With an uptick in active shooter incidents over the years, area schools are offering training for teachers and working closely with local police departments to ensure the safety of students and be better prepared in case of such an event.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 250 FBI-designated active shooter incidents have occurred in the United States between 2000 and 2017.
Police officers across the county are now teaching civilians how to respond in the event that they come in contact with an active shooter in public, specifically in schools. Local police departments in Madison County are working closely with schools to provide training as well.
Since 2002, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program at Texas State University has been taught to law enforcement officers on how to respond to these situations.
These trained officers are now teaching citizens what they can do to protect themselves and reduce danger in the event of an active shooter through a program called Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event (CRASE).
Approximately 250 law enforcement officials across the state were trained in this program in April.
Ray Daniels, a police officer with Ridgeland Police Department and CRASE certified officer, said he has taught the program to more than 2,000 people since he has received the training.
The Ridgeland Police Department has five officers that are certified to teach CRASE.
“It’s not dictated to just school active shooter responses,” Daniel said. He has taught the course to churches, schools and several businesses.
According to Daniels, some schools in the past have had a lockdown plan in the event of an active shooter.
“And that’s great, if the shooter is in another building,” he said. “Then you can lock down. If the shooter is mobile, then lock down doesn’t work.”
Daniels said that’s why he teaches that in any active shooter event, civilians should avoid, deny and defend.
“That’s what we want you to do,” he said. “Avoid it at all costs, deny entry at all expenses and last, defend yourself. Schools have realized that a lockdown procedure isn’t always the best thing. The best thing would be to get the kids out of that environment.”
CRASE provides strategies, guidance and a plan for surviving. According to the ALERRT website, topics include the history and prevalence of active shooter events, civilian response options, medical issues and considerations for conducting drills.
The training course begins by introducing three responses that happen when active shooters are present. People typically face denial and try to reason that the event isn’t real.
Then, deliberation happens. Daniels said this is when civilians realize the event is real and react. Finally, the decisive moment comes. This is when people make the decision on how to act and carry that out.
The CRASE training shows a PowerPoint presentation showing videos of similar events that showcase these three responses.
“The purpose of the videos is to show what denial looks like, what deliberation looks like,” he said.
During the presentation, Daniels walks civilians through the avoid, deny, defend process.
He encourages everyone to take in their surroundings wherever they go.
“Know where your exits are,” he said. “Know how to get out.”
This way, if there is an active shooter event, one would know how to get out if able.
If leaving isn’t an option, Daniels said civilians should barricade the door and do everything in their power to deny entry to the threat.
And if the threat enters the room, Daniels said there are always options to defend yourself.
“Never play dead, never hide and hope,” he said. “That doesn’t work.”
He showed teachers at Ridgeland High School during a CRASE training before school started back how to turn every day items into defensive weapons if a shooter were to ever enter their classroom.
At St. Andrews Episcopal School, Associate Head of School Kevin Lewis said they have established a school response plan in the event of any disaster, such as an active shooter, dangerous weather or a bomb threat.
Lewis said the school works closely with its security consultant Larry Rowlett. Rowlett is a retired Secret Service agent of 22 years. He also worked for the Department of Homeland Security for 10 years.
He conducts annual training with faculty and staff. He led training sessions last week, as faculty and staff prepared for the start of school.
“He is our go-to person in giving us guidance for procedures, policies, practices over the last five years,” Lewis said.
The school works closely with local police departments, so that officers are familiar with campus. Drills are conducted twice each semester.
Both Daniels and Rowlett agree that it is important to take a proactive approach by watching for dangerous behaviors.
Daniels encourages students, parents and school faculty and staff to report anything that seems out of the ordinary or a potential threat.
“We can’t stop a threat if we don’t know it’s there,” he said, which is why he encourages anyone who hears something about potential danger to report it immediately.
Rowlett conducts training classes with teachers at St. Andrews to teach them what dangerous behaviors look like. He said the classes cover everything from spotting stress factors to picking up on threats.
“The teachers get the dangerous behavior trainings,” Rowlett said. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years with 175 schools.”
“We are trying to build a team here who are as aware as possible when it comes to things like this,” Lewis said.
On the grounds and building level, the school is outfitted with security cameras, a state-of-the-art intercom system.
Brad Swinney, director of facilities, said they also ensure that locks and other things on campus are in working order regularly to allow teachers to lock up classrooms easily.
In addition to increasing physical safety, Lewis said they have worked on upgrading communications systems as well.
“That has enhanced our ability to communicate quickly with everyone,” he said.