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We start with active shooter because it grabs a young man’s attention like nothing else. It is an unlikely but highly dangerous situation.  But it also gets a young man thinking: how would I protect myself? How would I protect others?  How would my classmates and I work together to prevent a bad situation from getting worse? We certainly hope, through our exercises, to build camaraderie and teamwork among the students.

Module 1: Active Shooter

We typically start with shocking questions:
What would you do if someone started shooting people at your school?
Do you have a plan? 

We then tell the students that if an attack happened, people are going to be looking to you as a leader to respond. What is essential is that the students learn to move quickly into a relatively safe space as quietly as possible and then be completely still to convince the shooter that no one is in the room. 


We make practicing this a game for both the women’s and men’s training. This not only gets the students into place but makes the training move quickly. We try and impress on them the importance of doing this drill, just like the military does drills over and over so a stressful situation is more easily handled. We tell them the drills are critically important and could be the difference between life or death. If students are being disruptive or lagging behind, we might say something like, “Stay where you are.  The classroom door is locked and you’re in the hallway with the shooter.  Sorry.” 

Active shooter events are unpredictable and take place very quickly.  They are often over in just a few minutes.  A small amount of preparation during training can save many lives during an active shooter incident, which will be characterized by confusion and panic. 


Active shooter incidents frequently begin with people hearing what they believe are firecrackers.  If you hear the sound of firecrackers in the school, assume the worst and immediately implement your active shooter plan for your area.

First thing: Run away fast from the sound of gunfire.
A few tips for running:
  • Run fast and straight toward cover.

  • To maximize speed, run on the balls of your feet, hold the arms at the elbow at a 90-degree angle, and pump the arms at the shoulder so that your fist goes from the chin to the hip. The faster you pump your arms, the faster your legs will carry you. Breathe through the mouth.

    • Do not run zig-zag. A study shows it does not make you harder to hit than running straight, and the shooter can easily run you down by running in a straight line.

  • If you are physically able, practice running fast when you exercise.

If a door has a lock, use it. If a door does not have a lock, use your foot to jam the door shut, hold the handle so it appears locked and duck down low.  Hold until a barricade can be set up. See this video about how to hold a door shut. This applies to situations other than active shootings, when you are trying to keep someone out of your house or are uncertain about opening a door (although a better approach is to simply not open doors when you are uncertain as to the intentions of whoever is on the other side). 

[Insert door opening video]. 


A few tips for locking down:
  • The work area or classroom that appears empty may be less interesting to the active shooter, so silence (including silencing cell phone ringers) and turning off lights can be helpful.

  • The heavier and larger the barricade the better, but you must weigh barricade construction (which is noisy) against the benefit of making the classroom or work area appear empty.

  • Try and find a suitable escape route (e.g., through a window) should the barricade or lock fail.

  • Do not assume authorities have been notified, but you must also weigh the need for silence against your present ability to give notification.


If you are forced to hide without a locked or barricaded door:
  • Hide behind something that appears thick enough to stop a bullet.

  • Hide behind something that obstructs the shooter’s view of you.

  • Hide where you have escape options should you be detected.

As a last resort, you may be forced to counter-attack.  In that event, remember:
  • An improvised weapon is better than no weapon at all. The best projectile (thrown) weapons found in the classroom are heavy but relatively small, such as staplers, cell phones, baseballs, and paperweights, followed by text books, hard-heeled shoes, binders, and laptops. Your classroom may contain other items that are effective. If you have time, get the best projectile weapons you have into the hands of the best throwers in the classroom (e.g., baseball or softball players or someone you know to be athletically gifted) but only if those throwers appear capable of launching a counter-attack. A weapon in the hands of someone frozen with panic will not be effective.

  • Hand weapons found in the classroom include baseball bats, scissors, and bags (e.g., backpacks, book bags, purses, and gym bags) with one or more heavy and solid item inside.

  • Even a Sharpie pen or magic marker is more effective than no weapon at all. Hold the pen in your fist with an end protruding from either side of your fist and drive the end of the pen like you would an ice pick, striking hard against areas where the bone is not heavily covered in muscle: the head, spinal cord, sternum, hip, and ribs, for example. Other effective areas include the eyes, throat, and groin.

  • The element of surprise enhances the effectiveness of the counter-attack against the shooter.

  • Counter-attacks from multiple directions enhance the effectiveness of the counter-attack against the shooter. You must weigh this against compromising the element of surprise.

  • Work with others as a team.

  • Do not stop the counter-attack until the shooter is incapacitated.

  • Commit to your actions and act aggressively.

When contacting 911:
  • Immediately state “Active shooter at [insert school name]”.

  • To the extent you know and have time, also describe the shooter(s) and their location, the location of possible hostages or people nearby the shooter(s), weapons held by the shooter(s), and the number of wounded and their locations.

  • If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen. Turn down your receiver as the dispatcher will be asking questions and trying to get you to speak.

When first-responders arrive:
  • Their first priority is to stop the shooter.

  • They, like you, will be under extreme stress.

  • As best you can, remain calm and follow instructions.

  • Understand that help for the wounded is on the way.

Obviously, no one can consider every contingency in this situation. The most important thing is that you think about what you would do in an active shooter situation, and have some sort of plan in place to escape, lock down, hide, and as a last resort fight should one occur.

At the conclusion of this module, invite the students to stand and work on speed running, running out the door fast, and holding the door closed when a baracade or lock is not available. 


For the first exercise, see the video at the end of module 4.  In the second exercise, everyone simply runs for the door and gets out as quickly and quietly as possible.  In the third exercise, everyone runs to the doors and holds them shut, getting down low in case the shooter tries to put a bullet through the door.


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