There is a Problem with Weapons in Our Schools

During a presentation at a school and campus safety conference last week I included a slide based on research from the CDC.  The report, Understanding School Violence, cited that 4.1% of students reported taking a weapon to school in the last 30 days.  For several of the school resource officers in the group there was a look of puzzlement.  For me to state that about 1 in 25 students was armed in the school was a bit of a surprise.  The next slide I presented was based on a quick Google search of two words, ‘school gun’.  The result was a list of news articles from the previous two days.  There were 8 news stories of arrests of students in middle and high schools that had brought a gun into a school.  My question to the group was: “If these are the weapons we know about, how many are really out there?”

An October 3rd headline out of New York is telling for what schools face across the country; NYPD stats: Crime down, but sharp spike in school weapon confiscation.  The article mentions the recent stabbing murder and aggravated battery of two students by another student.  While the story did make some national news there was an important revelation from the mayor; “The new statistics showed the number of weapons in city schools is up 48 percent, and Mayor de Blasio acknowledged students have, for years, armed themselves in schools.”  Students arming themselves to counter an onslaught of bullying is nothing new.  Last month, a student in Freemont High School in Washington state killed a fellow student in a small, rural community in reaction to what the shooter felt was endless bullying. This is reaching epidemic proportions across the country.

The reaction to these events is typical. A large amount of money is thrown at exterior security including access control, surveillance, and metal detectors.  While all of these measures have a role to play, if the intention is to deter violence and reduce casualties, then these measures have been shown to fail time and again.  The two things that we know work are notification and empowered staff.  When students recognize that teachers can and will protect them from a violent attacker then they won’t feel the need to arm themselves.  The SafeDefend system was developed in direct response to this principle.  As administrators consider how to tackle a problem that could result in the death or serious harm of a student they should realize that all of the current measures are only barriers to overcome not something to thwart or stop an attacker.

SafeDefend wants you to be safe and secure in a crisis

The staff at SafeDefend extends our deepest condolences to the families who lost a loved one during the attack on the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Our best wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured as they recuperate at home and in the hospital.  We would like to also commend the civilians, officers and emergency personnel for their valiant efforts at stopping this atrocious action and securing the lives of the victims.  There is no greater example of the American spirit than when people rise up to confront a crisis and persevere in the face of adversity.

At SafeDefend our goal is to prevent this type of calamity by working with communities across the country in order to educate people on the best practices for preparing and by providing a variety of tools and options for response to such an occurrence. Having a keen sense of situational awareness can dramatically increase your chances of remaining unharmed should something happen in a large crowd.  Your personal safety and security can be accomplished with reasonable effort.  There are a few principles that when followed we enhance your own sense of safety and prepare you should something happen.

Prior Planning is Critical

Prepare as you arrive by becoming familiar with the venue. Once you arrive at your seats or viewing area check for the closest exits and places of shelter.  Often, the place we entered the venue is the one we intended to exit.  In an emergency, this might not be the closest or even accessible exit, especially if everyone is heading that way as well.  Understand where you are in the forum and look for areas of exit or shelter as you move around for concessions or personal relief.  Realizing that getting outside is only the first step you should also prepare in advance where you are going to go once outside.  Evacuating is the first thing you should consider when violence or a calamity occurs.  Move with haste and purpose toward an exit being mindful of the distance between you the other people so you don’t get stuck in a crowd.

Observe Your Surrounding

Be alert to things that are out of the norm or unexpected. We tend to focus our attention on our friends and the event with little regard for those around us.  Generally, people attending events act in a similar way.  The crowd is there to enjoy the entertainment and participate in the activities.  When a person is acting in a manner that is peculiar or nefarious we should report the activity to a person in authority.  The event staff is working diligently to coordinate everyone’s safety but can’t monitor everything.  Your concern is enough for them to investigate.

A lack of preparation leads to panic and indecision

The Department of Homeland Security uses the same basic principles of evacuation, sheltering, and take action. (Run, Hide, Fight)  If something happens your plan to evacuate will enable you to initiate immediately without having to consider what to do.  As you are attempting to leave you should consider what options you have to shelter or protect yourself if the circumstances change.  If you weren’t initially able to flee and have secured a place of safety you should be considering options to reinitiate evacuation or defend yourself.  At all times, your plans should adjust to the events as they unfold.  Without a prior thought process, the typical reaction is to freeze from indecision or panic and run without considering the nature of the threat.

These events are generally fluid as the threat moves, police respond, and our location changes. We need to adapt to the environment and prepare for any eventuality. While the principles from the DHS are focused on a hostile event they can be adapted to other mass casualty events such as fire, structure failure, and weather disasters to name a few.  The best advice is to think of what options are available to you based on your location, move away from danger, and take action to protect yourself.