About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.

Active Shooter Training Cover Story in January Issue of ASIS Security Management Magazine

Security Management Magazine released it’s January issue this week with an article I was asked to write as the cover story.  The article addresses the increasing concerns relating to training injuries, civil actions and accidental operant conditioning caused by a number of options-based active shooter training programs in recent years.  Security Management Magazine is the official publication of the American Society for Industrial Security International (ASIS).  Read the article here:

ASIS Magazine Active Shooter Training article

Put Training to the Test: By Evaluating the Effectiveness of Scenario-Based Training, School Administrators and Faculty Can Learn to React Appropriately to Active Threats, Possibly Circumventing Tragedy

Web link: https://sm.asisonline.org/Pages/Put-Training-to-the-Test.aspx

PDF Download of the entire issue:  https://sm.asisonline.org/ASIS%20Issue%20PDFs/January%202018.pdf

The article focuses on the dire need for proper fidelity testing of options-based active shooter training programs.  The article is also designed to help people understand that programs that focus primarily on active shooter events can actually reduce the ability of school staff to respond to emergencies.  We have already had quite a bit of positive feedback on the article and I am honored to have been asked by ASIS to write the article.  With many injuries and traumatic reactions being experienced by school employees and students around the country, we are hopeful that this article will lead to improvements in how we prepare school employees to address active shooter incidents and the other types of more common school crisis events that cause more than 95% of all deaths on American K12 school campuses.

This article can help people recognize the potential danger of poorly designed and delivered active shooter training programs and videos.  As described in the article, any program that does not perform well when trainees have to run through a variety of different types of scenarios is of questionable effectiveness.  When people who have been trained in active shooter response programs cannot properly handle audio and video scenarios for basic crisis incidents, their performance will not typically get better when faced with the stress of a life-and-death event.  If it does not test well, it will not improve when tested by and actual event.  As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has said, “We do not rise to the occasion, we sink to the level of our training.”

 

Book: Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing

Arnie Bernstein’s book on the 1927 bombing of the Bath School in Michigan
is well-written, informative and provides valuable lessons for school safety
practitioners and experts.

I just finished reading a very well-written and informative book about the deadly 1927 school bombing in Bath, Michigan. Authored by Arnie Bernstein in 2009, Bath Massacre – America’s First School Bombing, details the second deadliest K12 school attack in United States history that we are aware of and the first school bombing.  With 42 fatalities, the attack at the Bath Consolidated school still ranks second in lethality behind the 1958 arson attack carried out by an elementary student that killed 95 students and teachers at the Our Lady of Angels Sacred Hearts School in Chicago.

 

While many people believe that mass casualty school attacks are a new phenomenon, there have been many acts of violence including school shootings, arson attacks, school bombings and other acts of extreme violence carried out at both public and non-public schools in the United States dating back to at least 1764.   While it is extremely important to learn from modern acts of school violence, we often see that the fundamental lessons in improving safety have not changed much since the 1800s.  For example, the first successful school lockdown that we are familiar with took place in a one-room school house in Danbury, Connecticut in 1900.  Over a century later and just a few minutes drive away, our nation’s deadliest school shooting would occur in Sandy Hook in an incident where most of the fatalities occurred in two unlocked classrooms.

Safe Havens Analyst Found Story of successful school lockdown

A Safe Havens analyst found this story of a successful school lockdown in 1900 while conducting research for a school security assessment for a Connecticut school district.

Bath Massacre provides valuable lessons for those who work in the school security arena.  The author does an excellent job of providing details of the attack and its aftermath that show significant similarities to modern school attack.  The Bath School attack was likely the first suicide school bombing in the United States and should serve as a warning to school and public safety officials as one attack method that many school emergency plans do not address properly, a school bombing followed up by a secondary attack such as another device or an ambush.  As with Michelle McBride’s book The Fire that Will not Die, this book may be an emotionally difficult read for many educators.  However, as I often tell clients, that it is better to hear about catastrophic events than to experience them because it is too uncomfortable to discuss and learn from them.


School Bus Terrorism in New York

This week’s deadly truck attack in Manhattan is being investigated by the FBI as a possible terrorist attack.  As the attacker rammed a school bus during the attack, a finding by the FBI that this was indeed a terrorist attack would make this the first act of school bus terrorism in the United States (See also: “School Bus Terrorism: A Practical Analysis with Implications for America’s Schools” by Chris Dorn.

As described in a chapter on attack methods in our upcoming book Extreme Violence – Preventing and Preparing for Active Shooter, Active Assailant, Hate Crimes and Terrorist Attacks, bad actors have many options for carrying out mass-casualty attacks.  Favored targets of terrorists who opt to target school children, school buses have been attacked numerous times even though relatively few countries have school buses as we know them in the United States.

Terrorists who have carried out attacks on school buses in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other regions of the world have previously utilized vehicle ramming attacks, fire, explosives, shootings, edged weapons assaults and hostage takings to create terror in school bus attacks (See “Is your Campus Prepared for Vehicle Based Attacks”, School Safety Monthly September 2017).  In many cases, mass transit buses have been attacked at times of day when large numbers of children were riding them.  We have long been concerned that terrorists or other types of attackers might select school buses in the United States.  While it appears likely that the school bus that was attacked in this case was more likely a target of opportunity than the primary intended target, the implications of this attack are significant.

This attack and a thoughtful review of other school bus attacks in the United States and abroad indicates that a focus on the threat of active shooter incidents on school buses without an appropriate emphasis on other attack methods that have been repeatedly utilized is unwise.  Balanced training on ways to prevent and prepare for a wider array of attack methods is important.  For example, the number of school bus hostage situations in the United States, as well as those that have taken place in other countries, demonstrate that this is a relevant training area for American pupil transportation personnel.

There is also ample evidence that other emerging attack methods that have become popular in other countries may also become problematic in the United States.  For example, attacks, where acid is thrown onto victims, have rapidly become common in Europe, with London experiencing more than 1,800 such attacks in the past three years.  while these attacks are usually not fatal, they often result in horrific disfigurement and therefore generate considerable fear.  These attacks have become a problem in British schools as well with acid being a weapon of choice for gang members.

Now is a good time to evaluate your plans, procedures, training and drill processes to see how they measure against the array of attack methods that have been repeatedly and successfully employed against school buses. Proper all-hazards approaches can help staff spot indicators of danger regardless of the intended attack method.  Comprehensive emergency plans, training, and drills can also improve the ability of staff to react more effectively to virtually any attack method.  As with training for other staff, training using audio and video scenarios and/or role play will improve retention of the information presented while also helping trainees learn how to address a much wider array of attack methods.