learned in this course a step further by implementing concealed carry staff members and first aid trauma training. Both Ohio and Colorado have recently been in the news for using this training program.
Whether your school district is campus carry friendly or not. We must ask ourselves what we are doing to protect the most vulnerable among us as they seek an education. If the only thing standing between your child and someone who wants to commit murder is a sticker and a lock on a door, you must go to your school board and demand that training be made available district wide. Our future, our children’s lives, are at stake. There is no time to waste. We must take action today.
Blog posts are original content written by 1MMAGC moms and dads.