There is a lot of confusion among school staff about which strategy is most effective in the face of an intruder – running, hiding or fighting. Proponents of running and fighting offer examples of targeted attack victims who did not survive by hiding or locking down. It’s important to remember that lockdowns are, and have been, very effective if done correctly.
Hiding under desks while in plain sight is not the most effective way to survive an attack. However, hiding in a locked or barricaded space has proven quite effective.
So, what should you tell your staff? Most experts agree that we must give our staff members permission to do what they need to, to survive. We must give them the power to assess a situation and make what they believe to be the best possible decision at that time.
We need to provide opportunities for this type of assessment and response. When under duress, we are not very effective actors or decision-makers. We will do what we have been conditioned to do through practice. I suggest running drills using both evacuation and lockdown responses. It should always be made clear that fighting is a last ditch effort if there are no other options. People have survived by fighting back, and people have been killed by fighting back. The same holds true for both running and hiding. We must give our staff members the choice and educate them accordingly.
For more on this topic, here are two fantastic resources: the book The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley and FEMA’s Guide for Developing High Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (pages 63-66 address this topic).
Once your staff has been trained and has rehearsed a number of possible scenarios, I think you’ll all sleep better at night.