When an active shooter comes to a school to prey upon the innocent, there are only two options for unarmed children, teachers and staff: flee or hide. Our kids need to be instructed on which course of action to take, and when. This talk with children needs to come early, at the same time the “stranger danger” talk comes, and it needs to be done by parents. It’s sometimes necessary for parents to contradict what is being told to students by school faculty and staff. The advice from these individuals may be misguided at best, and end up making students and families feel safer when in fact they aren’t. Below are three tips for surviving a school shooting.

1.) Make a quick escape. The primary option for students would be for them to flee the scene, especially if the shooting is occurring a reasonable distance away from their location. The active shooter would like nothing better than to find a group of kids or adults huddled together in fear, making themselves an easy target. If it is possible, your children need to escape regardless of what the teacher is saying. You should visit your child’s school and know their classroom area. Teach them to be aware of their surroundings. Where is the closest exit? Can they escape through classroom windows? Architects, environmentalists, school boards and planners have done us all a great disservice by building schools with windows that can’t be opened (like they used to) or easily knocked out. Some windows are so small that only the smallest children could escape. And the drive to “go green” has resulted in such heavily tinted windows that even if the glass area was large enough for a law enforcement countersniper to get a good view of the interior, there is no way they can see inside due to the energy-saving tinting.

2.) What about fighting back? There is a type of community policing program that attempts to make parents and teachers feel that their children are safer by “fighting back” against the active shooter. These programs advocate tactics like having students and teachers throw erasers and trashcans at the shooter as they enter their classroom. But when the real gunfire begins, when kids or teachers know that this is the real deal, will they have the nerve to attempt their feeble resistance program? If escape isn’t possible, it may be best for children to “get small” inside a cloakroom or in a cabinet under the sink with a Kevlar backpack in front of them for protection and not be targets.

3.) Shelter in place. If the possibility of escaping has been exhausted, then there is little other choice but to hide and attempt to lock down your location. The hope here is that the shooter doesn’t make it to your position before police arrive. The problem with this defense—which is absolutely a last-ditch option—is that it really isn’t fooling anyone, even if the lights are turned out. Remember that the shooter is often a student at the school who has turned on his classmates. He is more than familiar with schedules and the location. Many locations are not prepared for what I call a “hardened lockdown”—locked from the inside. Further, there is too much glass in those same unlockable doors. Just knocking or shooting out the glass would allow the shooter to reach in, unlock the door and finish his business. Steel plating needs to be placed halfway up the narrow window to help prevent that. Teachers could still see out under normal circumstances.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of SURVIVOR’S EDGE. To subscribe, go to

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