On Thursday, April 11, the Fox TV show, Glee, took on the challenge of showing a school response to the threat of an active shooter. Their actions included some textbook procedures as was as potentially fatal flaws. By taking a look at dramatized response we can learn some best practices in active shooter response.
Things the characters did well:
1. After hearing the first shot the teacher immediately responded. He did not run into the hall to investigate or assume it was just a strange sound. It is better to err on the side of caution when dealing with an active shooter.
2. The adults in the room immediately sheltered in place, shut and locked the doors, told the kids to hide, and turned off the lights. At this point in the event they did not know the location of the shooter and a shelter in place is the best call.
3. The students used their mobile devices to text and tweet for help remembering to keep their exact location off of social media in case the shooter had internet access. Text, Twitter, Facebook and other social media have shown to be reliable sources of information for finding out individuals’ safety statuses during an emergency. However, it is important to silence or turn off all communication devices (see point #9 below).
4. When someone ran down the hall screaming and tried to open the doors to their secure room, they did not open the door. While it may be difficult to imagine, in this situation, keeping the room secure is the highest priority. The shooter may be right outside or the screaming person could be the shooter. It may be difficult to keep from letting that person in, but it is the safest thing to do in the situation.
5. The characters waited for the all clear before leaving their shelter-in-place. This may take hours, but it is crucial for you to stay where you are until law enforcement tells you to leave.
Where they needed improvement:
6. The teacher left the safe area to find other students. This is a bad idea. Never leave your safe area for any reason until there is an all clear given by the police. Breaching the safe area could endanger everyone in the room.
7. The characters heard the words “all clear” and assumed it was the police. In real life, you should confirm the identity of the authorities before leaving your shelter. This can be done by asking for a badge to be shown or shoved under the door, or you can call 911 and have the operator confirm the identity of the officer. Some shooters have worn body armor or uniforms that can make them appear like law enforcement. Do not rely on a visual alone to confirm their identity.
8. In a real incident, the building would likely be locked down for hours and would be followed by police questioning most the people inside, especially any witnesses. You need to be prepared to wait a long time.
9. One of the characters accidentally called another person’s cell phone in the same room, emitting a loung ring tone. If the active shooter had been close by then this would have given up the students’ secure location. It’s critical to silence or turn off all mobile devices.
With active shooters making the headlines all too often, businesses should take heed and prepare. Take an easy lesson from this episode of Glee and be ready to act in an emergency. Preparis has an active shooter tabletop drill available to download, plus a webinar on “Preparing for Workplace Violence: What to do in the event of an active shooter” to watch with your team. For more information about active shooter preparation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 404.662.2950, and be sure to follow Preparis on Facebook and Twitter for more practical steps on emergency preparedness.
Marlia Fontaine-Weisse is the Content Manager for Preparis.