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Risk in Context

Active Shooter Threats: Four Ways to Protect Students and Teachers

Posted by Jean Demchak March 08, 2018

Active shooter events and other mass shootings have become all-too-familiar events in the US, and no sector is more vulnerable than education. From 2000 to 2016, primary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities were involved in 22% of all active shooter events in the US, according to FBI data. Last month’s Parkland, Florida shooting is only the most recent example of how such events can threaten the safety of students, faculty, and others. 

For education institutions, the lesson is clear: You must be prepared. Here are four ways you can better ensure your school is ready to respond to an on-campus shooting. 

Create a Plan and Test It

If you don’t already have one, you should immediately create an emergency response plan that includes procedures for reporting and reacting to active shooter events. If you already have a plan, make sure it’s up to date — it won’t be helpful if it’s been gathering dust on a shelf. 

You should:

  • Include input from risk management, safety, human resources, and legal departments, along with local law enforcement and contract security service providers, if engaged.
  • Provide clear guidance on what students, teachers, and other staff should and should not do in an emergency.
  • Regularly conduct tabletop exercises each semester to test your plan’s effectiveness and clarify roles and responsibilities. And conduct at least one active shooter drill — potentially with the involvement of students or using parents in the student role — during each school year. Rotate the drill among individual schools in a district or across buildings on a campus.

Consider New Threats

Just as the methods used by other bad actors, including terrorists and cyber-attackers, have evolved, the tactics used by active shooters are also changing. For example, law enforcement officials believe that the Parkland school shooter may have pulled a fire alarm, adding to the chaos there. Consider these and other scenarios, how they could play out on your campus, and how your people should respond.

Strictly Enforce Safety and Security Policies

It’s good to have specific policies in place to protect students and teachers, but they’re only helpful if implemented. As you consider and adopt specific procedures, make sure that all personnel know they should apply to everyone — with no exceptions. For example, if you choose to introduce metal detectors, ensure that all students, faculty, and visitors are screened. And if you require key card entry, make sure that every person entering your buildings swipes their badge and closes doors after entering. 

Review Your Insurance Program

Several forms of insurance can respond to the physical and reputational harm caused by shootings, including workers’ compensation, general liability, property, and educators’ legal liability. As active shooter threats have become more common, some insurers have also created specialty products that offer additional property protection. Work with your insurance advisors to ensure you have adequate coverage and understand how your policies could respond in the event of a shooting.

For more on this topic, read Protecting People and Operations from Active Shooter Threats

Jean Demchak