Beyond the Headlines – Free School Security Webinar

Dr. Sony Shepard pictured using our assessment tool on her Ipad. Photo by Rachel Wilson

Dr. Sony Shepard pictured using our assessment tool on her Ipad. Photo by Rachel Wilson

Requests for School Security Assessments Increasing Again

Unfortunately, I have not had much time to blog for the past couple of months due to an intensive workload and travel schedule. As is typically the case each fall, we have been extremely busy with school security assessments and conference keynotes. Unfortunately, this pace will continue through at least the end of February as we have seen another surge in requests for school security assessments, particularly from independent schools. We also have ten analysts who are working tirelessly on a detailed review of an active shooter incident. This project is consuming massive amounts of time. Though we have a number of critical deadlines for major projects coming up I will make every effort to continue to post helpful blogs as usual.

School Security Webinar

I had the pleasure of delivering a unique web presentation earlier this week. Sponsored by Tyco Integrated Security, this seminar focused on how school officials can look beyond the media headlines to integrate human performance with school safety technology. With more than 120 attendees from across the nation and as far away as Peru, the seminar was well attended with almost every participant staying on live until the end. We had some excellent questions from participants. I asked Tyco Integrated Security if Safe Havens could make the webinar available to our readers for free and they agreed.

Free School Security Webinar and other Free Resources

If you would like to hear the archived version, please visit:

We hope that this webinar will be helpful to you in your efforts to make your schools even safer. If you have not done so already, please sign up for our free newsletter – School Safety Monthly. We routinely announce other free resources via the newsletter. Safe Havens is typically working on several significant free school security resources at any time and we will soon be releasing a new guide on school security technology for the Indiana Department of Education.

The Danger of Simple Solutions in School Safety

Photograph taken during filming of the first 30 seconds, weapon scenarios.

Photograph taken during filming of the first 30 seconds, weapon scenarios.

The Search for Simple School Safety Solutions

Overhaul the nation’s mental health system. Arm all teachers.  Ban guns. Fight back against the attacker. Use ready-made school crisis plans. These and a host of other “simple solutions” dominate the discussion of school shootings. These types of “ABC” approaches attempt to boil our school safety efforts down to a simple formula when in reality we face complex and evolving risk. This is as much of an oversimplification as Lenin’s calls for “Land, Bread and Peace” to fix the problems of Russia were in 1917.

School Shootings Have Been a Significant Problem for More than a Century

After every mass casualty school shooting, we re-examine ways to “put an end” to these types of campus attacks. In fact, mass casualty shooting incidents have happened since the 1800s when five students where shot by a troubled man with a shotgun at a New York Catholic school. Other attacks with hatchets, firearms and even explosives date back to at least 1764. And the most deadly attack in the U.S. involved a 1958 arson fire that claimed more lives than every K12 active shooter incident in the history of our nation combined. While there is no doubt that more K12 active shooter events have taken place in the past twenty years than in any other comparable time period, the concept of a mass casualty school attack is far from a new phenomenon.

Why are Our Perceptions of School Safety so Out of Balance?

Intensive, emotive and sensational media coverage has dramatically changed our awareness of and reaction to horrific acts of school violence and driven an increased focus on school safety. This heightened awareness has resulted in tremendous progress in our K12 schools. Contrary to popular perception, increased efforts have been at least partially responsible for an overall reduction in K12 school homicides from the 1970s and 1980s when more students and staff were murdered annually than are today. In fact, the per capita homicide rate has dropped since this decrease is in the face of a continual population increase. While we were tragically complacent about school violence in the 1970s and 1980s when more victims were being killed in schools, we have now gone too far in the other direction, often virtually ignoring the most common forms of death on campus while we focus intently on the horrible yet statistically less likely mass casualty incidents.

The Dangers of Desperate Attempts to Oversimplify School Safety

Available data indicates that about one school-related death in twenty is from an active shooter event. This means that it is extremely dangerous to focus intently on active shooter events while reducing our available time, energy and limited fiscal resources on the types of incidents that are the cause of more than 95% of all school-related deaths. These quiet and often preventable types of tragedies may not garner national headlines, but they do cause incalculable anguish since they represent thousands of deaths over the past four decades. In addition, many simplistic and popular approaches to the prevention of and preparedness for active shooter events lack supportive evidence that they are actually effective.

I believe there will be more active shooter incidents in our schools and it would not surprise me to see one or more events involving even far greater loss of life than we have previously seen. There are also indications that we may see a rise in the more typical types of homicides that take place in K12 schools as well. We can and should continue to find more effective ways to address the problems of school shootings.   We also have a responsibility to implement the many proven strategies that we know work while we explore in a logical fashion other approaches that may work to prevent death in our schools.

Umpqua College Shooting – Another Tragedy in Oregon

Active Shooter Training

While realistic active shooter training is important and has it’s place, it belongs alongside many other facets of emergency management.

Many years ago, an active shooter event took place at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. This week, the Umpqua College shooting is another painful reminder that there is no community anywhere in the world where a mass casualty attack cannot take place. After the Thurston attack, I was asked by the District’s insurance carrier to review the case file for the shooting. I have worked 9 other active shooter cases, along with other types of shootings. These types of attacks are always difficult to think about.  Mass casualty school shootings in Canada, Germany, Poland, Australia, Scotland, Brazil, the People’s Republic of China,
and many other countries show that this is an international
problem. Moreover, there have been many more attacks using other types of weapons that have resulted in mass casualties.

Three of our Safe Havens staff members live in Oregon and this tragedy hits especially close to home for them. We are all deeply saddened by the senseless and vicious attack in Roseburg and our deepest sympathies go out to the Umpqua Community College family.  Though it is going to be natural to feel that we must “do something” quickly, we want to make sure that we are also responding rationally. We urge campus, law enforcement and government officials to make sure they implement evidence-based concepts based on a hazard and risk assessment.  These horrific attacks undoubtedly create a sense of urgency and high emotion. Let’s make sure that we channel that emotion constructively so that we can develop effective strategies.

Active Shooter Resources available for K-12 schools and higher education: