Secure in Place? How About Run, Hide, and Fight.


Posted Sun, Feb 23, 2014

The Jefferson County Sheriffs Department in Golden. Photo by Sarah Courtney.

The Jefferson County Sheriffs Department in Golden.[Photo by Sarah Courtney]

GOLDEN, Colo.–What would you do if you found yourself face to face with an armed intruder?  Your muscles might tense up and your heartbeat may jump through the roof as adrenaline courses through you.  The key is to use that adrenaline.

In Colorado alone there have been seven school shootings within the past 40 years.  Throughout the country hundreds more have taken place on school properties.  Students are taught that bullying is wrong, but they are ultimately being bullied everyday by the fear of an active shooter situation.  Schools are allotted the responsibility of keeping their students, our children, safe while they are in attendance and so precautions must be taken.  Students and staff should be ready for an emergency.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education and FEMA released a new EOP guide (Emergency Operations Plan).  The Guide to Developing High Quality School Emergency Operations Plan begins to explore different strategies in school safety.  Old school methods with the idea of “secure in place” are being dismissed and a “run, hide and fight” approach is being adopted.

“Most violent intruder situations last between five and seven minutes. Typically, first responders take longer than that to enter a compromised building. Research has shown that civilians have stopped active shooter events twice as many times as police intervention. Why? Because they were already there,” explains Greg Crane, Founder and President of the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) and RAIDER (law enforcement) training programs.  ALICE is unique situational training designed for various public areas such as schools and universities, hospitals, businesses or places of worship.

Planning for the Pressure

No one knows and understands what a deranged individual’s motive is, but recent years have shown that our schools and other public areas are main targets. The motive is not what matters, it is the mode of operation and tactics of the assailant that outweigh the outcome of an attack and how the targets interact while under such pressure.

“We need to have more options.  If you have a five-step plan in place before the problem occurs then you are already moving not just waiting.  You have a strategy,” Crane says.

In both the ALICE training and the new EOP guide, a plan is vital.  A sitting duck is easier to hit than a moving target, so students and staff using traditional lockdown format are only fitting into the plan of an intruder.  Upon entering a school a gunmen knows the facility will automatically go into lockdown, and so he is free to walk to halls while everyone cowers with fear in their room.  If students are trained to be active that fear is no longer paralyzing but empowering.

Barricading the door, piling desks to hide behind, creating chaos by throwing books at the intruder; all ways to distract and confuse, and ultimately buy more time.  Lockdowns are passive – once inside, the intruder will control and dominate the situation and if confronted with a classroom or staff that is trained it could prevent carnage.  There has been controversy on whether it is age appropriate to train children in self-defense, but after the Sandy Hook tragedy the wall has come down a bit.  We teach our children about stranger danger from the first time we take them to the park, so why not teach them how to survive if they are attacked at school or another public place.

Although Colorado is the state with the highest number of school shootings, along with various other public shootings, it is one of the states with the least acceptance of in school training.

“When a community and school district has suffered the tragedies this area has, it is harder to move on.  It’s not unusual to stick with old methods rather than change after the event because what does that say about the system that was in place before?” explains Crane on why Colorado may be one of the slower advancing states in the nation.  “Trying to avoid a lawsuit or criticism of the inadequate system from before is fairly common.”

As a recent graduate from a Jefferson County high school I was interested on what their take was on in-school training.  When contacting the administration of Golden High School, there was no comment available on the issue, other than “the police station is close by.”  First responders cannot always see what’s going on inside and assess the situation, but students and staff are able to do that if they have the basic preparation for it.  With respect to the first responders in emergency situations, sometimes they are not enough.  People need to be given the opportunity to help themselves in order to survive.

Schools are obligated to protect our children while they are there, and the best way to keep them safe is to prepare them for any dangerous situation that is possible.  Let students help themselves, by setting a plan that allows them to act.  Time has progressed and things have changed sufficiently to this day in age, students and regular civilians should be able to empower themselves instead of waiting for rescue.


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About Sarah Courtney

Sarah Courtney is a Denver-Area Freelance Writer

View all posts by Sarah Courtney

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