Many schools around the country have starting thinking about active shooters and putting together emergency plans on what to do in the event that an active shooter comes on campus. We applaud this and hope that more and more schools put a plan in place for the threat of an active shooter.
With that said, an active shooter isn’t the most likely threat to the safety of your students, faculty, and staff. Roughly a quarter of active shooter events in the 21st century have occurred at places of education (preK through college/university). While this is scary and startling for administrators, teachers, and parents, the fact is that there are numerous other threats that lurk in and around schools.
Do your faculty, staff, and students know what to do if there’s a bomb threat? What about a tornado? What if a child makes threats to other students or teachers? What if an irate parent comes on campus? What if a toxic chemical spills in the chemistry lab or the janitorial area?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers education facilities (i.e., schools) as part of the government facilities sector of critical infrastructure in our country. As a critical infrastructure, it is vital to our nation’s security, economic vitality, and way of life, and it should be protected. The DHS, along with the Department of Education (Ed), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) have created a Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans. They suggest including:
- natural hazards (e.g., earthquake, flood, landslide)
- technological hazards (e.g., explosions, power failure, toxic materials spills)
- biological hazards (e.g., infectious diseases, contaminated food outbreaks)
- adversarial, incidental, and human-caused threats (e.g., gang violence, cyber attacks, fire)
Listen, active shooters are a real threat, and schools should prepare themselves. But everyday things that may seem like non-issues can easily turn into emergencies, and these mundane things should also be included in a well-rounded emergency plan.