‘Run, hide, defend’ is out of date and must be updated for better safety

February 6, 2020 — by Nitya Marimuthu

“Run, hide, defend”

At SHS, those three words are supposed to spur classrooms into action locking, barricading and hiding. Despite having drills on lockdown since elementary school days, students refresh their memories at least once per year on how best to block the door from a possible shooter, hide out of sight and stay quiet to avoid drawing attention.

These drills, however, fall short of  teaching students how to react in real-life situations, nor do they employ the methods that have in recent years been proven to be safer.

As mass shootings become increasingly prevalent, with 418 mass shootings in 2019 alone according to the Gun Violence Archive, schools have to take measures to train their students for emergency situations. Most schools have adapted the lockdown procedure that advises students to protect themselves in classrooms to avoid being in the direct line of danger. 

But as organizations begin to study patterns in shootings, better safety plans have emerged, with many of them simplifying the dictum to run, with hide and defend being employed only in the circumstance that there is no other choice. 

In an article written by ABC News, active shooter prevention expert Chris Grollnek said that in the more than 13 active shootings he studied, more than 90 percent of fatalities were as a result of victims trying to hide. Hiding in an enclosed space eases traps those in the room and makes it easier to target them. 

“Hiding under your desk is hands-down the wrong thing to do,” Greg Shaffer, a former FBI special agent, member of the bureau’s elite Hostage Rescue Team and founder of Shaffer Security Group, said to ABC News. “There needs to be a new shift to stress the importance of getting out of the school building.”

In addition, hiding protects only a select number of students who can get proper coverage. For overpopulated classrooms, the technique of hiding will only help those who are first to the spot. 

Moreover, as gun technology increases and the number of shootings grows more common, the duration of shootings decrease. In an FBI study of 160 shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013, 44 out of 63 incidents whose duration could be ascertained ended in five minutes or less. Twenty-three of the 44 ended in two minutes or less. This leads to a lack of time for barricading and an increased chance of victims needing to engage in fighting or fleeing the scene. 

The FBI study also stated that civilians in shooting situations often had to make life and death decisions even if law enforcement responded in time. This encourages an increase in education on how to respond in those situations.

In order to prepare students best for how to deal with situations and stay the most safe, the school (and larger world) should switch to “run and defend” with hiding as the absolute  least favorable option. To better equip students for potential shooting situations, classroom should show videos or run through a scenario and discuss how students should handle it. This would also avoid the exposure of the school’s safety plan that comes with drills. 

Drills for hiding might end up notifying potential school shooters of the action plan in an emergency. It is widely publicized that students will take cover in classrooms, meaning a shooter can account for this. In the situation that a shooter comes from within the student body, those who are hiding in classrooms will face an immediate threat. 

For the most part, there is not enough time after an intruder is announced for students to barricade and hide. Barricading often takes a longer time than the shooting itself. While it is meant to move students out of the scene, it literally backs them into a corner and makes them easier targets. Students should be taught to flee the scene first. 

Although running is safer, it does not seem feasible to have fleeing as the main plan at SHS. If the whole student body of 1,350 students ran away at once, this may cause more problems due to bottlenecking and mobbing. Due to this, the school should shift to recommending those in classrooms near the edge of the campus to escape from the school site, while those in the center of campus should barricade. 

On top of being taught what to do in the situation, students should also learn what the best plan of action is after running. An article by the Washington Post details a four part plan for fleeing the scene, advising people to carefully choose unconventional routes, drop down from large heights and be stealthy. In school, various action routes could be established. 

In a situation where students cannot flee or hide, we should be taught how best to handle fighting situations. Although this would be the last option out of the three, it is still important to know. 

In general, we should handle shootings as we would any other danger — with a strong dose of common sense. 

“If someone told you there was a bomb in your building, would you get under your desk or would you leave the building?” Grollnek asked. “You would get out. An active shooter is the same thing as a ticking bomb in your building.”