Focusing on lessons learned from Active Shooter Attacks

Week 11 – February 20, 2020

Jencie Fagan

On March 14, 2006, a 14-year-old eighth grade student brought his mom’s .38-caliber revolver into Pine Middle School in Reno, Nevada. Due to a snow delay that morning, the student was able to go into a bathroom unnoticed and loaded three rounds into the pistol. He then stepped out into the hallway and randomly chose a student near the cafeteria as his first target. His first two attempts to fire the gun were unsuccessful since they were empty chambers.  Before he tried to fire the third round, a friend of his yelled at him to put the gun down. The shooter told his friend to run, then proceeded to shoot the gun three times, injuring the targeted student and one other. After hearing gunshots in the hallway, physical education teacher Jencie Fagan approached the shooter and convinced him to drop the gun. She was then able to restrain him with a bear hug until more help arrived. As a means to calm the shooter, Jencie assured him that she would not leave him and stayed by his side while they waited. Fagan knew the shooter pretty well and attributed her relationship with him as being a key factor in talking him down. Jencie’s heroic actions potentially saved lives and earned her the Above & Beyond Citizen Honor from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Expert Advice of the Week: PA System

What the Experts Say:
*Safety Debrief Minute utilizes industry subject matter experts

PA System

A school’s Public Address (PA) system is a critical component of active shooter response. The faster you can effectively communicate with your occupants and initiate a lockdown, the greater the chance of survival by those located throughout your entire building(s).  A building or campus PA serves to immediately notify everyone simultaneously and can be extremely effective if trained staff can initiate an emergency message from any phone in the building. Whether you are near the event or far away, you must start the decision-making process as quickly as possible since time is of the essence. When evaluating your school’s PA system, audibility (the volume) and intelligibility (clarity) should be major considerations. Questions to ask when making a decision include:

  • Can messages be heard during passing periods in hallways?
  • Can they be heard in large assembly areas or on the exterior of the building?

When making an emergency PA announcement for an active shooter, code words should never be used. Plain language that is audible and intelligible over the PA speakers should not only announce the lockdown, but also give out information as to what is happening and where. Your building PA system can save lives, and through planning and training, it will be a powerful tool in active shooter response.

Lesson Learned from the Pine Middle School Tragedy

Unknown Shooting of the Week and Lessons Learned
Pine Middle School

In the case of the school shooting at Pine Middle School in Reno, NV, a 14-year-old student was able to carry a handgun into the school using his backpack. Fortunately, in this instance, a teacher was able to convince the shooter to put down the weapon and subdue him. Due to the shooter’s inexperience and Fagan’s ability to effectively talk him down, there were no fatalities. This particular scenario is an example of how an announcement over the PA system could have been beneficial in keeping other students and staff members away from the shooter. It is important to speak in plain language when communicating a dangerous situation within school grounds. The more detailed the information the better because if potential victims know the who, what, and where they can make informed decisions that will save lives.

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