After posting “The Terrorist Threat To Our Schools Pt 1” , we received several emails inquiring what can be done to prevent or prepare for such an attack on our schools. In Part 2 of the series, we have put together information from some of the best resources we could find, along with our own. Each family must decide what is best for their situation. Our hope is that you find the information detailed below, useful. If you would like detailed information on what to do for specific types of events, please see our preparedness guides section.
What You Can Do As A Parent
Most importantly, plan now. Take the necessary steps today that will ensure you and your family’s safety.
Be Alert …Get An Alert
The sooner you are aware that a terror attack is underway, the sooner you can react and the greater your chance for staying safe. We strongly recommend that you subscribe to an Emergency Alert Notification service and keep your mobile phone, text pager or PDA with you at all times.
We use and recommend Alerts USA. Yes, we advertise on this site for them and there’s a reason. Their alert notification service is in our opinion, beyond comparison. The system alerts you regardless of location, with near real-time notification of terrorist attacks, threats, warnings and advisories. The alert is sent directly to your cell phone, text pager or PDA and is available on any mobile device, on any network, anywhere in the United States. This is the same alert used by many government agencies, law enforcement and counter-terrorism organizations. (see the list on the Alerts USA website)
If an attack is underway, whether it’s in a school, a mall, a subway or any other location, one of the best safeguards you can have is an early notification.
When you receive an alert…ACT IMMEDIATELY.
Create a Plan
Preparing for a potential terrorist strike provides you your best chance of survival in the event an attack actually takes place. Preparedness should always be considered in the home, school and workplace for any unexpected event.
Keep Current Authorizations On File
Most schools will only allow an authorized family member or guardian to pick up a child from school. Be sure to have all authorization forms signed and registered with the school. Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pickup. And, ask what type of authorization the school may require to release a child to someone you designate, if you are not able to pick up your child. During times of emergency the school telephones may be overwhelmed with calls.
Designate A “Point” person
Next, establish a plan for picking up your child in the event of an actual attack. Who is the closest “point of contact” authorized to pick up your child? It needs to be someone who is prepared to drop everything at a moments notice and proceed to the school immediately when notified.
If you work some distance from the school, find someone closer. The moment an alert goes out or you hear that a school somewhere has been seized or is under attack, activate your plan and above all, remain calm.
What To Do If An Attack Takes Place
If it’s your child’s school…
This will go against every instinct that you have as a parent but if it’s your child’s school that has been attacked, DO NOT GO TO THE SCHOOL. Terrorist’s plans that have been uncovered show they are counting on you showing up along with the news media. When you arrive it’s very likely that you’ll be greeted by car bombs strategically placed within the school parking lot, sniper fire, or worse.
This is not a normal crime scene and law enforcement will most likely need to take immediate tactical action. That action may include live fire and engagement with the terrorists. Your presence will only slow down deployment during a very critical time.
In a Beslan type attack, law enforcement knows the terrorists have no exit strategy. They have come with a single intent. Stay away and let law enforcement do what they are trained to do.
If it’s NOT your child’s school that has been attacked
Immediately after being alerted, contact your child using a pre-determined code on a cell phone or pager. Don’t tell your child that this is related to a terrorist attack. Your child should be taught in advance that whenever they receive a call from you using this code, they should politely excuse themselves from the classroom and go to a designated location to be picked up. Be calm, keep your child calm.
Next, contact the school and ask to speak to the person in charge of releasing students. (You should already have the number programmed into you phone) Inform the school that an unexpected situation has come up and you will need to pick up your child immediately. Let the administrator know that you have already paged your child to let them know you or the person you have authorized is on their way.
Have your child picked up and leave the area without delay. When picking your child up, observe what is going on in around the school. If you see suspicious behavior, do not confront the individuals involved.
Take note of the details:
S – Size (Jot down the number of people, gender, ages, and physical descriptions)
A – Activity (Describe exactly what they are doing)
L – Location (Provide exact location)
U – Uniform (Describe what they are wearing, including shoes)
T – Time (Provide date, time, and duration of activity)
E – Equipment (Describe vehicle, make, color etc., license plate, camera, guns, etc)
Suspicious activity is often recalled after an event. We must train ourselves to be on the lookout for things that are out of the ordinary and arouse suspicions.
Report details To Law Enforcement Immediately
You will also need to make some decisions based upon your own circumstances and the situation.
What will you do if school has already been informed of the event and is in lock-down, or in the process of being locked down? Find out your schools plans for such an event and make sure that other families are informed through PTA, etc.
Should you alert the school to the potential threat? Chances are your child’s school will not come under attack and pulling them out would only be out of an abundance of caution. This determination can only be made as the situation presents itself.
What Can Schools and Administrators Do?
Law enforcement agencies and school districts need to have contingency plans for school shootings in place AND practice them. Although we are thinking primarily about school shootings, these contingency plans also apply to mass murders and active shooters in other large areas (hospitals, malls, workplace shootings, sporting events, churches, etc.). In particular, as we worry about the possibility of terrorist attacks, we have to recognize that one model of terrorist attack is an active shooter! One of the worst Middle East terrorist attacks was a Jewish active shooter in a Mosque. We MUST recognize the fact that if two teenage boys in Littleton or Jonesboro could commit mass murders that stunned a nation, then an organized group of trained terrorists could do MUCH worse. The terrorists we are currently fighting want VERY much to hurt us, and the way they can hurt us the most if by killing our kids.
Preparing for School Attacks
Consider these D’s:
In order to avoid falling victim to DENIAL:
Deter – Have alert, visible and armed security on site. Train and equip response teams to a high standard and make their capabilities known (though the details of their response techniques should remain classified). Convince the potential attacker they won’t succeed in killing innocent targets if they come to your locale.
Detect – Like Detectives, be ever vigilant for clues. Virtually every school attacker, student or terrorist conducts extensive reconnaissance of their target. They will analyze the availability of ingress and egress points. Questions will be asked about the site’s security preparations. They may photograph and/or sketch the area. Both human and video surveillance can help you pattern these recon missions.
Delay – Harden targets with security checkpoints and random security patrols. Drill lock-down procedures to remove easy targets from the potential kill zone. Make sure the lock-down procedure includes the means to lock the doors to areas of refuge. Avoid the urge to evacuate anyone into an area not proven to be safe from potential snipers or bombs.
Destroy – If they still choose your site as their target, you must respond quickly and forcefully. An analysis of active shooter incidents by co-author Richard Fairburn suggests that even a rapid deployment team is unlikely to assemble in time to save lives.1 In most incidents, the only chance to save lives is an instant response by on-scene personnel or the first arriving officer. At this point, we are not just seeking to defeat the attackers. One of the lessons of the 2004 Russian school massacre, as outlined in John Giduck’s excellent book, Terror at Beslan is that we must attack immediately, with maximum violence, and no intention of pulling back or giving up ground. Attack the enemy hard and fast and destroy them before they destroy more innocents.
Probably the last place you want to think of terrorists striking is your kids’ school. But according to two trainers at an anti-terrorism conference on the East Coast, preparations for attacks on American schools that will bring rivers of blood and staggering body counts are well underway in Islamic terrorist camps.
· The intended attackers have bluntly warned us they’re going to do it.
· They’re already begun testing school-related targets here. They’ve given us a catastrophic model to train against, which we’ve largely ignored and they’ve learned more deadly tactics from.
“We don’t know for sure what they will do. No one knows the future. But by definition, a successful attack is one we are not ready for,” declared one of the instructors, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Our schools fit that description to a “T”-as in Terrorism and Threat.
Be Proactive: The Awareness / Prevention Checklist
The Awareness/Prevention checklist highlights areas of school operations, maintenance, security, and personnel that may pose opportunities for risk reduction. Use this checklist as a proactive tool to generate awareness over the potential for terrorist acts, at a time when it is needed most.
The recommendations contained in this checklist are not intended to represent or to replace a comprehensive school security program. Such a program would include much more. Many of the procedures included in the checklist are routine in districts with full-time security operations. Whether your school district has full-time security coverage, or has minimal security resources, these recommendations may be used as a focal point around which to build an appropriately renewed sense of awareness. The recommendations have been constructed in several “modules” each of which depicts the basic recommendation, the audit point or “question” to be addressed for each recommendation and the departments that would potentially be involved in the addressing the recommendation.
Module 1: Review Employment Screening Policy & Procedure
· Does your screening process include volunteers, cafeteria workers, mechanics, bus drivers, and security, in addition to educational staff?
· Does your procedure allow for actual courthouse searches, rather than database searches, which are typically not accurate?
· Do your searchers do Social Security Number traces to identify any out-of-state venues that should be checked?
· Do your outside contractors use due-diligence screening procedures to check the backgrounds of their workers who regularly visit your school?
· Human Resources
Module 2: Review the physical security of bus yards and garages; review transportation security in general.
– Are vehicle garages alarmed, and are the alarms in working order?
– Are fenced-in areas gated, locked, and adequately illuminated at night?
– Do drivers do “pilot inspections” of their vehicles before placing them into service each day? Is this done again after each time the vehicle has been left unattended?
– Are bus drivers equipped with two-way radios or cell phones?
– Are drivers trained to be aware of and to report suspicious vehicles that appear to be following their buses during their routes?
– Do drivers keep a student roster for each bus route, to include student name, address, primary and secondary emergency contact numbers, and medical authorization information?
Remember, terrorists place their intended targets under surveillance prior to attack. They will study various potential targets as part of the target selection process in order to identify those with fatal weaknesses. While vigilance alone will not prevent a terrorist attack on a U.S. school, it may prevent your school from being selected for attack. Terrorists will likely select the softest amongst all of the targets considered. These may be rural schools serviced primarily by county sheriff departments or state police agencies. In other words, in places where the closest swat team or other first responders may not be just around the corner.
If you haven’t considered the possibility of a terrorist attack on a school in your district, or if your plans up to now have been solely reactive in nature, now is the time to act. Awareness is inexpensive and one of the most effective tools we have in the war on terror. However, we have to overcome the “it won’t happen here” thinking that paralyzes many Americans with an apparent reluctance to think or act. Moreover, don’t expect that the Fed, or for that matter your state will step in with a reasonable and proactive program to render your school or district a less soft target. All such efforts must come from within and must come now!