Focusing on lessons learned from Active Shooter Attacks

Week 4 – December 19, 2019

Riley Howell

On April 30th 2019, 21-year-old Riley Howell died a hero at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. On the last day of classes, a gunman armed with a pistol entered his classroom of 60 people and opened fire. Almost immediately, Riley ran at the gunman and tackled him to the ground while yelling to his fellow students to “go go go!” As Riley approached the shooter he fired three shots into his torso, body and one final fatal bullet to Riley’s head. Howell’s tackle was so forceful that the gunman complained to the first responders and paramedics he was in pain. If Riley hadn’t acted when he did the fatalities and injuries most likely would’ve been much higher. Riley Howell’s heroic actions saved lives that day.

Expert Advice of the Week: Wayfinding

Wayfinding is signage.  

Good signage in a school is imperative during an active shooter situation because every second counts!   First responders do not know your building/school the way you think they do. Plus, when they are at a heightened state of mind it is easy to get lost or make mistakes.  Many schools have been under the belief that their first responders know every inch of their schools and most of the time this is not true. Simply telling the 911 call taker that the shooter is in the cafeteria or music wing will not mean anything to them if they don’t know which direction to go. 


Each room in the building should be clearly numbered on the inside and outside of the room.  Each floor should have simple numbering like a hotel. If you check into a hotel room and they say room 411, you know that the room is on the 4th floor. We have been in buildings where the 200 wing is on the 3rd floor and room 110 is on the second floor.  The floor numbering should be 100s=first floor, 200s= second floor, 300s= third floor. This illuminates confusion when people are running into a building with an emergency. The quicker you can get first responders to the threat or need the faster you can save lives. 

If you were looking at your school or business mimic an Airport with signage.  Do what they do on the outside and inside of the airport. There are clear signs telling you everywhere you need to go whether you are returning a rental car or going to gate 3 in terminal B. 

Unknown Shooting of the Week

Lesson Learned from the Marysville Tragedy:

On October 24th 2014 a 15-year-old student shot and killed four other students before inadvertently killing himself at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville Washington. Prior to the shooting the shooter text messaged his friends to meet him for lunch in the cafeteria. He also sent text messages to his family and the families of his victims apologizing for what he had planned to do. The text messages were a sign that something wasn’t right. Any unusual or strange behavior should be reported and handled immediately. In Marysville the gunman let his plan be known through text messages prior to the event with no one notifying the police.  

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