“It just happens, and can happen anywhere,” said Bellevue Police Department Officer Tran at an active shooter preparedness presentation for Bellevue School District staff on Feb. 23. Together, the police department and district held a series of presentations in January and February focused on how staff and parents can be better prepared for an active shooter.
The number of active shooter incidents has been on the rise, according to FBI records. There have been 176 active shooter incidents since 2000. More than 100 of these incidents have occurred after the Dec. 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook. This increase, as well as several incidents that have occurred on school campuses in our region, has placed an emphasis on the importance of the partnership between Bellevue School District and the Bellevue Police Department. Day to day campus safety is one focus of the partnership, including in-house security and school resource officers. Another focus of the partnership looks to review and improve emergency preparedness plans. The active shooter preparedness trainings are a result of this review and improvement process.
The active shooter training is essential for staff, students and the community. “I think it’s really important we’re all on the same page,” said Raphael Park, school resource officer at Tillicum and Highland middle schools. “In law enforcement, our mindset is not if it’s going to happen, but when it’s going to happen and to be prepared from that perspective.”
Although an active shooter event may imply the weapon used is a gun, this is not always the case. “An active shooter would be any person with the intent to harm or kill as many people as possible, armed with any type of weapon whether it’s a gun or any weapon of opportunity,” said Officer Park.
The threats and incidents are dynamic, thought out and require a different mindset for response. People are faced with the decision to run, hide or fight. Each person will need to make their own decision based on their own situation.
“Know your situation. Do what is reasonable to survive and remember your responsibilities; yourself, staff and students are safe,” said Officer Tran.
The run, hide, fight strategy is different than what was practiced and taught in the past. Previously, students and staff were trained to lock the classroom door and hide. With a shift to run, hide or fight, staff and students are now empowered because “if you do have a gunman inside a classroom, or inside a building at least you might be able to save some lives,” said Sean Chesterfield, Security and Emergency Preparedness Manager for the district.
Another component of being prepared means asking yourself “what if” questions, and thinking about scenarios so that you already know what to do. When a crisis situation arises, your body physically responds with your heart rate increasing and cognitive abilities decreasing, said Officer Tran. This is why it is critical for students and staff to practice what to do in an emergency, he said. “Take time to understand your surroundings and environment before an emergency,” said Officer Tran. “Ask yourself ‘what if’ scenarios so the mid-brain has information needed already.” Doing this frequently will train your mid-brain for the best response, even when your cognitive abilities are lowered, should an emergency happen.
Officer Tran said the impact of this new method will empower students and staff and is “going to save more lives.”
Additionally, community support is imperative for these types of situations. Law enforcement encourages anyone who sees something to report it. “The community is the eyes and ears of everything, so we have to work in partnership” said Officer Park.
The run, hide or fight training is being rolled out this year to staff and parents. The goal is to educate parents and faculty members first, and then roll out the program to students in the fall. During the next six to eight weeks every school in the district will be asked to schedule an active shooter training. The next step will be creating videos for classrooms that are age appropriate. These will be created in three segments; one for K-2, one for grades 3-5 and one for middle and high school students.
The following is the full presentation from Feb. 25 at Bellevue High School.