How to Respond to School Violence Using the RAIN Model


The RAIN Model is four-step process developed by the Community Safety Institute in the 1990’s after reviewing numerous school shootings throughout the decade. RAIN has been taught to thousands of educators throughout the nation over the past two decades. It has been successfully used as a classroom teacher’s response to school violence in order to minimize injuries and reduce victimization.

The RAIN Model for Responding to School Violence

The RAIN Model has been developed for classroom teachers to utilize if there is a crisis or conflict in the classroom.  RAIN is a great tool for educators and the model can be taught and practiced in staff development training and then re-practiced with discussion or tabletop exercises. RAIN is comprised of four primary elements:

      RESPOND refers to the necessity to do something, and not to freeze up.

     ASSESS refers to the teacher’s ability to clearly determine the status of the offender, the physical set-up of the location, and the medical condition of victims, or the possibility of additional victims if the conflict escalates or violence continues.  

     ISOLATE refers to separating the offender from victims or possible victims, and keeping a safe distance between teacher and offender.

Finally, NOTIFY stresses the need to notify the proper authorities without delay.


In School Safety 101 it was noted that the two most typical responses that we see from teachers during the role-playing exercise are that they either “freeze” or “freak out” and panic.

The RESPOND step emphasizes the importance of doing something. In violent situations, students look toward the adults for instruction and guidance.  Teachers must receive the proper training so that they know how to respond. They must take control of the situation, stay calm, and above all else, remain safe so they can continue to lead the students and guide the process.

In a classroom, 20+ students will be looking to you to see how you are reacting and will be following your lead. You must stay calm and assume leadership of the situation because, like it or not, everyone will be turning to you for guidance.

The most critical aspect of the Respond step is to remain safe. If you are not safe and if you expose yourself to danger, you have only aggravated the situation and not assisted anyone. On airplanes, flight attendants stress this principle when they announce “If we lose pressure in the cabin, place the drop-down mask over your face first before assisting others.” In a nice way they are also saying you must be safe before you can help your children, spouse or anyone else.

[cta headline="CSI's School Safety 101" buttontext="Purchase!" buttonlink="" ]  School Safety 101 presents detailed information on all essential elements of school safety including the standard crisis response drills such as shelter-in-place, evacuation and lockdown. Specific emphasis is placed in the book on developing internal capacity in schools through campus safety teams and crisis response teams. Because classroom teachers and substitutes need to know how to respond to a wide variety of incidents in the schools the RAIN Model is presented. For everyone else, including students, parents and volunteers the ESCAPE Model is presented for the first time in this edition of School Safety 101. [/cta]

In the police academy we stress the importance of officer safety by telling new recruits that if they don’t arrive on the scene safely but instead have a wreck, they have not helped anyone and have actually made the situation worse because they have become victims themselves.

Teaching is a very caring profession and helping is part of your nature, but before you can help others you must be safe and make good decisions about how to assist during a school crisis. These are some key terms in the correct method of response:








- Assess the offender – his actions, weapons, and history.  Note his emotional state - is he calm and controlled, or frantic and out of control?

- Assess the victims – their medical needs and status, the potential of injury to others, and the need for immediate assistance.

- Assess the location – the building design (whether public area or isolated); the access to safety or help (doors and windows); communications systems available (intercom, radios); and available cover or concealment.

Though we have examined three separate aspects of the Assess portion of the RAIN Model, remember that this assessment should take only seconds.  Prior time spent in assessing your surroundings, escape routes, exits, cover, or concealment will expedite this process in the event of a crisis.

In the RAIN Model, “I” stands for Isolate. Once your assessment is completed, or if you are in harm’s way as you are sizing up the situation, you will want to isolate yourself and/or others from harm. In such an instance, isolate refers to separating the offender from victims or potential victims, and keeping a safe distance between yourself and the offender.

Finally, Notify stresses the need to notify the proper authorities without delay. The old Red Cross rule of thumb is best here: make sure you send several different people to get help and notify emergency responders. You might tell one student to “Call 911,” another to “Call the police,” and a third to “Go get help.” This way you are specifically assigning someone to a task. Thus, the Notify step means to assign someone to go for help, or to call emergency personnel immediately.

Additionally, staff may want to:

  • Hit the panic button
  • Open the intercom or campus radio system
  • Call 911 on their cell phones
  • Send a computer or text message

The key to Notify is to get the word out in as many ways as possible that you need help, and not to assume that someone else is calling on your behalf or asking for help.