Over several decades, various methods across the nation have been used to teach the public defensive and offensive reactions to an active shooter scenario at college campuses and in the workplace. Since the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999, law enforcement and the general public have changed how they train and react to an active mass murder situation. Sitting idle and waiting for help or waiting to respond until a local SWAT Team can be placed is no longer a realistic or valid response solution.
Today, the public and law enforcement are expected to react quickly as a part of a standard (active shooter) response plan. Police officers are now trained to actively engage an active shooter where they find them. The public expects competent, effective, consistent and standardized training of first responders and active shooter training.
The failure of an employer to address the threat of an active shooter in the workplace can be an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) violation under the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)1). It requires employers to provide their employees a place of employment that is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm. OSHA violations can lead to citations, fines, lawsuits and damage to institutional reputation.
Active shooter response is a hot training topic nationally, as just about every public and private educational institution and many organizations (public, private, for-profit and non-profit), are developing active shooter guidance, policy, videos and related training. A search of YouTube finds hundreds of home-brewed active shooter videos and methods. Some of these videos are excellent; many are mediocre and some are not credible.
Basic concepts in active shooter training focus on several general response principles:
Try to escape the area (run – evacuate – get out – seek safe cover);
Call 9-1-1 after you escape and/or as soon as it is safe to do so;
Lockdown, secure and deny entry, or shelter-in-place in your current location; or
Find a place to hide - try to hide if you cannot escape (hide or hide out);
Take action against the shooter (fight – take out the shooter – take action – attack)
Compounding the problem; some schools may not be working with their local law enforcement officials when they are developing their active shooter training programs and plans. Some schools are bringing in private contractors and consultants. Whatever method is used, it is essential to reduce confusion and eliminate potential conflicts in how information is presented. Everyone should be on the same page when you are training people in geographic regions. Culture also plays a role in how people are taught within a particular geographic region. Use training and concepts that are familiar and consistent with past local practices and training cultures.
With various methods of active shooter training being taught and depending on what campus you attend, our students, faculty and staff may be getting a mixed message. The last thing we all need in this situation is a public served with mixed messages or confusion.