It’s 9PM EST and I’m preparing and practicing for a dynamic training presentation in Miami on Monday. I just finished a shorter training session in Ft. Myers.
The topics for both sessions; ACTIVE SHOOTER AWARENESS.
Our training has been scheduled for weeks but approximately 8 hours ago (as of this writing) 20 people have died during an attack at an El Paso shopping mall. The dead will be shoppers, children and employees. A suspect was detained and arrested. (Editor note: this article was written prior to the Ohio shooting Sunday morning.)
Let me start by saying I presented this idea in February 2018 after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The majority of the dead were students; just kids beginning their life.
I am updating and reposting this article and idea that, at a minimum, should be considered.
As I said in my prior writing, this article is helping me vent my frustration to this terrible event, the lack of any real change after each active shooter incident and, to offer another, new and unique approach.
As a 20 year veteran San Diego Police Officer and the CEO of my security consulting and training company, I don’t simply complain about serious issues, I try to always offer a solution to a problem I find. It may not always be the best or correct solution but at least I’m offering ideas, conversation and potential solutions. For this article I am doing that same thing. Let me explain….
At the time of the Columbine High School murders in April 1999, I was a police officer in San Diego. Within days of this terrible event, law enforcement officers across the country were given new guidelines on how to approach an Active Shooter event on a school campus and elsewhere.
There would be no more waiting for SWAT to save the day; instead, the first two officers arriving were to unite, quickly prepare and enter to engage the shooter in hopes of stopping additional killing innocent people. This was a great first step.
Within a few months of Columbine, my partner and I were tasked with implementing training programs at or elementary, middle and high schools in our patrol division surrounding School Lock Down Drills.
We used formal discussion, student drills and teacher role play events to help staff and students be prepared. Attendees included kinder to senior high students, teachers, custodians, office staff and all other employees on the newest reaction protocol; RUN-HIDE.
These two words simply meant, if you can; RUN.
If you cannot run, HIDE.
Shelter in place by entering any room any space, shutting and locking the door, turning off the lights and hiding against the wall away from the entry door. This was another great second step.
The last great step forward was the implementation of RUN-HIDE-FIGHT in approximately 2012.
This added that if you can’t run, and if you can’t hide, then FIGHT.
Fight with a vengeance to stay alive. Use anything at your disposal or in your reach to fight the attacker before you are shot or killed.
That “FIGHT” portion of this latest mantra is typically taught to adults in normal, work settings via discussion and a good video put out by the City of Houston back in 2012. In my view, and this is where my idea starts, we need to start discussing fighting way before our young people become adults AND in a more logical and real learning environment.
What about this and to understand the entire idea, please open your mind. The words FIGHT or ATTACK or AGGRESSION are not normally an idea or concept we teach our children in the school setting or really, anywhere else for that matter.
The solution I’m offering is not complex or hard to understand but will take smart people to fully understand the value, the long term goal and the unique delivery methods.
Start teaching our young people, starting in 6th grade, what the issue/problem is and what supports or forwards the issue. (Remember, the issue is mass shootings, active shooters and active killers).
We add this topic into standard school curriculum and use age appropriate language and training material. At this grade level, the discussions surround bullying, what it is, what it looks like, what hate speech is, how to recognize these two issues, how to report them, how to talk about them and how to deal with them.
Additionally, student education will also discuss the purpose and ideas of running, the purpose and methods of hiding and will include role play for both running and hiding. During the hiding portion, students will learn the difference between true hiding and attempting to hide in plan sight.
Finally, student education will also discuss family involvement and homework to be done with family to further the education.
Next, continue classroom education in 7th and 8th grade with some slightly more open and age appropriate discussions, videos and role play training surrounding bullying, student personal differences as well as more in-depth discussion and role play on running and hiding.
At this grade level, the middle school curriculum will now add a new topic of discussion; Fighting. This piece of the curriculum will not be hands on, physical fighting, instead it will surround the idea of fighting, what fighting is, what are the reasons and possible result behind it.
Use “fact based” discussions with true stories of when someone used fighting to stop an active shooter or active killer. This new topic will also discuss the idea of how fighting might occur, what an improvised weapon might be, not just in their school or classroom but in the mall, the movie theater or elsewhere.
Also, this topic will teach what others might do after one persons begins to fight and what the law enforcement response will be.
Finally, in conjunction with the classroom curriculum, every school will offer take home learning programs to address bullying, student personal differences for students to discuss the many topics with their parents or family members.
Next, increase the intensity of the curriculum and training for the remaining 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students.
The curriculum for these older, more life savvy and grown up students will receive refresher training elements on bullying, hate-speech and student personal differences, as well as more involved “fact based” discussions and more involved true stories where someone fought back to stop an active shooter or active killer.
Additionally, two new elements will be added for these older students. The two new topics added to the curriculum will be a review of past active shooter and active killer events to help students understand how they occurred, what was the reason (if known), the events that lead to the incident and what was the outcome of the incident.
The second and final element of the new curriculum; fighting. YES, fighting. This new topic is added into the school districts Sports and Athletics area under a unique name. These training events occur in the school athletic training areas, gyms or wrestling mat rooms.
The fighting that is taught to these 14 to 18 years olds is not Judo or MMA style brawling but instead, with the use of rubber or padded masks and body suits, students will review and then learn how to use improvised weapons from all areas of their life in and away from school.
They will continue to use their learned skills and develop tackle, grappling and holding skills in a single and a group attack method. The students will be introduced with training tools such as “Blue Guns” and “Rubber Knives” as well as methods to see these weapons actions, weak points and how to quickly grab and hold these killing weapons.
Students will slowly build their actions and skill level with trained professionals with knowledge of fighting actions and skills specifically designed for this group of students. This portion of the curriculum will not be designed as a self defense session, although many of the training elements would help with self defense.
The primary focus of these sessions will be aggressive defense. Each grade level would have end of year achievement areas or points that must be achieved for every student.
By 12th grade, these, 17 and 18 years old students will be fully educated and trained on what an active shooter or active killer is, why and how they occur, the methods and ideas behind their actions and how to recognize a developing or potential future active shooter or active killer and, methods and ideas on how to attack the aggressor as they are shooting or killing.
Now, imagine our future with children who grow to be young adults then adults. All with the knowledge and understanding of these terrible events. All with the ability and training to recognize and stop an active shooter or active killer.
And as they grow, their younger counterparts are learning the same information, history, techniques and training. This would be our new norm to help combat any sort of active shooter or active killer.
Before you totally shut my idea down, consider what one of our smallest allies requires, although less and less as time passes. I’m talking about Israels Compulsory Military Service.
Why did they enact this rule in 1949? Well, one reason is to always have a large fighting force ready to defend their homeland. They knew they were going to be attacked, targeted and, after the terrible years of the Holocaust, needed to learn to fight for themselves.
So, someone tell me why the United States of America cannot teach our own youth that our citizen’s are being attacked from within by a small element of people? Someone tell me why we cannot teach our youth how to survive during these terrible events?
Now, just consider my new approach for the following past incidents;
Consider the students from Columbine High School to Stoneman Douglas High School. Imagine five or eight 14 to 17-year-olds jumping on the back of the shooter(s) to grab the gun(s) and hold the shooters while police respond.
Yes, some students will run off campus, some will hide in secure rooms or offices. BUT, others who cannot run or hide, will have another option, these will see the threat coming, understand what the threat is and will be trained to attack when able. To fight to stay alive and stop the killing.
Is it possible that the death toll would be less in every school shooting event if students were trained in this way? YES.
Consider a 15-year-old, a 17-year-old and a 20-year-old at a theater watching a newly released movie when a shooting erupts. They hide and then at the correct moment, leap on the gunman to disable and disarm the gunman.
Is it possible that fewer movie goers would have died in Aurora, Colorado if young people at the theater had this type training? YES.
Consider ten to fifteen, 24, 25 & 26-year-olds in a Gay Nightclub or a Country Western Bar when a gunman enters to kill as many as they can. The individuals briefly run or hide, then as a single, like minded and like trained group, these 10 or 15 young people jump up and attack the gunman as he walks the area seeking to kill more people or as his guns jams or as he reloads his automatic weapon.
Is it possible that fewer innocent people would have died in the Orlando and Thousand Oaks bars had many of the young adults had prior training like I described? YES.
Please, someone, anyone take this idea and let’s simply consider it as another possible solution to this national emergency that is killing so many innocent people. There are many potential solutions that have been talked about and in some cases, implemented.
However, read about any of the events from 99% of our active shooter incidents. You will read that, and in many more recent incidents, you can see many people running and hiding from the active shooter or active killer. What you won’t read about or see is anyone fighting to stop the shooter or killer.
Is it possible that if shoppers at the El Paso Walmart had training on how to fight during an active shooting incident if running or hiding was not an option, would more have survived? YES.
We must stop waiting for law enforcement to come save us. We must stop blaming guns. We must consider adding appropriate training for our young people as they develop and grow so they can learn and understand how to survive while they are in school, church, a hotel, a mall, a theater or anywhere else an active shooter or active killer might rise up.
This isn’t rocket science… it’s just my idea to this growing problem. What is your idea… other than more police and more guns? How many more must die?
Robert C. Smith – CEO, Nightlife Security Consultants, is a retired San Diego Police Department Detective, Navy Veteran, and expert security consultant.