Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dr. Amelia is assembling her elite strike force

A few years ago, faculty at Amelia's university had to go through active shooter training. This consisted of watching a video and then having the chief of campus police stand up and mumble something about how the video had pretty good advice. Dr. Amelia's hubs (also
a proffie) then got to do this at his school this year.

The video did, in fact, have good advice. For example: run away from the sound of apparent gunshots. But one part really made me wonder.

There is substantial emphasis on survivor mentality - basically being willing to do what it takes to stop a shooter if you can't avoid them. Apparently, if there is a shooter in your building, you should make your room look/sound like there is no one in there (turn off lights, lock the door, silence phones) and at the same time assemble your students into an elite strike force, prepared to physically attack a shooter as soon as he gets through the barricade by throwing things, jumping them, etc.

It is probably also good advice, but I am thinking to myself "Have you met my students?" And also "When did we cover this in grad school?"

22 comments:

  1. We go through active shooter training at least once per year, sometimes twice. Not only are we expected to assemble that elite strike force -- mine would simply be huddled in the corner, each with his or her cell phone out to film our imminent deaths -- but we were told last year to stay as far away as possible from anyone who's crying, because shooters are drawn to people who are crying.

    I am not making this up.

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  2. Students with the lowest grades are on the front line.

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  3. I never anticipated having to think about this. Even so, I am trying to get some real active shooter training instituted on our campus. Right now, all we have is a video.

    On my own, I have figured out a space in my building where I could easily fit 50 people, or more, if need be. The space can be secured, using two long metal poles that are stashed in my office that would block the one fire door that cannot be locked. There is water and a potty. The doors are solid and I have a way for everyone to escape out a window, using a tool that I also have stashed in my office.

    We are a small, rural campus, located in an area that is critically under-served in terms of mental health providers, and that has a very strong gun culture. As a department chair, an active shooter is the nightmare scenario that keeps me up nights. Sigh.

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    1. If the local gun culture is that active, you've likely got a lot of students already packing heat, just concealed in their backpacks. Maybe one of them can stand between the door and everyone else?

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    2. Wow, you've really thought this through. Good for you. I doubt my department head has done anything like this.

      My and my coleagues' plan is that you don't have to outrun the shooter, just outrun one of your colleagues. I'm pretty slow but I'm good at tripping people so I think I'll do ok.

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    3. @Clara Good on you for thinking about and planning for it. As a department chair, do you have clout to get the campus security involved? It sounds crazy (bordering on negligent) they haven't had some kind of annual or semi-annual training for everyone. DHS and FEMA have a number of videos and documents that are broadly helpful.
      Another point I would add is to think about how you would deal with an active shooter in any situation or place--the cafeteria, the quad, the library, and non-campus places such as your house of worship or a shopping area. Being "situationally aware" is a good thing. Best, Grumpy.

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  4. Have you seen the video about 9-11 with the passengers saying how they were going to jump the hijackers, but never got around to it until they finally got some balls and flew the plane into the ground?

    You do not want untrained people to act as a "strike force". In all fairness, desperate times allow for desperate measures. But getting millenials to follow directions like turning their phones off, keeping quiet, etc. would be like having Beebop and Rocksteady in the room. When the room is dark and the shooter walks by and somebody yells out something like "Is that the shooter?" or "Is this on the exam?" or "The syllabus doesn't say I have to be quiet."

    Anything that requires cooperation on the students' part is a bad idea imho.

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    1. I respect your cynicism about students but the fact remains that giving everyone some kind of basic training about active shooters (and other threats) is better than nothing. At least it puts the thought in their heads. I would only expect a very, very few to retain the info or have the ability to remain calm and focused in a stressful situation, but that's who you're stuck with. (And I'm a student, not an instructor.) If you have a precious fewer Beebops and Rocksteadys after training it won't hurt. It also won't hurt to be aware of who the law enforcement types, veterans, and semi-intelligent big jocks are in your class.

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  5. I work in retail. The video we were shown focused on "Avoid, Deny, and Defend." Avoid the attacker, deny the attacker's ability to get to you, and, if necessary, defend yourself with force to escape. Escape is the primary goal. That means, sadly, leaving others behind. So if you're a customer in a store with an active shooter, you are on your own. The staff will head out the nearest exit or lock themselves in offices until law enforcement arrives. Company policy is basically "GTFO."

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  6. It is a fairly common observation that students won't follow the plainly stated rules on assignment formatting etc., even if their lives depended on it. Well, how much confidence do you have that all your students will finally follow the rules when doing so literally (and no longer figuratively) has their lives depending on it?

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  7. Tomorrow's professional development: "How to avoid being struck by lightning!"

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    1. Bob and weave. Also you have to fight back.

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  8. I hated that video. I just missed being in an active shooter situation back in the 90s. I left the scene right before the shooter started. oddly, my wife's workplace (which is totally unconnected to my own) showed the same video the same afternoon my school showed it to faculty. But yeah, I do look over my classroom and wonder how to barricade it.

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  9. I am teaching in a classroom with a glass wall this semester. Closest to the main building entrance, I might add.

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    1. I've taught in such classrooms, and, having attended one planning session for the building that will replace our current building (one of these years), suspect that I will again. Maybe they could install bulletproof glass?

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  10. I haven't received any official training, video or otherwise, but have heard the same gist (get out if you can; hide/lock/barricade if you can't; prepare to fight back if none of the above works). While I do think about whether my classrooms are defensible now and then, I have to admit I'm not systematic about it. For instance, I've got the same classroom this fall as I did last spring, and, while I'm pretty sure from experience navigating them that the doors open outward, that's about it; I haven't checked the locks (but suspect I don't have much control over them). We are at least well-supplied with portable whiteboards that could serve as visual, if not fully bullet-resistant physical, barriers. The other furniture probably wouldn't be much good for constructing barricades, since it's on wheels (handy in most circumstances, but maybe not in this particular sort of emergency. I guess we could turn it upside down in a pinch; it's heavy-ish,and would quickly form a pretty chaotic, if not exactly impenetrable, tangle).

    On the other hand, give or take the occasional exception, I have pretty good confidence that my students would behave well in an emergency. While they can behave like snowflakes sometimes, it's usually because they're overwhelmed by other obligations, and thos obligations mean that many of them have a good deal of experience behaving responsibly in real-world situations, from retail to combat. Some of them -- e.g. military veterans -- might well be more reliable in a crisis than I would. Honestly, there are situations (and hearing gunshots is one of them), where if one of a small but significant subgroup of students I've had over the years started barking orders, and those orders sounded remotely sensible to me, I'd simply obey. I know my areas of expertise and my areas of relative cluelessness, and an active shooter falls under the latter category.

    Failing the presence of someone better-qualified than I in the room, I would feel some responsibility for doing my best to help students implement some sort of hide/barricade strategy, or for taking on any particularly dangerous task myself (unless someone else was both willing and way better physically qualified -- e.g. I'm probably not the best person to stand next to the door preparing to hit anyone who enters over the head with something heavy, because I'm short and others can probably hold considerably more weight aloft).

    And no, we didn't cover this in grad school. Undergrads at my grad institution did some pretty stupid, even fatal, things to themselves, and probably also some (underreported) damage to each other, but I never considered how I'd cope in an active-shooter scenario, even though the Montreal massacre occurred while I was in grad school, and was discussed as an example of the backlash against feminism. I don't know why we didn't consider it in a more practical light -- it-can't-happen-here denial? the invulnerability of (relative) youth? Sheer stupidity/cluelessness/whatever?

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    1. Possibly a sense of statistical relevance and an ability to tell the difference between rare but highly visible risks and those so ubiquitous that they only make the news if they are the bleediest one of their kind that day?

      I mean, you'd do more to increase your statistical chance of surviving the year by resolving to not drive when you're tired than by planning for a armed nutjob letting loose on campus.

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    2. Very true. Another reason to consider moving closer to campus, if and when I can afford it (and assuming I think I will still have, and want, my job for some time to come. The jury's still out on that one, particularly the latter part. I'm feeling okay at the moment, but morale among those who have greater contact with the powers that be seems pretty low, which is a potential warning sign.)

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  11. I was always more afraid of my own students becoming shooters than some outside force.

    - anon y mouse

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    1. I occasionally worry about this possibility, too, and it complicates the general plan that Madame L describes below. It's all very well to say "look, if somebody in the classroom seems to be losing it and showing signs of becoming violent, I'm going to try to hold their attention, and I expect as many of you as possible to get out of the room and call for help while I'm doing that," except if the potentially-violent person is in the room. I do tell them that if someone (including me) seems to be in medical or other distress, the correct response is to get out their phone and call 911, not film the incident.

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  12. We had a pretty good training from the local specialist last year. I discuss with my students the general plan: Flee, Hide, Fight. I'm also in a rural area with a strong gun culture. While guns are not currently allowed on campuses in my state, I have no doubt that there are a few in the trunks of cars on campus.

    I would rather discuss this with my students and have a plan than not be prepared.

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