Focusing on lessons learned from Active Shooter Attacks

Week 6 – January 16, 2020

Rachel Scott

On April 20th 1999, America was shocked to the core when two perpetrators opened fire on the faculty and students and attempted to blow up Columbine High School, Colorado. Thirteen innocent people were murdered and twenty-four were injured during the attack. The first to be shot and killed was Rachel Scott. She was shot four times while eating lunch outside with friends. The bullet that ultimately took Rachel’s life was to the head after she was asked by one of the shooters’ if she still believed in God and she replied “yes”. Her friend Richard Castaldo was shot eight times and survived his injuries but is paralyzed for life. Rachel is a hero because she stood up for her faith even in the face of death. Her testimony lives on through her journals and an international school outreach program called “Rachel’s Challenge” which has become the most popular school assembly program in the U.S.

Expert Advice of the Week: Mass Notification

A critical component of Active Shooter preparedness is Mass Notification Systems.  Such systems serve to alert all of your building occupants simultaneously. The faster you can communicate with your occupants and initiate a lockdown, the greater the chance of survival by those located throughout your entire building(s). Lives will be saved. Utilizing your building PA system to alert your occupants to an active shooter cannot be the only means of emergency communications for many reasons. One being is that during past shootings, the smoke from a fired weapon has set off the building’s fire alarm system. When the fire alarm system is activated, the audible notification devices are in the 65-120 decibel range (NFPA 72 requires 15 dB above the average ambient sound level). The fire alarm is so loud at these decibels, people cannot hear the crucial message(s) on the ceiling mounted PA speakers. Secondly, the PA systems do not always work throughout a building and/or people are not always in ear shot to hear.  It is important to note that one should never use codes when making a PA announcement for an active shooter situation. Use plain talk and say, “We are in lockdown. This is not a drill.” 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 (if possible). With the use of an integrated lockdown button (see Safety Debrief Week 5), mass notification should include the following: a pre-recorded message, 911 notification, sending of text messages to computers, mobile phones, smart boards, digital signage, activating the blue light lockdown notification system, and IP phones. Parents and guardians should also be notified. Mass notification cannot be limited to one means. Because of the dynamic nature of an active shooter event, multiple means of mass notification should be used.

Unknown Shooting of the Week
Stockton Schoolyard Shooting

Lesson Learned from the Stockton Tragedy:

The “Stockton Schoolyard Shooting” took place at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton California on January 17, 1989. The shooter was a disturbed 25-year-old drifter who once was a resident of the Stockton area. He began the school yard attack by filling his car with fireworks and setting it on fire causing an explosion. He then proceeded to the playground, hid behind a building and started firing off 106 rounds from a semi-automatic rifle which killed 5 schoolchildren and injured 32 others. A majority of the victims were Southeast Asian Refugees and the shooter had the words “freedom”, “victory”, “Earthman”, and “Hezbollah” etched on his gun. The attack ended when the shooter took his own life. Lesson learned is the attacker may not necessarily be a student. Perimeter fencing is necessary to keep attackers away from areas of the school.  Additionally, observing the view of the shooter could save lives. A school resource officer would have been able to engage the attacker to stop or slow the attacker down.

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