Active shooter events are, by nature, loud, violent, and traumatic experiences. It makes sense then that some trainers look to duplicate that in their active shooter drills. They believe that making the training more “real” will better prepare participants for the actual event.
Often, these drills feature multiple “gunmen” and are unannounced. The shooters will wear bulletproof vests and trench coats while carrying assault rifles. They will knock loudly on doors, make a lot of noise, and use aggressive behaviors such as yelling threatening language and taking hostages. Similarly, responding law enforcement is in full tactical gear and using flashbangs and rubble-pellet firing weapons to put down the suspected shooters.
We elaborate on this in the following video
It’s Not Necessary
This can all be very traumatic for anyone participating. Few experiencing these over-the-top drills handle it well, including mature teachers and staff. They are particularly impactful on young children. Parents get distraught and angry when they learn about the drills from their kids and sometimes file lawsuits against the trainers, district, and law enforcement.
For these reasons and more, we recommend never performing this kind of aggressive drill. In our experience, we find that it is just not necessary. We conduct our own active shooter drills but make a point of going light. It doesn’t need to be like seeing if someone can swim by throwing them into the deep end of the pool. Even the lightest of drills can give the participants the room to enact their plan and uncover potential issues without needing to frighten and traumatize them.
Ease Them Into It
You should start everyone with a drill that is short, simple, and as light as possible. You review the results and identify areas for improvement. If the sites seem prepared to do so, you can start to ratchet up the pressure by introducing new scenarios or stressing weak points. With each new drill, you can build resiliency in the drill participants. If at some point you need to test them under the kind of pressure you might see in an aggressive drill like above, then do so only after they have proven they can handle it.
This is a process that can take years to do right. Your staff and students aren’t going to pick it up from day one. Up-tempo and highly aggressive drills try to get to the result without doing the work first. What ends up happening is that everyone freezes under the immense pressure of these drills, teaching them nothing they can use if the real thing occurs.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Proper active shooter training takes knowledge, dedication, and exposure. And that takes time. But if you follow through with a simple and regular safety training plan, you can prepare your sites to be ready for almost anything.