“Active shooter incident at Stoneman Douglas High, 5901 Pine Island Road Parkland. Police and fire rescue are on scene. School is on lockdown.” Wednesday, 2:38PM.
I just came out of a meeting addressing campus lockdowns and mass notification when my phone started buzzing. The first message from my wife was hard to understand; the second message sunk my heart. The Broward County Sheriff Department’s Alertify message stared me in the face – Active Shooter at my daughter’s school.
Shortly after the shooting, we housed several of my daughter’s friends who could not get home. Naturally, these young brave boys and girls wanted to talk about their painful firsthand experience.
I took the rare opportunity and took notes about their personal experience. Remaining cautious not to compromise school protocols and procedures, below are first hand experiences and possible implication to school safety and Active Shooter plans:
Survivors' ExperiencesIn Stoneman Douglas, we routinely train for Active Shooter and knew exactly what to do for the fire alarm and the lockdown. Unfortunately, so did the assailant.
Possible ImplicationsTraining to teachers and students on its most basic level is imperative; however, selective information should not be shared with students.
Survivors' ExperiencesThe students who evacuated for the fire drill with their teachers got notice of an active shooter from school staff members carrying handheld radios.
Possible ImplicationsIt is critically important for staff and faculty to carry their handheld radios at all times.
Survivors' ExperiencesWe evacuated our classroom under the impression that this was a drill. All of us, teachers and students, were confused initially and did not know what was happening.
Possible ImplicationsOther than unique drills, planned drills should be clearly communicated ahead of time. There should be no confusion as to what is a drill and what is not.
Survivors' ExperiencesThe students who were next to the shooting had a hard time understanding that the shooting started. The acoustics and auditory sound were confusing. To some it sounded like different weapons. Teachers were the first to comprehend, take action and initiate a Lockdown.
Possible ImplicationsShooting at a school layout changes the sound of gunshots based on the shooter’s location. Faculty at classroom level are pivotal to the initial emergency response.
Survivors' ExperiencesThe Lockdown execution worked like a “Wave:” the word of mouth traveled instantly from the nucleus of the event to the parameter. It was faster than any school system.
Possible ImplicationsOnce the word is out, it will naturally spread. Allow for various communication mechanisms, even if partial.
Survivors' ExperiencesOnce doors were locked, there were attempts to open the doors from the outside. They now know these were students who were locked outside of the classrooms.
Possible ImplicationsThe intent of locking down intent remains to create a barrier and buy time until law enforcement arrives. Students who are locked out should utilize “Run, Hide, Fight” basics.
Survivors' ExperiencesStudents responded in different ways: some were instructed to run, others told to lockdown, some teachers, as we now know, headed to the shooting.
Possible ImplicationsIn reality, chaos will ensue an active shooter. “Run, Hide, Fight” is perceived as linear. In reality, it is simultaneous. “Run, Hide, Fight” should be viewed as a cycle; decide and reevaluate as circumstances change.
Survivors' ExperiencesMany different agencies responded to the event. Some students were instructed to leave their phones and backpacks behind.
Possible ImplicationsMultiple different Law Enforcement agencies respond to an Active Shooter incident. SOPs might differ. It is impossible to contact students and employees immediately after an event. Having their address and home phone number readily available can support law enforcement. Key school personnel should carry an encrypted flash memory card with school maps and crucial information to share with law enforcement.
Survivors' ExperiencesWhile watching media reports, the kids badly responded to condolences from politicians offering their thoughts and prayers but had a positive response to school officials expressing empathy.
Possible ImplicationsIt is important that the students also hear from familiar school officials directly addressing their feelings and needs.
It is unimaginable to hear firsthand accounts of an active shooter from your daughter and her best friends. Nevertheless we believe that if any of the aforementioned can help but one school then the effort and anguish of putting this list together is worth it.