In active shooter attacks, private preschools are especially vulnerable because teachers are generally not trained for them, small children are less able to regulate themselves and law enforcement officials are less likely to warn about emergencies, an expert in the field told educators Saturday.
Andrew Roszak, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Child Preparedness, was in Las Vegas on Saturday to teach a course for early childhood educators about how to plan for and defend against active shooting violence at preschools.
“We’ve got to be thinking about this because the biggest gap that we have across the nation is that we in early childhood do not get the emergency alerts like our friends in elementary schools, the middle schools and high schools get,” Roszak said.
The challenge in directing the behavior of preschool kids to react to active shooting attacks is unique, as it is a time their intellects are quite undeveloped, Roszak told a small group of educators at the Children’s Cabinet Training Center at 1771 E. Flamingo Road.
“We’re talking about kids that are really reliant on adults to make sure they are going to be safe,” he said. “So from a legal standpoint we have ultimate responsibility. From an ethical standpoint, we have responsibility.”
Roszak, a former health and human services official for the Obama administration and author of three books on active shooter planning in preschools, said that schools must create strategies to blunt, delay or stop a shooter’s plans.
Strategies include darkening rooms, hiding kids and using furniture to build door-blocking barricades.
The average active shooter takes only about 12.5 minutes to complete their attack — just five minutes of it spent shooting — which is serious because the average police response time takes about 15 minutes, Roszak said.
“Our goal here is to stay one step ahead of that next active shooter,” he said. “We know that active shooters are studying other events to see what had worked and what hasn’t. Their goal is to basically come in and kill as many people as they can. That’s their goal in life.”
‘Going to buy you a chance’
About 93 percent of active shooters plan their attack, and three out of four have a personal connection to the places they attack, according to Roszak.
“I think in child care, what I’m most concerned about is a disgruntled parent in a custody battle, and they’re going to come over, and we’ve had that happen,” he said.
Roszak used some of his videos on YouTube to illustrate how some preschools have approached their defenses against the attacks based on his guidance.
The basic defense is to first use a horn or loud sound device to warn about the threat.
Then teachers and staff go into assigned roles over a 30-second time frame — practiced during drills — by:
- Turning off lights and locking the front door.
- Pushing and stacking tables, bookcases, cubby shelves and infant cribs up against the door.
- Using chairs to block the door handle.
- Using paper or fabric to block door windows.
- Hiding kids in places like bathrooms and closets.
- Using hard objects, such as a fire extinguisher, to break windows and screens to have kids jump out of, or sending them out a rear door.
Roszak also suggested that teachers and staff have potential weapons ready, including fire extinguishers, kids’ wooden staking blocks, vacuum cleaners and other objects that might be used as clubs.
“That’s going to buy you some opportunities, going to buy you a chance to either escape or to maybe launch a counterattack and protect yourself,” Roszak said.
One of the attendees, Robin Lane, director of the Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy in Las Vegas, said she thought Roszak’s seminar was “phenomenal” and said she plans to come up with an active shooter strategy for the preschool.
“I knew that I needed to look at alternative ways of keeping all the children safe, and my staff,” Lane said. “We’ll call a staff meeting and we’re going to have to put a couple things in action of, whether it’s outside or inside, and what the staff is to do.”