Teachers and students need to be prepared to take action in an active shooter situation, according to an official with the Fort Smith Police Department.
Police Cpl. Anthony Rice said each teacher and student in a school needs to know options within the facility for protecting themselves and others in an active shooter situation. He said that knowing these options and improvising with them will mitigate the loss of life in such a situation.
Rice outlined this concept in an active shooter seminar for teachers and faculty at Union Christian Academy on Thursday afternoon. His seminar was from the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate Training Institute.
“It’s about taking action. You can’t just sit back and let someone else control your world," Rice said. "If you teach your class properly, you can do something.”
An active shooter kills one person per 15 seconds, according to the Training Institute. Rice said that this rate, combined with a 5-6 minute response time from law enforcement, according to the Training Institute, can potentially make for "a lot of people dying."
Rice said that in Fort Smith, officers average a 3-4 minute response time to a call. He also said that there are 8-10 officers on the streets of Fort Smith every day.
"I want to teach you to defend yourself so that you don't have to rely on us completely," Rice said.
Rice said a schoolwide lockdown is usually not a safe option if the shooter is inside the school. He advised teachers to find a way to help their students escape the school, and then escape themselves.
Rice used the mass shootings at Virginia Tech University in April 2007 and Columbine High School in April 1999 as examples of students who fled the active shooter and lived, whereas those who hid under desks were either killed or injured. He said that the students who lived at Virginia Tech jumped out the windows of the building that the shooter was in.
"I would much rather have a broken leg on a kid and have to explain that in court than to say, ‘You know what? I just let your kid down and let them get shot,'" Rice said of this decision.
Even if a classroom has windows or an exit, Rice recommended barricading the doors to the classroom with any large object that the teacher or students can find. He especially emphasized this for classrooms without exits to the outdoors.
If the shooter comes in contact with people at the school, Rice told teachers to train their students to throw things at him or her. He said that this impairs the shooter's accuracy through diversion.
Rice illustrated his point by spraying an empty air can on a teacher while she tried to hit the school principal in the chest with a thrown tennis ball. The teacher's aim suffered each time Rice sprayed her with the air.
"He still has to do everything she was doing," Rice said of a potential shooter. “She was getting proper sight alignment, she was breathing, she was getting a proper sight."
Rice also said students need to be ready to throw an object at a potential active shooter at any time. He used the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where the shooter began killing students in the hallway after he pulled a fire alarm, as an example.
"If you’re going to go out on a fire alarm, take a book with you. Take something with you," Rice said. "I don’t know a kid in school today who doesn’t have something in his or her pocket."
Proactive responses to active shooters have had positive outcomes in the past, Rice said. He cited several examples, including a University of Alabama in Huntsville staff member pushing an active shooter out of a faculty meeting and barricading the door in February 2010 as an example.
Rice said that ultimately, an effective response to an active shooter situation comes down to teachers who are empowered to act according to the situation.
“If you’ve never been in a high-stress situation where you’ve never been shot at or stabbed at, you really don’t know how you’re going to respond, but someone in this room has got to respond correctly," Rice said. "When you do respond correctly, you’ve got to drag everybody else with you.”
"There is no set-in-stone policy," Rice said. "You are empowered to make decisions as you go."