Active Shooter - When Lockdown Fails

By Carlton Purvis, Published Nov 26, 2013, 12:00am EST

The common response to a shooter at a school or in a workplace is the "lockdown." Staff are instructed by security or exiting procedures to stay in place. The doors are locked and no one is allowed in or out. Sometimes lock down procedures will include obscuring windows and blocking doors with furniture, but what is often missing from lockdown procedures is what people can do to fight back if a lockdown fails. Strategos International trains schools, churches, business offices and healthcare facilities on responding to intruders and active shooters. Company president Vaughn Baker gave some tips at Secured Cities in Baltimore last week on what buildings can do when lock down fails.

When a Lockdown Fails 

A lockdown fails when a threat breaches an area that staff has attempted to secure. The goal at this point should be to protect the people on campus and muster. 

Threat Outside

Threat Outside means a threat or a shooter has been identified on the campus but has not made it inside any buildings. The closet person to the doors should lock the door and stay posted nearby. Areas that can’t be secured, like restrooms and hallways should be cleared and staff should stay in areas that can be locked until everyone is accounted for. After the all clear is given they should remain locked down inside until contacted by a supervisor or law enforcement. 

Threat Inside

Threat Inside is a designator that means the threat has made its way into the building. Staff should go to a secure space and lock, layer and reinforce doors and cover up windows. Part of Stratego's intruder response training [link no longer available] includes the most effective ways to brace doors using tables, chairs and rope. Staff should not respond to anyone who comes to the door until given the all clear by a supervisor or law enforcement.

When shooters run into an obstacle like a locked or braced door, they are going to keep moving -- an active shooter is more concerned about body count and often know they have a limited time before police arrive, Strategos says. Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook passed over classrooms he couldn't get into.

Not Just Managers Should Initiate Lockdowns 

Everyone on staff should be trained to recognize a threat and anyone should be authorized to call for a lockdown. Managers or administrators may not be the first person to see the threat and it wastes time to have to go through approval protocols to before the lockdown order comes down.  

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Don't Use Code Words

Code words to initiate a lock down should be avoided because there are people who may not remember what they were (What's the difference between Code Red and Code Blue?) and visitors to a campus will have no idea what the procedures are. Calling for a lockdown is the clearest way to convey that people need to find somewhere safe and the there is an imminent threat. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Fight Back

The City of Houston produced a video that went over the basics of what Strategos teaches in-depth. Strategos says Lock Out, Get Out, Take Out. The Houston Police produced video is Run, Hide, Fight. They both follow the same theme: People should get out if it’s the easiest thing to do. They should hide if they can’t get out. And they should fight back if their hiding spot has been compromised.

Being trained on offense is just as important on being trained to secure in place. In disaster training, people are taught to get under desks in the fetal position -- this trains people to be victims, he says. Instead people should be given tasks to focus on. For example, if a door can’t be secured, then people in the room should find whatever they can use as a weapon to attack as soon as the shooter comes through the door.

The Houston Police Department training video Run, Hide, Fight shows this in action: Four people in a break room with a door that doesn't lock choose to attack a shooter: 

On average, an active shooter incident lasts 12 minutes [link no longer available]. But past shootings have shown that 12 minutes is more than enough time to do a massive amount of damage. Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza killed almost 30 people in 10 minutes. Any delay of an intruder can go a long way to stopping an attack or delaying it enough for police to respond. 

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