Don’t Fight the way the human brain works

One of the problems we see a lot with school safety planning is the use of crisis planning concepts that are designed in a manner that is in opposition to how the human brain functions under life and death stress.  There is a considerable body of research on this topic, and there are certain approaches to school crisis planning that are counter to what the research shows.  For example, using one ready reference emergency chart for a variety of different types of employees (school bus drivers, teachers, custodians, administrators, food service personnel etc.) is not effective because each of these types of employee performs different functions in the same incident.  This means that singular planning does not provide what Dr. Gary Klein refers to as a “base of knowledge” for life-and-death decision making.  Another common example is the use of decision making charts, rubrics and bubble charts to guide staff in the first critical minutes of a crisis.  This approach is at odds with the way the human brain works under life and death stress. 

A review of the research by Dr. Klien, Bruce Siddle, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and others can be very helpful in helping to develop plans that work with the human brain under stress instead of against it.   We base our training, as well as our video training, around these concepts and have been working over the past few years to develop a systematic program to measure, track and improve preparedness in school staff using these methods.  As with the practice of visual weapons screening, the use of military and law enforcement training and methods can be very effective in schools – when properly adapted.  It is critical that when we assess and use these types of resources we consider the context they come from and how that context should be adapted for the school environment.

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.