School, Church, and Workplace Safety: Dress in Layers
Baby, it’s cold outside! As the thermometer starts to dip I am reminded of my younger days when frolicking outside in the snow was so much fun. My mother used to bundle my brother and I from head to toe, carefully layering clothing to make sure we warm. The multiple layers of clothing served as protection from the frigid air and far surpassed the single heavy coat. I guess Mom did know what was best for me. Today, I try to apply the very same strategy when assessing safety concerns for schools, churches, and places of commerce.
Aztec High School in New Mexico, Rancho Tehama Elementary School in California, and the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas are just a few of the grim realities we continue to face as a society. Innocent lives lost to deranged individuals intent on carrying out their homicidal fantasies. Sadly, the United States is host to more than 20 Active Shooter incidents annually according to the FBI. Are we doing enough to protect the people under our care? Are we using the common sense ideas that we were taught as children? When it comes to protecting against the threat of an Active Shooter, it appears that we have become passive and reliant on a one-dimensional approach to safety.
There are a wide variety of training programs available designed to empower and educate our staff, students, and parishioners about safety in the face of critical incidents. Perhaps one of the most widely used programs is called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Escape) which provides strategies to implement to increase safety and protection. This program has been taught to more than 1,000,000 people throughout 50 states. It is a fantastic program that lends insight to its students about how to assess an Active Shooter situation and decide a particular course of action that is most beneficial to their unique circumstance. In short, if a person can escape, they should. If a person can’t escape, then they should “lockdown” and prevent the shooter from being able to get to them by using items at their disposal to barricade doors against entry. Most often, desks and chairs are used to build obstacles in front of doors. The program also emphasizes the need to “counter” or fight back if a person’s room is breached and they are in imminent danger. I want to commend the creators of this program and encourage them to continue with their efforts to educate people on a survival mindset. Will this training by itself be enough to protect students, staff, and parishioners? Would it benefit agencies to add an additional layer of protection and strengthen the training concepts derived from this program? Just as Mom’s multi-layer of clothing added protection from the cold, additional layers of security add more safety.
The Active Shooter is typically intent on achieving a maximum body count in a short time frame before law enforcement arrives. Typically, Active Shooter incidents are concluded in 5 minutes or less. Therefore, it is imperative that we prohibit entry into rooms filled with innocent lives. Denying access to rooms allows us to buy time for law enforcement response to resolve the threat. Perhaps, we build on the ALICE program and add a second layer of security by utilizing a door barricade device. Door barricade devices are specifically designed and intended to prevent unwanted entry to rooms during critical incidents which increases the chances of survival.
The (www.bolostick.com) allows room occupants to secure a door against unwanted entry by inserting steel pin into a steel mount on the door which is then secured into the floor. This steel barrier prevents the door from being pushed, pulled, or pried open by forces in excess of 4200 pounds. It is deployed in one single step to make it easy to engage under times of high stress when fine motor skills typically deteriorate. So, by adding this as a second layer of protection, we have effectively increased our life-saving efforts. Door barricade devices can act alone, but when used in conjunction with established safety programs such as ALICE their benefit is multiplied. Two layers of security are better than one.
Let’s recap what we have done so far. We have educated our students, staff, and parishioners about the importance of being aware of danger signs and how to select the proper survival method during a critical incident such as an Active Shooter. In addition, we have added another layer of protection by implementing the Bolo Stick door barricade to safeguard the lives of room occupants against unwanted room entry by an armed attacker. Two layers of protection are definitely better than one. Can we do better? What happens in the worst case scenario when these two layers are overcome and room entry is made?
There is a huge amount of debate about arming teachers with guns in response to the epidemic of school shootings. Kenneth S. Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, is against the trend of arming teachers and stated “Suggesting that by providing teachers, principals, custodians, or other school staff with 8, 16, 40, or even 60 hours of firearms training on firing, handling, and holstering a gun somehow makes a non-law enforcement officer suddenly qualified to provide public safety services is an insult to our highly trained police professionals and a high-risk to the safety of students, teachers, and other school staff”. Indeed it is a very risky proposition and one that will require an in depth look at the risk and liability placed on school systems. Currently, classrooms and offices are left to improvise weaponry with make-shift items gathered in times of high stress. Throwing books, staplers, and miscellaneous items at an armed intruder is a battle that is heavily in favor of the assailant. Hopes of incapacitating the perpetrator and swarming them into submission are lofty goals to be placed upon untrained civilians. Is there anything else we can do?
Obviously, it is dangerous and risky to place weaponry such as firearms in the classroom, church, or office setting. What about a non-lethal product? Is there something that can distract or incapacitate an individual intent on taking lives? I have discovered a company called Threat Extinguisher (www.threatextinguisher.com) that produces a non-lethal product designed to incapacitate an assailant by using tactical-grade pepper spray. The product is mounted inside the classroom or office in a case or base that is designed to send an alert to designated personnel as soon as the product is removed from its holder. It is similar in appearance to a mini-fire extinguisher and capable of disorienting an individual by affecting their vision and breathing pattern. This is an outstanding advancement over attempting to locate miscellaneous items to be thrown at an attacker. Instantaneous notification that the product is about to be deployed and the ability to significantly neutralize an attacker makes for a fantastic third layer of protection.
The multi-layered approach towards critical incident safety makes sense. We lay a foundation by educating students, staff, and parishioners about Active Shooter incidents and how to survive them. Secondly, we construct a layer of protection by barricading entry to rooms using a door barricade device. Lastly, we provide a third layer of defense by providing a non-lethal alternative by which to incapacitate an attacker who has breached our other layers of protection. Over-lapping layers of security afford us the best chance for survival.
It’s definitely cold outside, so bundle up to stay warm and safe!
President, Bolo Stick LLC
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