Darceline Azor

School Safety: 6 Considerations to Prepare for the Active Shooter Threat


According to an FBI report, there has been a 67% increase in active shooter occurrences from 2018 to 2022. Sadly, our schools are often vulnerable targets. While there is no one solution to guarantee safety in our schools, established procedures can maximize safety and minimize loss of life and injuries Let’s review six considerations that schools should evaluate to prepare for the active shooter threat.


  1. Involve the entire school community in planning

School safety should be a collaborative effort. Create a plan with input from key school community stakeholders, including the school’s principals, parents, educators- and staff. This should be a layered strategic plan that includes processes for evacuating students and staff, communication strategies, active shooter response procedures, law enforcement coordination and recovery.


   2. Have a modifiable emergency action plan

As active shooters grow increasingly aware of safety plan protocol, school administrators need to develop security plans that are flexible and regularly alter them to address new or emerging threats. Consider the following as part of your response plan:

  • Classroom first-aid kits that include basic supplies to treat gunshot wounds, such as tourniquets and quick-clot gauze
  • Unique communication codes relating to school shooting hazards and the appropriate response action that are changed every school year and shared with staff and students
  • Designated meeting areas for parents in the event of an incident that also change regularly to avoid it becoming an attacker’s target
   3. Train students on the OODA loop strategy

The “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol has become impractical as shooters have learned this tactic themselves and actively seek places where students may be hiding. By contrast, the OODA loop consists of four steps: observe, orient, decide and act. It promotes timely, effective and proactive decision-making and emphasizes the significance of understanding a particular situation and responding with appropriate action. This might mean fighting back, using chairs to break windows for escape or other proactive measures to mitigate personal risk.


   4. Train staff and students

Once a plan is in place, educators, staff, students and parents must be trained and informed of the plan and their role. Partner with law enforcement experts to assist with periodic training and education. They can encourage proactive involvement, address concerns, answer questions and help reduce the negative impacts.

   5. Improve security on campus

In addition to training and planning, it is also critical to improve physical security measures on campus. The Covenant School shooter, for example, entered the school after shooting out and climbing through the glass windowpanes. While glass windows may be aesthetically appealing to the school community, they can be detrimental to efficient security measures. Schools can implement a variety of high-impact safety measures to keep students and educators safe, including:

  • Control school entry points by designating specific access doors with weapons detection equipment for early detection and intervention. While access points should be limited, multiple exits should be easily accessible from all areas of the building.
  • Push the security perimeter of your campus out and away from the building with designated checkpoints. This reduces the opportunity for unauthorized individuals to approach crowded areas of your campus.
  • Consider deploying a firearms detection canine team to conduct sweeps across your campus, including in lobbies, auditoriums, cafeterias, parking lots and beyond. While creating a welcoming environment for students and school personnel, the presence of a canine is shown to deter hostile actors and statistically reduce incidents of violence.
  • Install security cameras with onsite and offsite viewing and screening locations. If onsite viewing is disrupted, the offsite viewers can provide accurate situational information to law authorities.
  • Employ experienced non-uniformed security guards who can blend in without drawing assailant’s attention. These individuals will be able to respond quickly and efficiently, without being targeted by the assailant.


   6. Promote mental health awareness

A report from the U.S Government Accountability Office reported that half of school shootings were carried out by current or former students of the schools targeted. The majority of school shooters reported mental health difficulties such as depression and/or suicide ideation. School administrators should incorporate mental health programs that aid students in better understanding and managing their emotions and provide resources for assistance when needed.

While there is no single solution to preventing and preparing for the possibility of a school shooting, implementing proven methods and processes to reduce risk will help strengthen school safety, minimizing loss of life and catastrophic damage.

Click here to download our active shooter preparedness slick.

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