Is Run Always the First Choice in Run/Hide/Fight?

by Brad | October 7, 2013 at 8:05 am | Best Practices, Intruderology, Lockdown

One of the questions I am most asked about Run/Hide/Fight pertains to whether the entire school should always try to run or evacuate as a first response to a violent intruder or active shooter.  Short answer: No.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) presents Run/Hide/Fight as options, not building-wide action plans.  When presenting Run (or evacuate) DHS says to try and evacuate if there is an accessible escape path.   A hallway packed with students (and a possibly killer) may not be a path of escape.   At a minimum it is never ALWAYS a path of escape and thereby not always the first choice.

During an active shooter attack, some people inside the school will likely need to implement Run.  However, a building-wide strategy to Run is only slightly better than a building-wide strategy to Hide (lockdown).   Building-wide action steps work for fire (evacuate) or severe weather (shelter in place), but intruder response plans must options. Continue Reading…

Active Shooters, Run-Hide-Fight and NIMS

by Brad | October 1, 2013 at 11:57 am | Best Practices, Lockdown

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) identifies concepts and principles to manage emergencies regardless of their cause, size, location or complexity.  A core mission of NIMS is to provide a consistent, nationwide approach and vocabulary to deliver the core capabilities needed to achieve a secure and resilient nation.

If a consistent approach to emergency readiness is vital, isn’t it time everyone got on board with the same general intruder/active shooter guidelines?  Every week it seems there is a new alphabet soup promising to enhance how to respond to an active shooter.

Intruder response is about mitigating access to people until law enforcement can intervene.  To accomplish this, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have embraced the Run-Hide-Fight system. Continue Reading…

Mission First and Securing Classrooms

by Brad | January 24, 2013 at 9:24 am | Best Practices, Lockdown

Mission First and Locking Classrooms

My clearest recollection of a mission first mindset is when I went through airborne school.  A black hat instructor was saying something about safety being the most important thing and I remember thinking “if safety is so important, then let’s not jump.” I was pretty sure he meant, “mission first and lets be as safe as we can” so I did not offer up my opinion.

Schools exist to educate kids.  That is the mission. Any security measures that are an impediment to education need to be heavily scrutinized.   The issue of locking classroom doors is something that is frequently discussed in SafePlans’ Intruderology training.

A good security plan requires layers and a securable classroom can be the last layer of protection from an active shooter.  Classroom doors need to have locks – ideally the kind that can be locked from inside the classroom. without the use of a key  It is also vital that these locks comply with fire code.

Controlling access is a common point of conflict between protecting a school from an active shooter and basic fire safety.   While locking doors to prevent people from gaining access to a school is allowed under any and all fire-code requirements, preventing exit/escape is not. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Life Safety Code 101 essentially states that every person inside a school must be able to exit all doors in their path to the outside without “the use of a key, a tool, or special knowledge or effort for operation from the egress side” (NFPA 101, Continue Reading…

Are Schools the Next Target?

by Brad | March 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Best Practices, Bomb Threat/IED, Lockdown

SafePlans’ Situational Awareness & Analysis

When attempting to predict the probability of attacks and identify potential targets, it helps to understand the terrorists’ thought processes and tactics.  Suleiman Abu Gheith, Al-Qaeda’s spokesman, said: “Al-Qaeda has the right to kill four million Americans, two million of them children.”
He also said, “Allah willing, the blow will come from where they least expect it…” Continue Reading…

What The Terrorist Attacks in India Mean to School Safety

by Brad | December 9, 2008 at 10:56 am | Best Practices, Lockdown

The recent attacks in Mumbai, India illustrate that Islamic terrorists will implement previous attack strategies that assault civilian soft targets. The relevance to educational facilities is drawn from the September 1st, 2004 massacre at the Beslan Russia elementary school that left 330 people (most of whom were children) dead.

The Mumbai attacks followed assault strategy that was disrupted in July 1993 in New York. This strategy was referred to as the “Landmarks” plot and called for several terrorist teams to assault prominent New York hotels. Terrorists conducted detailed target surveillance that included maps and notes on building design. The attackers intended to pose as hotel workers and utilize a stolen delivery vehicle in order to obtain easy access to the targets.

Thankfully the Landmarks pot was prevented due to the vigilance of US counterterrorism agents. A little more that 15 years later, the people of Mumbai were not so fortunate. Their fate mirrored that of the community of Beslan Russia when the attackers reportedly posed as repairman to unchallenged access to the school.

The Mumbia attack serves as a distressing reminder that terrorists will target civilians in order to gain maximum body count to gain maximum notoriety for their attacks.

Defining “Securable” Locations for a Lockdown

by Brad | November 10, 2008 at 9:37 am | Best Practices, Lockdown

Most schools have a lockdown plan. However, not many schools have a good lockdown plan. Just as every classroom should have an evacuation plan, every room needs a lockdown plan that meets the needs of that specific location. Keep in mind, there are numerous access control solutions that can enhance a school’s ability to lockdown and no location can offer total protection from a hostile intruder. At a minimum, schools should identify locations that meet certain basic safety guidelines.

For example:

  • A door that can be locked from the inside. Imagine having stand outside the classroom to lock your door during a lockdown.
  • No interior facing windows/vision panels greater than 10 inches wide. The intruder should not be able to see in the room or easily defeat the window and locking mechanism.

Once identified, all staff should become familiar with these guidelines and what to do if they are in one of these areas when confronted with a hostile intruder and/or lockdown situation.
District and school administrators should work with their local law enforcement and fire department (fire code compliance) to set these guidelines and establish plans for these non-secure areas.

And of course – TRAIN THE PLAN.

This post is provided by SafePlans (, an all-hazards preparedness solution including emergency plans, staff training, and detailed site mapping.

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Case Study – Fighting Back Against a School Shooter

by Brad | October 21, 2008 at 1:02 pm | Best Practices, Lockdown, School Safety News, Threat Assessment

Lately it seems there has been a lot of interest in schools and colleges instructing teachers to fight back when confronted with an armed attacker. Certainly the thought of having teachers (and even students) being told to throw books and fight back against a gunman is incredible and counter-intuitive. Luckily no one ever told by Ryan Crowley, Jake Ryker, Josh Ryker, Douglas Ure, Davis Ure, Ada Walberger, Joshua Pearson and Travis Weaver not to fight back against a school shooter. In 1998, these seven students prevented an attacker from killing more of their schoolmates.

On May 20, 1998, 15year-old Kipland (Kip) Phillip Kinkel was expelled from school for possessing a loaded firearm. His father, Bill Kinkel, a 59 year-old Spanish teacher picked him up from the police station, where they stopped at a Burger King on the drive home.

This was not Kip’s first mishap and his obsession with guns was well known to his parents. In fact, his Dad even purchased him numerous weapons for Kip despite disturbing tendencies such as building bombs, torturing neighborhood cats, throwing rocks of freeway bridges and treatment for mental disorders that included hallucinating and hearing voices.

Continue Reading…

Applying Tactical Decision Making to a School Shooting

by Brad | October 19, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Best Practices, Lockdown

Make no mistake, when a shooter is on your campus, you are in a combat situation that is dynamic and time-competitive. Delayed actions and/or ineffective decisions can cost lives. Delays or inaction on the part of administrators, teachers and even students create or maintain a window of opportunity that the shooter is sure to exploit.

A valuable system in understanding the importance of proper timely decisions in a critical incident is the OODA Loop (sometimes referred to as Boyd’s Cycle after its creator, retired U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd). Being a student of and expert on tactical operations, Boyd detailed that in many of the battles, when one side as not able to keep up with the ever changing dynamics of a combat situation, that slower to react side was almost always defeated. In observing this, Boyd concluded that timely decision making is critically important and applied the phrase “time-competitive.”

According to Boyd’s theory, conflict can be seen as a series of time-competitive, Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) cycles. Conflict begins by each side observing their position, their surroundings and that of their adversary. Orientation is next. Orientation is critical because the dynamic nature of combat makes it impossible to process information as fast as it is observed. Orientation can be thought of as snap-shot approach to obtaining perspective. Once orientation is gained, it is time to decide.. The decision considers all factors that were present at during the orientation phase. Lastly, final process is to act on the decision.

Continue Reading…

Train the Plan

An untested and untrained plan is little more than theory. After developing school/college emergency plans a training program should be designed to educate students, parents, teachers, staff, crisis team members and administrators in threat assessment procedures, emergency response, management policies and procedures. Once training is implemented, exercises should be conducted to test the plans and training.

Currently, most educational facilities have adopted a training philosophy that embraces performing extremely well under reasonable conditions, rather than performing reasonably well under extreme conditions. For example:

Lockdown, Weather, Earthquake & Fire Drills Deficiencies
Staff has advanced knowledge of the exact time of the drill and the drill occurs when all students are in the classroom.

After two or three successful drills, limit advanced knowledge to the day of the event and implement the drills during transition times. Note: Avoid conducting drills during meal periods, due to the costs associates with missed lunches. To test response, set up a mock lunch period with students and staff.

Once you have your drills up and running, it is time to conduct training exercises. Tabletop & functional exercises use vivid scenarios, guided by experienced and certified facilitators, to engage participants in discussions of how they would respond to hypothetical events. Tabletops are designed to be a non-threatening and relatively low cost approach to validating capabilities. Use Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) based exercises to explore and validate plans, identify logical or structural conflicts or gaps in those plans and develop specific areas for further study and improvement. Scenario should be coordinated/developed with local emergency management and public safety.

Stay safe


This post is provided by SafePlans (, an all-hazards preparedness solution including emergency plans, staff training, and detailed site mapping.

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©2008 SafePlans, LLC

The Way NOT to Conduct a Lockdown Drill

by Brad | September 14, 2008 at 8:12 pm | Best Practices, Lockdown, School Safety News

Recently a school district implemented a surprise lockdown drill at an early learning center that included pretend bad guys using weapons firing blank rounds. If this school had armed teachers, like the school in Texas discussed in a previous post, I suspect I’d be writing about a completely different tragedy. As it is, the tragedy was only in training and that is where mistakes are supposed to happen.

When you get right down to it, security measures can accomplish two things: reduce risks and/or reduce anxiety. Sometimes measures that reduce risk actually increase anxiety. This is regrettable but the benefit of improved safety outweighs the impact of increased anxiety. Security measures that increase anxiety (such as the previously mentioned lockdown drill) should only be implemented when no other alternatives exist or the anxiety can be mitigated.

Clearly the district’s intentions were well meaning; after all most district won’t even allow lockdown drills. However, it does appear they were overzealous in their approach. FEMA recommends a progressive training approach of seminar, drill, tabletop exercise, functional exercise and full scale exercise. A lockdown training program should have the same crawl, walk, and run approach.

Utilizing the progressive FEMA training approach ,schools or colleges can introduce staff (and students) to lockdown responses during seminars. Drills designed to test one or two specific objectives are next. Initially, these drills should be structured and implemented in a no fault learning environment. Once the drill is reasonably well mastered, more advanced scenarios can be incorporated and additional objectives can be tested.

When developing a lockdown training program, consult with mental health experts to determine the effects of simulated combat scenarios and ensure student training is age appropriate. Make certain instructors can adequately address all aspects of planning for a shooter.

Stay safe

This post is provided by SafePlans (, an all-hazards preparedness solution including emergency plans, staff training, and detailed site mapping.
Click here to learn more about the author

©2008 SafePlans, LLC