Don Shomette

People are the Prize


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Throwing a Can of Soup at an Attacker: Good or Bad Idea?

As the new year is about to begin, some schools soup-smallare considering whether to require students to place a can of soup on their desk to be used against a school attacker. This decision, like any new safety initiative, has to weigh the desired outcome of the new policy against the application of the new procedures. In other words, is it worth it? Can we do it? Will it be something that we can maintain?

First, in theory the strategy of throwing a can of soup at the attacker is a great idea. Absolutely, do anything you can to survive even if that means throwing something—anything—at the school attacker if it helps you or others.

Application of this tactic however, is something completely different.

In your mind’s eye, imagine someone storming into your office to commit violence against you. Is your first thought to throw something at them? If not your first, how about your second, third, or fourth course of action? Chances are if you’re like the vast majority of people confronted with an immediate threat, throwing something at the attacker is not even a consideration.

Why do I say this?

I don’t know of a single school attack or an active shooter incident where a student or a person threw something at the attacker. Not even in the recent attack in Orlando where many of those in that tragedy were already holding something (glass and/or bottle) in their hand and nearly all were adults. If there was ever a time that someone would have thrown something at the attacker, it seems like it would have happened there.

But it didn’t because throwing something at a threat is not what we naturally do during a crisis.

There are three things that we do naturally during a crisis and that’s run, hide, and fight. This strategy, unlike the tactic of a can of soup placed on the student’s desk, was revealed to us and not created by us. In other words, after observing human behavior during numerous attacks it was revealed that people will basically do three things—run, hide, fight or some combination of the three. Therefore, it was not a case of someone coming up with what they considered a successful strategy and then telling people how to do it. People were already successfully doing it and we simply gave their behavior a name—run, hide, fight.

Telling a person to throw something at the attacker is not a natural behavior, but a created tactic.

This tactic has one great flaw, as do so many of the new strategies and tactics being created in a real effort to help people survive a school attack and an active shooter incident, which is that they demand a new behavior that is not natural to the person.

Yes, it is possible to make a person perform in a manner that is ‘unnatural’ to them, but it requires enormous and consistent amounts of training. It is not natural to run into a burning building or towards a person shooting at you, but we have people who can do it and it takes of years (or even decades) of training and re-training to make it possible. We don’t have that kind of time and we’ll never have the kind of time in the schools.

It’s so much easier to prepare a person to be successful, especially during high pressure and dangerous situations, by enhancing the behavior he or she is already naturally inclined to implement.

The most beneficial element about the concept of throwing a stapler, book, can of soup or some other object at the attacker is that it helps to instill in the person a mindset to do whatever they must to survive. The problem is that the application as a tactic is not feasible. People do not do it and if they’re not going to do it, regardless of how great of a strategy, it’s not beneficial as a tactic.

Instead, invest your time by enhancing those behaviors that have already been proven to be very successful in saving lives, reducing physical harm, and limiting emotional suffering. Train your students and staff members to better implement the strategy of run, hide, fight and it will not only save you time, but most important, it will give your school community the greatest opportunity for success.

>>>>>>>>>>If you liked this article, then you’ll like the professional development ACT FAST: Surviving a School Attack with Run, Hide, Fight. A train-the-trainer course that gives school leaders the skills and materials to teach their school community how to better implement run, hide, and fight.


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What Do You See Wednesday (17 December 2014)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll review and discuss the findings.

This week’s picture was taken early in the morning and the yellow glow is from the parking lot light.  This is a mobile classroom.

What do you see and how can we make it safer?  Are there any special safety measures we need to consider?

wdys_17 Dec 2014

 


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Review & Discussion (What Do You See Wednesday Dec 11, 2014)

Let’s review and discuss the last, ‘What Do You See Wednesday’

First, here’s the picture.

12nov2014

 

Here’s what Officer Diana Back had to say…

It is SUPER clean which shows that it is taken care of and staff care about their school. It is also well lit, nice line of vision, no real hiding spots…..door is open so people can hear/see anything unusual from inside the classroom and there seems to be a color-code scheme thing going on.

Here’s what I have to add.

First of all, outstanding job to Diana. Absolutely, the school is well taken care of and super clean. That tells us a lot about the leadership, staff, and students. It looks like they care and having spent the day in the school—I can say unequivocally that they do!

I want to add to the color-code scheme that Diana mentioned, which was really the purpose of this picture. The color coding is a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) technique. It’s made to influence behavior. Along with the lights directly over the colored squares, it helps to create a ‘desire’ in the person walking down the hall to follow a particular path. After all, ask yourself if you were walking down the hall where would you choose to walk. Would it be on the colored squares and under the lights or along the sides?

I’m guessing down the middle of the hall which is good and bad.

Good, because we want to influence behaviors and guide people to walk where we want them to. This helps to control access, enhance surveillance, and give order to the space.

Bad, because it’s in the middle of the hall. When students are changing class, we don’t want 100 students walking in the center of the hall. It is better to keep people separated by space and distance which reduces conflict and the possibility of random violence.

How would we fix this?

When you build new schools or renovate existing buildings in your district, really think about each space and add in every control feature that you possibly can. In this hall, we would put the colored squares on the outside, near the walls and put a string of wall lights directly over them. That way, when the students walk down the hall they will be close to the walls and separated in two columns instead of one directly down the middle.

This will give us greater control and allow for one adult to stand in the middle and better supervise the passing students.

It may seem like a little thing, but creating safer schools is a process and everything that helps, even if only a little, will add up to make a big difference.


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What Do You See Wednesday? (12 November 2014)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll review and discuss the findings.

Today’s picture has several crime prevention techniques (which is really influencing behaviors) as well as something larger that I want to discuss.  Take a look and what do you see?

 

12nov2014


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Review & Discussion (What Do You See Wednesday? 19 March 2014)

Let’s review and discuss the picture from What Do You See Wednesday? (19 March 2014)

Here’s the background:

Today’s picture is from another high school with severe security concerns. Every student that enters the school must walk through one of the two metal detectors and then have their backpack run through the X-ray machine. When you comment on this picture, do so as if you are a security officer and you are working this spot during student arrival.  What do you see from the eyes of the security officer?

Here’s the picture:

metal2
Here are my thoughts:

We talk a lot about the safety of the students and the staff members, but today I want to talk about the safety of our security personnel. The current setup is unsafe for the security officers. They have no space and distance between them and a potential threat and therefore no time to react first. Remember, this school feels the risk is high enough to have every student pass through a metal detector and to have their book bags x-rayed. That alone, should have the security officers take additional precautions.

What do I mean?

Increase The Space:
While it is good that only one door is being used, the officers have given themselves no time to react first. Imagine you’re a security officer and you’re standing there watching students stream in and suddenly the alarm goes off. How long have you been able to observe the student who set off the alarm? Maybe five seconds at the most? That is not long enough. We want to increase the time we are able to observe and assess those before they enter our area. The best way to do that is to…

Increase The Distance:
If I couldn’t move the metal detectors backwards and gain distance that way, I’d post an officer in the hall but place him in a spot where he was still visible from the doorway (typically there are at least three security officers manning an area like this and if I was an officer standing inside, I’d want to be able to see the officer outside in the hall).

Next, I’d create a lane in the hall and make all the students form in a line out there, before they get near the metal detector. The officer in the hall would have the job of observing and assessing. Does anyone look nervous? Anyone carrying something bulky? Anyone showing other signs of potential danger?

The officer in the hall would also have the job of spacing out the students. That is, not letting them bunch up around the metal detector but instead ensuring that they enter one at a time—nice and slow and at our pace. If the alarm goes off we want as few students in the immediate area as possible and we want a clear path to immediately address the situation.

We see it again and again that we can solve or lessen so many problems just by tweaking the environment to make it work for us. In everything we do, we want to increase the space and distance between ourselves and a potential threat. It is always in our benefit to be the one to act first.

When we do, we stand a better chance of influencing the outcome.

 


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What Do You See Wednesday? (19 March 2014)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll review and discuss the findings.

Today’s picture is from another high school with severe security concerns.  Every student that enters the school must walk through one of the two metal detectors and then have their backpack run through the X-ray machine. When you comment on this picture, do so as if you are a security officer and you are working this spot during student arrival.

What do you see–from the eyes of a security officer?

metal2


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What Do You See Wednesday (Review & Discussion) 12 March 2014

Let’s review and discuss the last, ‘What Do You See Wednesday’ from 12 March 2014.

Here’s the picture

stairs

I posted this picture because I wanted to talk about the stairs and give some tips for making them a little bit safer.

Designated directions.
This school has designated an ‘up’ and ‘down’ side for the students. Besides the arrows indicating which way the student is supposed to travel, there is also a metal rail that physically divides the two sides. This is a great way to reduce space conflict. Meaning, students that are using the space to walk down the stairs will not be in conflict with students using the stairs to walk up or…one gaggle of students cannot run into another gaggle.

For the schools that do not have a dividing rail to physically separate the two sides some have painted arrows on the walls and even stripes on the floor to help control movement.

Remember, this school had serious safety concerns and needed a dozen security officers to maintain control. Separating the students and making them all move in one direction helped a great deal to reduce fighting in the stairwells.

Shut it down.
Another technique is to shut down a specific stairwell to student movement. Don’t lock the doors, but just close the stairwell down so students cannot use them unless it’s an emergency. This is a great technique for limiting student access to spots that are difficult to observe, high risk areas where trouble seems to always occur, or if manpower is low and you’re spread too thin to cover everywhere.

Teachers should still use the stairwell to ensure that it is not being used as a spot for students to hide or to do bad things.

Own it.
Stairwells are often ignored because no one really owns them. Identify the adults that are near the stairwells and ask, plead, and or assign them to help own the stairwell. I would assign several adults to one stairwell and have them take turns supervising the space. Someone must watch them during class change and occasionally search them for indicators of violence or other unwanted behaviors.

Most schools only have a few stairwells and they don’t have severe safety issues.  With a good plan and a coordinated response you can enjoy an immediate improvement with a little bit of effort.  For schools that ignore their stairwells, they can and will cause a terrible amount of heartache for such a little space.