Editor’s Note:This is a guest post from Ron Borsch. Ron’s bio is at the end of this article.
We Suggest, You Decide ©
This resource support information is intended for law enforcement officers, (especially School Resource Officers) who are diligently working with their own community schools and workplaces. Presented here are factual accounts as best we know them with enough information for readers to independently verify. Any opinion herein is derived from probable cause in our research into the tracking history of Rapid Mass Murder© 1 by an Active Killer 2, and feedback from our law enforcement students including School Resource Officers. Qualified permission to use our work is given either in entirety as presented here, or separately so long as each page or slide where our work appears credits both SEALE Academy and Ron Borsch.
Why practice drills? Law Enforcment can’t arrive in time!
Police are handicapped by time, distance, delayed notification, (and sometimes faulty beliefs about tactics that work). The statement “When police are needed in seconds, they are only minutes away”, (author unknown), is true. Post-Columbine High School “Rapid Mass Murder”© times are now averaging +/- six minutes. Unfortunately, the known delay times of notifying law enforcement are also averaging +/- six minutes.
A recent example of a Stopwatch of Death© 3 timeline in rapid mass murder: In the 2011 Tucson AZ murders that killed 6 and wounded 13, (including Congresswoman Gabriele Giffords), the shooting time was 15 seconds. There was a one-minute delay in notifying law enforcement, and police arrived four minutes after notification. Just as the final option for law enforcement is armed intervention, the final option for citizens, teachers, and students is to attack the attacker. In the Tucson AZ incident, this was accomplished by the initiation of multiple single citizens initially acting independently during a reloading attempt by the killer.
Worldwide, unarmed and armed citizens have stopped rapid mass murder about twice as often as law enforcement. Initially, schools and workplaces are on their own and should follow or design strategies and tactics that will mitigate casualties and “Hold the fort until the “Cavalry arrives”. Immediate lock-downs, (and early police notification), can and have worked to do this.
Drills: Frequency and Recency
“According to the US Secret Service, in 1998 alone we had 35 kids MURDERED in acts of school violence, and a QUARTER OF A MILLION were seriously injured. Meanwhile, it has been many years since a single child was killed or injured by school fire.
Remember, the likelihood of having your children killed or injured in a school shooting is THOUSANDS of times greater than the probability of them being killed or injured in a school fire. Thus, we have the moral obligation to spend AT LEAST as much time and energy on school violence (the thing that IS killing our kids) as we do on school fires. Every school has sprinklers, alarms, drills, extinguishers, etc, to prep for fires, so why don’t we prepare for the thing that IS killing our kids”?
How frequent drills are practiced and how recent the last one was has a great deal to do with how effective the drill will be under duress.
You should be very aware that cognitive skills and common sense are diminished when stress is introduced. “We best remember the things most repeated”. Los Angeles Police Dept. may have first coined the phrase “The more we sweat in the Gym, the less we bleed in the street”. One of the biggest impediments to life-saving school safety is adult staff thinking: “It could not happen here”. “Preparing the teachers, and drilling them is at the HEART of the operation”, (Dave Grossman). We would add that parents and students would be depending on and expecting the teacher to know what to do and guide students through what needs to be done in such an emergency.
Active killer or School safety drills, where students and staff are secured in their building rather than evacuated, (such as a threat to the school involving terrorism, a person in possession of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance on school property), on the other hand are practiced much less. In Ohio for example, a minimum of one is mandated, while at least nine Emergency Evacuation, or Fire, Drills are required during the school year. When we are practicing in preparation for the less likely more often than preparing for the most likely, it appears that we may have lost track of reality. Enlightened schools would of course practice school safety drills more often than required. “Repetition is the Mother of Skill”!
Myths about the sound of gunfire
In a huge compartmentalized facility such as a school, gunfire may not be heard over ambient noise unless you are close enough. This can be proven after school hours, by simulated practice, (teachers, staff and law enforcement only), with .38 caliber blanks, (start at furthest distances first). At closer distances, exact direction of gunfire can be confusing due to sound reflection and echoing. Gunfire may also be indistinguishable from similar loud sounds such as a door slamming, heavy objects dropping, or fireworks.
Run, hide, or fight?
Escape is a consideration, but escape should not be the only plan as it has its own pitfalls. For example, if shooting starts, (or the PA system announces an emergency), if we do not know exactly where the killer is, it could be a fatal mistake to head for an exit when you could safely take shelter in the nearest classroom lock-down. We should also be aware that in the past, outside shooters have ambushed students exiting the building. For example, the 1998 Jonesboro Arkansas killers tripped the fire alarm and waited outside to shoot 5 dead, 10 wounded; the 1999 Columbine killers started shooting kids outside the school before they went in; and the 2007 Virginia Tech Norris Hall massacre killer chained and padlocked the three exterior doors before beginning to shoot dozens of students. The coward did this to prevent students from escaping his guns, as well as to delay any police entry, (30 dead, 25 wounded).
Responsible adult mindset
We should be aware of important facts in the tracking history of rapid mass murder. We also need to constantly be aware of our environment and have a personal plan aside from school or workplace policy. We are at our weakest when we are surprised. Anyone with a negative mindset such as “It won’t happen here”, will be the most mentally unprepared when it does. Therefore, we should do what we can to avoid being surprised. How do we do this? With “When-Then” positive mental thinking and planning. Think out various scenarios and mentally solve them by thinking: “When this happens, then I will….”. Focus on the positives such as “I knew this could happen and I am ready for it”!
Rapid mass murder in schools and workplaces suddenly becomes a reality wherever it happens, and many so affected were very sorry, (perhaps forever), for previously thinking: “It could never happen here”.
Lock downs, locks, and door construction
Lockable room doors are of course best, but rooms may not have lockable doors, (or even have a door). Of those that do, best is the classroom door that can be locked and left open for access, and when closed, is locked to outsiders. Teachers must have on-body possession of their room key during school hours, (flexible wrist-key bracelets for example). The door itself may be left open as the teacher sees fit. In an emergency we tend to lose fine motor skill control, so during an emergency is not the time to fuss with keys.
Depending on the age of your building and perhaps your state’s building code, you may have doors that open into the hallway, and some doors that open into the room. Depending on the type of lock, (different facilities have different locking mechanisms, so learn or change yours). Schoolroom doors should be in a locked condition if possible at all times. As with security at your own home, door design should not permit an invader to break the window glass and reach through to unlock the door.
Barricading room entryways with furniture can and has been effective. Pre-planning and common sense can be useful here. For instance, the teacher’s desk may be the biggest piece of furniture to start a barricade foundation with. While the desk slides easily on its four legs, easy at the doorway is not what we want. Turning the desk upside down at the doorway however, increases the difficulty for an invader to clear the barricade, and that is exactly what we want. Of course other furniture should be added to this base.
Fight of your life: attack the attacker!
The typical cowardly murderer has been a cheap-shot close range killer that expects his victims to behave like sheep while he delivers all the deadly pain. Because police are handicapped by time distance and late notification, unarmed citizens, students and teachers have been the single most effective method to stop the killing. Going up against an armed attacker is of course dangerous and people have died trying. What is the alternative? This is the final option for victims who will certainly die whether they attack the attacker or not. Play dead? This did not work with the Virginia Tech killer who headshot students that were already dead!
In Surviving a School Shooting; A Plan of Action for Parents, Teachers and Students, author Loren W. Christensen shares that in just one year, “2004, 48 children were murdered in U.S. schools…” He gives his readers options and numerous bits of valuable information. Another source is a free video clip from Alon Stivi who both tells and shows us recommended student simulation practice in Last Resort, Active Killer Survival Measures.
Responding officers must have rapid access into the building
Whatever condition the outside entry-exit doors are normally kept in for controlled access, one must understand that when law enforcement is summoned to help, exterior doors must allow them immediate access. Unfortunately, one security plan we looked at said: “We will lock the outside doors if we have time”. Merely reviewing this plan with our common sense cap on would involve the question “If the murderer is already inside shooting innocents, why would we want to lock the outside doors”?
Enlightened law enforcement agencies are very aware of the rapidness that mass murder can and has been accomplished. Given reasonable cause to believe that innocents are being murdered inside, officers encountering locked entry doors should resort to their “best practices” training. SEALE Academy, Archangel Group Ltd and others, suggest breaching the locked entry doors with their patrol car in order to gain entry and stop the killing.
Causes: the copycat effect and susceptibility of juveniles
In Stop Teaching Kids To Kill: A Call To Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence, Coauthors Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano examine the deadly link of how young brains can be mutated by violent graphic imagery and the desensitization connection of escalating incidence of youth violence. At his web site, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow’s Headlines, author Loren Coleman has seven recommendations on how the media can diminish this copycat effect.
Who are these murderers?
In schools, typical Active Killer’s are students, former students, suspended or expelled students. As well, in workplaces, the typical murderer is an employee, former employee, suspended or fired employee. Our strategy must be to not permit students to know all sensitive security details of the plan for an active killer emergency drill. As a safety issue, students should be excluded from certain critical parts of practicing the emergency drill, (separate SRO/Police, teachers and supervisors only sessions). We have seen a written lock-down procedure publicly located in a schoolroom. Unfortunately, this violates a security principle where the potential killer could read and thwart the plans intent.
Who knew and when did they know it?
Students are typically the earliest to be aware of “Numerous Unstable or Troubling Symptoms”, (NUTS”©), present in fellow students. Typical active killers have made numerous troubling comments, posted writings or video on the Internet and done things that would normally alarm an adult. The problem for some non-adults is an inability to foresee the probable consequences and a reluctance to “tell” on someone. This is an education issue best handled by both parents and teachers. School and workplace policy should allow anonymous reporting of any troubling talk or activity to teachers and supervisors. Teachers are the first Adult line of Identification, Deterrence, Prevention, Etc. Both parents and students are trusting teachers to take a responsible and serious look at all such reports.
No right to remain silent
In his book, Shooter Down! about Virginia Technical College, author John Giduck tells us how surprised and shocked Professor Lucinda Roy was to find out that her private tutoring English student Cho was responsible for the worst school shooting in American history. This coward chained 3 entry/exit doors to Norris Hall and methodically killed 30 and wounded 25 in +/- 11 minutes before committing suicide.
The reason for Professor Roy’s private tutoring was that other students were frightened by and complained about Cho’s Numerous Unstable or Troubling Symptoms, (“NUTS”©).
Cho had been kicked out of a poetry class for writing verses that accused his classmates of cannibalism and genocide. He stared at her through mirrored sunglasses, his gaze “blank and pitiless.” His writing was both immature and ferocious. Roy tried to get him psychiatric help, but the university’s rules and the mental health system, she concluded, were geared to protecting his privacy rather than his peers’ safety. Professor Roy went on to authoring the book No Right To Remain Silent, where she conveys the anguish of being caught up in one of these tragedies.
Killer Empowerment Zones©
When a law or rule forbids concealed carry of firearms in certain places, it punishes honest and legally licensed citizens while unintentionally considering only the health, safety and welfare of potential murderers. (See Killer Empowerment Zones for details). While “No Guns” signs or laws will work on the majority of citizens with concealed carry permits, they will not work at all on the majority of armed criminals. The illusion of gun-free zones exists only in the make-believe world. Reality dictates that in the absence of metal detectors, body scanners or a physical search by an armed guard, there is no way we can physically stop an evil person from bringing a gun into a facility.
Free volunteer armed guards
While Ohio has a statute forbidding firearms inside schools, it is permitted with written permission of the school board. Foresighted and enlightened administrators can imagine a cadre of legally armed and specially trained parents and grandparents who have a vested interest in the safety of family members that attend school. Here we have an untapped resource.
It is crucial to point out that a 2007 attempted rapid mass murder incident in an Arvada Colorado “Mega” church, (7,000 worshippers on campus), was thwarted by a female volunteer armed church guard. Afterwards it was discovered that the rifle-armed murderer had several hundred rounds on his person!
The value of having multiple armed plainclothes guards already on-site in typical rapid mass murder facilities, such as schools, should not be under estimated! Students of course should not be aware of who is, or is not armed. For example, the evil plans of the Columbine killers, included first assassinating their School Resource Officer.
Copycat rapid mass murder is a spreading problem that is most typically occurring in schools and workplaces. Schools and facilities that have most seriously undertaken active killer emergency drills, especially role-playing scenario training, have a leg up on prevention, deterrence or only suffering minimum casualties.
Just the knowledge that police are unlikely to arrive in time should be empowering to those most at risk to practice lockdowns, barricading and fighting back. Repetition is the mother of any skill, and can be a lifesaving factor here. Remember that the risk of being killed or injured by an active killer is thousands of times greater than the probability of being killed or injured in a school fire.
Recalling the logic of “Better Safe Than Sorry”, anything that even remotely sounds like gunfire should result in a protective lockdown. Not knowing where the shooter is should rule out leaving a known safe lockdown area so you do not run directly into him, or a kill-zone where the killer has chained and padlocked the exit doors.
School administration and staff should take a good look at the types of doors, locks and windows in each classroom and whether the door opens out into the hall or into the room. Cool rational preplanning and strategy can save lives of both students and staff. Scenario training in attacking the attacker can be accomplished with volunteers from local law enforcement and or a martial arts school that has a full body protective suit for the person role-playing the active killer.
When law enforcement is summoned for an active killer shooting, to police, it matters not whether the killer locked the doors or the school unintentionally left the entrance doors locked. Schools and workplaces must have a procedure in place to insure officers will have unrestricted access into the building, or expect that officers will forcibly enter using a patrol car to stop the killing.
We know that juveniles and troubled adults are especially susceptible to the copycat effect. We have seen this not only in Schools, but also Churches, Hospitals, Malls, Post offices, Restaurants, Supermarkets and other Workplaces. The murderers are most typically a student or former student, employee or former employee. We must recognize that we have no right to remain silent about someone that has displayed numerous unstable or troubling symptoms.
We can however, take advantage of legally licensed and specially trained volunteer armed guards. This could also be personnel already on staff. Consider that a firearm is a remote control instrument, much safer to attack the attacker with than the unarmed.
Video Clips Useful For Training
- Stivi, Alon of ACTCert.com (9 minute video clip) in Last Resort, Active Killer Survival Measures
- Bullying and Depression, scenes form Columbine High School, 6 minutes
- Columbine Shooting, the Final Report 1/5 10 minutes
About the Author: Ron Borsch
After a three decade police career, Ron Borsch is semi-retired. Ron’s career included 20 years as Rangemaster and Pistol Team Captain and 17 years as a SWAT operator-trainer. While retaining a police commission as a consultant-trainer, he now manages and is the lead trainer for SEALE Regional Police Training Academy, a post-graduate facility in Bedford Ohio. Ron has presented to Minnesota Chiefs of police at a school safety conference and to fellow police instructors in Chicago IL and Troy MI. He has been an evaluator for three different police department’s active killer response training, and most recently co-presented with the Sheriff of Cuyahoga County a program on workplace violence, “The Final Option” to management staff at a supermarket chain.
(1) RAPID MASS MURDER: “Within 20 minutes, 4 or more intentionally killed at the same time, event and public location”©. SEALE Academy & Ron Borsch Bedford Ohio ↩
(2) ACTIVE KILLER: One who commits Rapid Mass Murder© SEALE Academy & Ron Borsch Bedford Ohio ↩
(3) “STOPWATCH OF DEATH”© A model that provides a reliable unit of measurement with which to determine the scale of one active killer incident relative to another: Number of murder attempts / Number of minutes = X. For example, Columbine was 2.1 murder attempts per minute, while the Tucson AZ Congresswoman Giffords incident was 76.0 murder attempts per minute. SEALE Academy & Ron Borsch Bedford Ohio ↩