Firedrills Good, Active Shooter Drills Bad

Florida has recently been in the news for having ‘active shooter drills’. Alas, Florida is not alone in this, so the rest of the world can yet again sigh ‘only in America’. And let’s face it: this is yet more security theatre, serving no legitimate purpose. Like taking off one’s shoes at security in the airport (thanks for that too, America).

Indicating his complete disconnection from reality, Polk County Public Schools spokesman Jason Gearey said in an e-mailed statement to The Washington Post:

“Unfortunately, no one gets an advanced notice of real life emergencies. We don’t want students to be scared, but we need them to be safe.”

This is, unfortunately, just a jumble of words with no real meaning contained within.

Firedrills serve a specific purpose: when there is a fire, everyone in the building moves to a previously designated area of safety. When the fire alarm goes off, even for an unknown drill, everyone knows to slowly file out (while grabbing the bags and coats that they’ve been told to leave behind). The purpose here is to learn the correct route to take from a particular room to an area of safety, usually away from the building, or other flammable materials. In places that have earthquakes, earthquake drills serve a similar purpose.

Active Shooter Drills? There is no such thing as an ‘area of safety’. The assailants are free to move around as they see fit. Historically, assailants at high school shootings have simply open fired on whomever they came across. There’s no negotiation, nor discussion, nor is any kind of ‘drill’ going to mitigate any risk that school kids face from the ridiculous amount of weaponry accessible to Americans.

Moreover, people (not *only* parents) should be demanding an accounting from their local Schools board, and any legislature that passes a law requiring this measure: what are the objectives of an ‘active shooter drill’? What is the specified goal? How are it’s objectives to be quantified, and measured? If a drill is repeated, how will the school know that they did ‘better’ on the second drill than the first (or the opposite)? Stating that “we need [the kids] to be safe” is, of course, a given, but how is this being striven for?

As it stands, a bunch of guys dress up in combat-type clothing, and run into a school with guns. All this achieves is the terrorisation of an already vulnerable population (aka “kids”). Since there is no actual drill taking place, and the teachers have not been given instructions as to what to do in this circumstance (and here we move swiftly away from firedrills), all we have is traumatisation. To what end? The eternally ephemeral notion of ‘safety”, never defined but always asserted as the goal. Because let’s face it, the only way we can keep kids safe is if we randomly terrorise them with masked assailants. Only in America would this be considered ‘sensible’.

The only thing that would really mitigate this problem is a reduction in the availability of guns in the USA, but this is the one thing that the the USA will not consider (i.e. having access to guns is far more important than the lives of American children), so the various legislatures wildly flail instituting measures that have no hope of achieving anything, and no means of measuring it even if they blindly happened on to something effective. ‘Murica, indeed.

I’ll give John Oliver the final word:

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2 responses to “Firedrills Good, Active Shooter Drills Bad”

  1. I definitely agree that active shooter drills, and any person in a school with a firearm except in the normal course of events, a law enforcement officer such as a school resource officer, are a very bad idea.

    There is a routine drill that should be used for this situation. It is called a Lock Down drill and is used across New York State (where I am a safety professional that works with shcools.) This includes getting everyone behind a locked closed door, out of site of the interior windows, and remaining quiet. Nothing else.

    This is the procedure that was used at Newtown and is very effective at protecting the most people, especially children, in the unlikely event of an actual intruder event.

    Just are fires are unlikely due to increased awareness and injuries due to fires are almost non-existent due to regular fire drills, events requiring a lock down are rare, but preparation does keep more people safe. More likely is an extreme weather event such as intense wind, thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes, that would require a different safety drill to get all people in the school away from windows.

    So you are right, active shooter drills, very bad idea. Lock down and other safety drills can be done calmly and with little disruption to a school.

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