America’s Active Shooter Tragedies: Protecting Our Schools

October 3, 2018 Updated: October 3, 2018

As I write this article, it is Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the deadliest single mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas.

On this solemn memorial, we must pause to remember all gone too soon.

The heartbreaking loss of these innocent people, so cherished by family, friends, and communities, reminds us of the sacredness of human life.

As we honor all lost on that fateful day, let us reawaken compassion in the heart of America.

Let us also be fully dedicated to their memory with the leadership, vigilance, and collaboration necessary to safeguard our schools and communities.

FBI Report: Alarming Statistics

A published FBI report titled Quick Look: 250 Active Shooter Incidents in the United States from 2000 to 2017, presents sobering insights about violence in America.

The report says 250 incidents occurred during this time-frame, with 2,217 casualties.

Specifically, there were 799 individuals killed, and 1,418 wounded.

During six of the last eight years, there have been at least 20 incidents.  The 30 active shooter incidents in 2017 is the worst during this time span.

The staggering 729 casualties in 2017, was more by 500 than in any of the previous sixteen years.

There were also 138 people killed by active shooters in 2017, and 591 were wounded.

Active Shooter Locations

Locations of commerce during these eighteen years were highest on the list with 42 percent, 105 incidents.  Commerce was followed by location categories as follows:

  • Education, 20.8 percent, 52 incidents
  • Open Space, 14 percent, 35 incidents
  • Government including military, 10 percent, 50 incidents
  • Residences, 4.8 percent, 12 incidents
  • Houses of Worship, 4 percent, 10 incidents
  • Health Care Facilities, 4 percent, 10 incidents
  • Other Locations, 0.4 percent, 1 incident

Bergen County, Proactively Addressing the Issue

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, I was privileged to address active shooter issues through an educational event hosted by the Bergen County Education Association (BCEA).

The event took place at the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack, New Jersey and was attended by over 100 school superintendents and education leaders from throughout Bergen County.

For the past 20 years, I have been honored to conduct extensive educational, violence prevention, and crisis planning initiatives for schools, workplaces, and law enforcement agencies throughout Bergen.

These have included security vulnerability assessments, keynotes for teachers and staff, and character education sessions for students.

It has also been my privilege to serve the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association (BCPCA) during the last sixteen years as Chairperson of Community Policing and School Security.  In this capacity, I have presented monthly remarks to chiefs and law enforcement officials from over 70 agencies.

At the Sept. 25 event, I was the co-speaker with the Bergen County Regional SWAT team.  Together, we addressed active shooter issues and concerns.

Members of the Bergen County Regional SWAT team shared detailed information on tactical issues related to their commitment to protecting Bergen County.

During my presentation, I took the approach of prevention.  My focus included the importance of effectively responding to warning signs, security vulnerability assessments as more comprehensive than surveys, school resource officers, police-community partnerships, situational awareness, student empowerment, academic excellence, teacher and staff training, and the preventive pedagogy of education.  This pedagogy is critical for American schools as it enhances trust, builds bridges with all members of the school community, and fosters a vigilant, active, and respected presence by staff in the school community.

Active Shooter: Practical Tips

Some excerpts from the document titled Active Shooter Emergency Action Plan Development Guide and Template by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security Preparedness deserve attention.

In the emergency action section details related to the RUN, HIDE, or FIGHT concepts and are as follows:

RUN—Evacuate

Whatever you do, do not freeze. If you are at a distance where you can run away from the shooter in a reasonable amount of time, start running in the opposite direction, preferably in a zigzag pattern since a moving target is almost impossible to hit, no matter how good a shot the shooter is.

If you have time, grab a fire extinguisher to leave a path of smoke behind you to make it harder for the shooter to see you, as a way of covering your tracks.

Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow. Have an escape route and a plan in mind to get to identified assembly locations. Avoid using elevators or escalators.

Go to one of the assembly areas or rally points established for personnel to respond to if they run and evacuate the building.

Leave your belongings behind. Help others escape if possible. Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.

HIDE (or Lockdown in Place)

It should only take a few seconds to determine if your best course of actionshould be to run or to hide. If the shooter is rapidly approaching the roomyou are in, then you should prepare to hide as soon as possible. If you havemore time, but not enough time to run, then you should immediatelysecure doors by locking or barricading them with furniture or heavyobjects.

Turn off lights and any source of noise, including your cellphone ringer and vibrate mode. Stay out of sight and away from windows. Remain completely still and quiet. If multiple people are in the room, you should delegate tasks. One person or group of people should lock and barricade the door. One person or group of people should call 9-1-1, and one person or group of people should grab all the weapons they can find. Wait for responding law enforcement to advise you when it is safe to come out.

FIGHT

Attacking the shooter is your final option. You should not jump out of your hiding place and attack the shooter if he is approaching. You should only attack if you are so close, you cannot run, or exposed and sure, that you will be shot if you do nothing. This is a fight for your life!

If the shooter is approaching, the doorway of the room you are will be a choke point he has to move through and a good place from which to attack. This is where you want to engage him, because it will be easier knowing he has to come through that door looking for targets.

If there are multiple people in the room and the shooter can see all of you, then everyone should attack at once, hurting the shooter, throwing objects and doing everything possible to incapacitate the shooter. You may not want to fight the shooter if you see that someone else is doing it, but strength in numbers will make it more likely that you will survive.

Attack the shooter’s face, eyes, shoulders, or neck, or arms, so that the shooter is more likely to let go of the weapon. You should stab the shooter in the neck, gouge out his eyes, or stab him in the arm—even a sharp ballpoint pen or pencil could be a good weapon for gouging out the shooter’s eyes. If you cannot go for his face or weapon, kick him/her in the crotch. This will be an effective way to slow him/her and to cause a large amount of pain. Be aware of possible second weapons such as a knife, even if the attacker is severely injured. You must do anything you can to rid the shooter of his/her weapon, or to hurt them so they can be disarmed or neutralized.

Final Reflections

The BCEA deserves praise for their dedication to building bridges between law enforcement and school leaders to safeguard the county schools.

Also, the Bergen County Regional SWAT team deserves appreciation for their vigilance with protecting communities throughout the county, and for their dedication to educating community leaders.

When law enforcement and educational communities work collaboratively, there can only be positive results, and we are on the right path of preventing violence and reawakening the nation.

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence, author of 275 works including four books, and former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Reawakening America.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com, or twitter.com/vincentjbove

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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