Teacher Response to Active Shooters

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Excerpted from School Safety 101 this section provides important information on teacher response to active shooters. If you are ever confronted with an active shooter situation, your actions will influence others. It is important for you to stay calm, and to assure students that you and the police are working to protect them.

  • Lock the door if that is possible. Many school walls are cinderblock or brick, which may provide some protection.
  • Whether you are in a classroom, cafeteria, office, or restroom, secure the immediate area if possible.
  • Close the blinds or pull the shades.
  • Block windows if possible, and cover windows in doors.

You can consider posting ‘help’ signs in classroom windows facing the outside, but be aware that the shooter might be able to see them. If necessary, turn off radios and computer monitors and silence cell phones. As much as possible, you want to ensure silence within the room so as not to draw the attention of the shooter.

In an active shooter situation, you want to keep yourself and your students safe from the intruder. Even after the door is locked, consider blocking or barricading the door with whatever furniture is available, whether desks or file cabinets.

If the shooter is able to enter your room but then leaves, immediately lock or barricade the door behind him.

If the situation appears safe and there is a need, allow others to seek refuge in your room.

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

It is possible that the shooter might bang on your door and yell for help to entice you to open the door. If there is any doubt in your mind, and you feel that opening the door might jeopardize the safety of those in the room, do not open it. Keep the area secured.

Additional Actions

  •  Keep room occupants calm and quiet.
  • After securing the room, position occupants out of sight and behind items that might offer additional protection - walls, desks, file cabinets, etc.
  • If it is necessary, and if it is safe to do so, place signs in exterior windows to identify the location of injured persons.

Escape Via Windows

You may feel that you should attempt an escape by means of the window. In that case, first evaluate the risk: how far is the fall? What surface is below you – bushes, concrete, vehicles? Would a fall possibly injure or even kill you?

If you feel that a window escape is safe, then open the window, or break it if necessary (windows in many newer school buildings do not allow for opening). Hang from the window or the ledge if necessary to reduce the distance of the fall. You might be able to use items such as belts or clothing to lower yourself.

Un-securing the Classroom

Before you unlock and open the door, realize that the shooter will not stop until his objectives have been met, unless engaged by law enforcement. You risk exposure to danger by opening the door.

No matter your good intentions, any attempts to rescue people outside should only be made if that can be done without further endangering the persons inside a secured area.

Large Areas

If you are in a gym or cafeteria/cafetorium, and the shooter is not present and there is no safe room, lead the students outside as quickly and quietly as possible. Find cover as far from the building as possible and do not go back inside.

If you come in contact with the police, keep your hands in plain view or above your head and follow their instructions.

Unsecured Open Areas

If you find yourself in an open unsecured area, immediately seek protection. If possible, put something between you and the shooter (for example, a brick wall, concrete barricade).

Consider whether escape is your best option. Do you know where the shooter is? Could you escape before he saw you? If in doubt, quickly find a safe place to hide, where you have concealment. That could mean behind bushes or benches.

Once you are outside, do not go back into the building unless directed to do so by law enforcement.

Calling for Help

We all know to call 911 in an emergency. However, be aware that in an active shooter situation the 911 system may be overwhelmed and you may get a busy signal or no answer. Once you do reach a dispatcher, provide:

  • Your specific location
  • Building name
  • Office/classroom number
  • Number of people at your specific location

Information on Injured Persons

If you know of injuries, report the number of people injured and the types of injuries they sustained. The 911 dispatcher may provide instructions on what you can do to help care for the injured while awaiting rescue.

If you do feel that you can help, remember basic first aid techniques. For bleeding, apply pressure and elevate the injured area. Be creative in identifying items to use to stop bleeding - clothing, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, even newspapers.