Thursday, September 19, 2013

School Shooting Simulation

Today, the staff in my building went through our second phase of A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training. Basically, use what is appropriate, fight back if necessary, and get out if you can.

I want to explain what I experienced today, and how that experience no longer allows me to defend the traditional lockdown security measure that so many schools institute in their crisis plan.

Our School Resource Officer, who is a Delaware County Sheriff, put our staff through three simulations.

Scenario One:  Shooter in the building, traditional lockdown.
As many of us were taught and trained, the 26 staff members got on the ground along an interior wall.  I grabbed a desk that was nearby and pulled it over top of me, because that would certainly protect me, right?  Many of my colleagues followed suit. As the shooter entered the room he started firing, kill shot after kill shot. I watched in simulated horror, and momentarily was thankful that I had not been shot.  He started in the middle of the room, and I was the first person near the door and he had skipped right over me.  Shot after shot, another person experienced a simulated death, and then he pointed the gun right at me and fired.  Everyone in that classroom would have been dead, and we did exactly what we had been trained to do since Columbine happened in 1999.

Scenario Two:  Shooter in the building, no time to prepare, fight back.
Our staff was instructed that they would hear an air horn, which would signify a gun shot, and we were to react.  Barricade the door, fight back, escape, whatever was common sense.  We would probably have about 15 seconds before he got to our room.  What my staff did not know, was there would be no 15 second delay. He was entering the room immediately in order  to catch us off guard.  As he entered the room we were armed with tennis balls, because it was a simulation after all, and we did not want anyone to get hurt. He immediately began shooting, teachers began swarming him, and wrestled him to the ground and got the gun.  The intruder was only able to fire shots at four people, and not all of them would have been kill shots.

Scenario Three:  Shooter in the building, fight back, but your room has 30 seconds to prepare.
This scenario would be if we heard gun shots down the hall, and we would have about 30 seconds to block the door.  One teacher wrapped a leather belt around the door knob, because the door opened out into the hall.  A couple others moved a metal cabinet and desks in front of the door as a barricade.  Some teachers literally started climbing out the windows to escape.  The intruder somehow got the door open but could only get his hand through the top of the door to start shooting.  People began throwing items at it and we were able to knock the gun out of his hand.  No one was shot in this scenario.

I am smart enough to know that I am not a superintendent, and that I do not know everything they have to consider when making important decisions.  What I did learn today was that the traditional lockdown cannot be a one size fits all security measure for an active shooter in your building, or even worse, if the shooter enters your classroom. I appreciate the fact that our superintendent is investigating and studying all of the options.

I have heard many superintendents say that they support the lockdown method, because everyone is accounted for.  Once the shooter is killed or apprehended, all of the teachers know where all of the kids are in the building.  Prior to today, I could buy that.  After seeing what I saw today, I cannot.  Sure there are many unknowns, and a great deal of uncertainty if we teach and instruct kids to flee the school in the event of an active shooter.  Is ALICE the answer? I don't know.  Maybe the answer has not been invented yet. But today, in a simulation, I experienced one of my worst fears, and I am certain, that hiding under a desk with a shooter in the room, is not the answer.


  1. All true... great reaction. Your students are safer because of the time you've taken to do this!

  2. Ryan- what grade levels does your building have?

  3. Grades 5 and 6. Old enough to start throwing books, pencils, etc.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Ryan - not a simulation most staffs would like to experience, but certainly informative. What's best isn't always what's most comfortable.