What to Do: The Aftermath of the Douglas High School Shooting

AEGIS Security & Investigations has posted numerous blogs about active shooters as the amount of incidents continues to increase. Douglas High School has lost at least 17 community members in a school shooting in an attack by a former student. The suspect is in custody. Those with injuries have been transported to hospitals to undergo treatment. Members of the community are offering their support and prayers for one another in this great time of need.

We join the nation in expressing our deepest sympathies for the Parkland community.

See something, say something is the message authorities in Parkland, Florida are sending to the public tonight in the aftermath of a true Valentine’s Day tragedy. Considering that locally in Los Angeles, last week the shooting at a LAUSD campus and already fallen off the news cycle, we want to again reinforce the importance of active shooter training and prevention.

Sadly, every shooting provides a learning opportunity. We look at what we do in our own active shooter training as well as what we think could prevent a future shooting in a similar setting. As an experienced security team that works closely with schools to enhance their security tactics, especially those pertaining to active shooters, we preach a single tenant: SCHOOLS — teachers, administrators, parents, aids, students — need enhanced active shooter training TODAY.

AEGIS offers active shooter training programs specifically designed for schools, and since nearly 90 percent of California schools are ill-equipped and under-prepared for active shooter incidents, we are vamping up our mission to educate students, teachers and administrators on the topic.

A few additional yet big takeaways from today’s tragedy include the important of run, hide, fight; preparation and threat management; and the principle of see something, say something.

Run, hide, fight

The shooter today is suspected of having pulled the fire alarm to lure students and staff out of classrooms and offices. As of now, it is unclear exactly where the shooter began his rampage. What is known from student reports is that students heard gun fire and ran back into the school, whether it was into classrooms or offices. They ran to what they perceived as being away from the shots.

This is the CORRECT behavior and reaction.

Whether an announcement is made by security or administration or you hear the actual gun shots, the first choice is run. If you can get out of range of the active shooter and to safety, do so immediately. Leave your personal items and find a safe place quickly and quietly. Such a space needs to be out of range of the gun fire and any other potential danger related to the active shooter situation. Once you are safe, help others by preventing them from going toward the the location of the shooter. Call 911 and give them as much information as possible: provide a description of the shooter, a location of the shooter, weapons they are using, if known, and the amount of ammunition that has been used, if known.

If you cannot run, you have to hide. Unlike a fire drill where you have to drop cover and hold, or an earthquake drill where you have to take cover under sturdy tables or desks, you need to find sturdy cover and concealment. A teacher reported today that she took this exact action. She hid 19 students in a closet to protect them from the shooter.

Remember: there is a difference between cover and concealment. If it’s not thick and sturdy made of durable material, chances are you can hide from the bullets, but you can’t stop them. Find a room, whether it is a closet, office, classroom, or break room, and lock and barricade the door. Go somewhere where you won’t be seen. Silence your cell phone and turn off the lights.

If you cannot run or hide and danger is imminent, you have to fight. Work with other people around you to attack from all sides. Improvise weapons and use whatever you can find to stab, slash, strike, or amplify your attack. Fight with everything you have. Do not stop until the attacker is neutralized.

When law enforcement officers arrive, they will not stop to help you or other victims. Their single task is to find and neutralize the active shooter. If you can walk out on your own, do so. They’ll point you in the right direction. Wait for other police officers outside in a safe place.


Preparation and threat management

When it comes to preparing your school for incidents like that at Stoneman Douglas HS, there are several steps.

The first step is conducting a professional security audit that includes a full policy review. including emergency management, active shooter response, local law enforcement and medical response capabilities, training, policies and procedures, communication systems, adherence to safe schools regulations, anti-bullying initiatives, the school wide positive behavior support plan, memorandums of understanding, and mutual aid agreements.

The second step is conducting a full vulnerability assessment of the physical property to include access control, screening, lighting, camera systems, the use of contractors, visibility, environmental factors, and targeting.

The third step is conducting an analysis of each observation, assessing its individual characteristics and then classifying it for further action. Once the analysis is complete, countermeasures should be defined for each shortfall.

The fourth step would be penetration testing. This would be a real test of security arranged by the security consultant and administrators. This test is not designed to scare students or faculty but rather to determine vulnerabilities and readiness.

The final step in the initial process is education of school faculty and staff related to understanding the warning signs of various kinds of bullying as well as psychological disorders. Per the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education when violence is witnessed, a correlation with decreased school attendance and academic performance is found across the board. Students who suffer from bullying and other forms of school-based violence tend to perform poorly, earning average grades of D and F.

Unfortunately, in this Florida high school situation, the tendency toward the violence enacted seems to be directly linked to lacking discipline and performance from the shooter when he was a student. Early reports indicate he was expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons.

The only way we can begin to resolve school violence in the long term is with better recognition and treatment.

Creating and practicing emergency and active shooter plans in schools across the nation can mean the difference between surviving an attack and being a victim. A professional security consultant can help your organization protect itself and those it serves.


See something, Say something

While we do not yet know what was witnessed prior to the shooting — whether the suspect was seen with a gun entering the school, whether the suspect had posted intent in social media, etc. — we do know that it is critical to report anything suspicious to authorities. Teaching students this is critical to preventing active shooters and other violent situations on campuses. Read our short report on how bullying and on-campus violence can lead to mass violence. Adults in any circumstance should follow this same advice. If you see something suspicious, report it.


Working to prevent future active shooters in schools

The civilian active shooter training provided by AEGIS is intended to build on “run, hide, fight,” the long-standing method of saving yourself in these events. Workshops run from an hour to several hours dependent on the needs of the organization and individuals. Our most highly sought after workplace violence training program is our one-hour plus add-on Run, Hide, Fight Live Fire Demo; participants begin with a lecture and basic training on how to handle the situation and are then exposed to sample scenarios in which they practice those same skills. The effectiveness of this scenario can be viewed when on CBS here.

Additionally, AEGIS researches the best preventative measures to ensure campuses are up-to-date on best practices in physical security. We have found that active shooter scenarios, whether from within the campus or outside of the campus, can be delayed in their “spread” from building to building or class to class with a well-practiced implementation of a campus lock down.

Large school campuses are faced with a unique threat when encountering active shooters: locking down every point of entry quickly. How do you ensure you can move your security force around 10-plus buildings, secure 100-plus potential points of entry, or lock every door before being spotted by an active shooter? You get help from a system designed to lock the campus down with the click of a button.

With Detex Lockdown System, campuses can secure main doors from a centrally located switch linked to panic hardware devices on the doors themselves. This allows campus safety to save time on the systematic locking of doors and focus on security students and staff. Check out our full article on the Detex Lockdown System and how we can help you enhance your campus security plan.

Lastly, if your campus doesn’t have a security team, consider reaching out to an AEGIS security consultant to design and implement the best plan for your university or college. Additionally, AEGIS Security & Investigations offers security training programs designed for people at all levels within any organization. These trainings are the first step in understanding you and your organization’s capabilities and responses to an incident. Taking the steps to become better prepared in hostile situations cannot only save your life but help save the lives of those around you.

AEGIS may be just a small piece of the puzzle in reducing active shooter incidents across the nation, but we hope our message leaves a much bigger impression. Get trained. Learn to save yourself and others.

AEGIS Security & Investigations is a Los Angeles region company that is licensed and insured in the State of California to provide high-end armed and unarmed regular and temporary off-duty police officers, bodyguards, security officers, loss prevention agents, and event staff. Additionally, we offer services for private investigation, consultation, people locates, and background investigations. Our trainings and workshops in the field of security licensure and counter-terrorism have been featured in news media and are renowned for their efficacy. For more information or to contact us, visit www.aegis.com.