Benjamin Franklin stated that “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The objective of training is to provide the knowledge about and demonstrate the importance of having a plan during an emergency incident. Most police departments along with the law enforcement community are training to enhance their organizations about the importance of implementing proper procedures and protocols during emergency situations. Which is a great approach however, who is educating the public?

Most law enforcement officers pass along helpful hints or strategies to protect their loved ones and family members. This same ideology and methodology should and needs to be passed on to the public for their safety as well. One of the principal components of community policing is the crime prevention element. The education component of crime prevention strategies is one of the most productive and overlooked part of community policing. Educating the public from becoming a victim in the first place will unequivocally rebuild the trust and bridge the gap between the public and law enforcement community.

The escalation in area shootings seems to be having an amplified impact on our community’s sentiment towards the law enforcement community and public safety.

The notion of being educated with the information and the knowledge of what to do and being prepared for an active shooter is as essential to the public as it is to the law enforcement community.

The subject matter and training with regards to an active shooter for the law enforcement community is actually different from educating the public and our loved ones. Educating the public is an approach that will open up a much needed dialogue and start to eliminate the divide the between the public and the law enforcement community. The law enforcement communities must proactively educate the public on the various types of crime prevention techniques. Through this education process and by demonstrating this strategy as well as other strategies to the public will alter and change the mindset of the public by creating confidence that the “police do care.”

These strategies that are being introduced or supplied to you can be used as defensive approaches for your safety as well as the safety of others at your school, educational institution, business, hospital, government agency, local malls and stores, or on our public streets.

The most important thing is to follow you gut instinct, if something does not feel right or as the Department of Homeland Security’s motto states, “see something, say something”. This means taking action and alerting someone, calling 9-1-1, or notifying your beat officer, a patrol car passing by, your teacher, professor, security personnel or anyone of authority assigned to your building or facility. The idea behind this is that it may prevent an incident from ever occurring, in the first place.

Active shooter situations are extremely dangerous to one’s personal safety and it is of the utmost importance to secure and shield yourself from danger. This can be done by closing and locking doors, windows, hiding behind a wall, street pole, parked car, mail box, hospital cart, desk or any object that conceals and protects you. The idea of placing as many barriers between you and the danger as possible, will decrease your potential of being injured or killed.

Time is an element that provides options that enhance your safety as well. The faster local law enforcement is notified and the faster they respond will increase your safety. If there is time and it will not put you in further danger, you should consider running away from the risk, escaping the area or building where the threat exists, or, by hiding in a safer location or behind, under, or in objects that can conceal and protect you from the shooter, until law enforcement personnel arrive.

Time is essential to your safety, but so is your attentiveness. During stressful situations stay focused and attentive to your surroundings, this will help you apply your best personal judgment and provide you with time to look for an opportunity to escape or move to a safer place, assist others and first responders. Being attentive to your surroundings and having alternatives will provide you with the countless options that can be applied for your personal safety as well as the safety of others.

Training the law enforcement community and educating the public with some of the strategies mentioned is the collaboration needed to rebuild the trust that has been eroding away for the last decade. The public and police department must meet somewhere in the middle to effectively change the current environment and bridge the gap and what better way than educating each other.


Radvanovsky, Robert S. Critical Infrastructure Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. 3rd ed. Hoboken: CRC, 2013. Print.

Department of Homeland Security –

Scott Downs is fourth generation law enforcement officer. He is an Adjunct Criminal Justice Professor at Briarcliffe College. Scott’s has two decades of experience as a police officer and instructor. He serves in the private safety and security sector as an educator and consultant.  Scott is a summa cum laude graduate of Saint Joseph’s College and holds a Master’s Degree from the Homeland Security Management Institute. Reach Scott at [email protected]