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Preventing The Active Shooter in our Schools and Workplace

This week I was invited to attend a seminar led by Prof. Isaac Ashenazi, retired Colonel in the Israeli defense forces and an international expert on disaster management. Among the other members of the panel was the inspirational Kaitlin Roig who was a teacher at Sandy Hook elementary and whose actions saved the lives of 15 of her students. The topic of the seminar was "Preventing the Active Shooter in our Schools and Workplace".

Prof. Ashkenazi started the seminar with a chilling look at our current reality. Shootings in schools and the workplace are on the rise and the number of casualties per incident is also increasing. Prof. Ashkenazi presented a compelling argument that we need to instill a greater sense of personal responsibility in ourselves, our co-workers and our children to have the necessary set of tools to react to a violent encounter. Why? Consider the timeline of a shooting event. The vast majority of the injuries and fatalities occur within the first 10 minutes of an active shooting. Conversely the average response time by law enforcement is 12 minutes. As Prof. Ashkenazi stated "The event ends before the solution arrives".

Many on the panel and in the audience pointed out the response times are improving, while others on the panel noted that many schools/workplaces across the US are in rural areas that could have response times by law enforcement of up to 45 minutes!

A provocative solution was offered by Prof. Ashkenazi who suggested that what we have lost in America is a sense of resilience and self reliance. He suggested that we need to prepare ourselves and our children to face a crisis situation and have the necessary tools to react appropriately to save lives. His suggestions involved four primary toolsets that we all should consider:

  • Resiliency - Train to overcome the automatic freeze response. A moving target is very difficult to hit, especially for an inexperienced shooter.

  • Escape - Escape methods, escape routes, door blocking and shooter delay techniques

  • Fight - Methods, techniques, technology to neutralize shooter. For example understanding the during a shooter reload situation the distraction of reloading presents an opportunity to overwhelm the shooter.

  • Save - Methods of helping behavior that help others to safety

An important point to consider is that Prof. Ashkenazi is advocating learning these toolsets primarily as a way to keep yourself and others alive in those critical first 10 minutes during a shooting event and before the law enforcement professionals have arrived on scene.

It was certainly an engaging and informative seminar.

I'm not sure as a group we arrived at any consensus with regards to preventing shootings in our schools but I think based on the overwhelming data that shootings are going to continue increasing in frequency and intensity. I think it's timely we that we have a serious debate about how we can best train ourselves and our children to help themselves and others stay alive during an active shooter event.


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