Preparedness is Key in Emergency Situations

When it comes to an emergency situation, it’s often said that “preparedness is key”. When the emergency is a school shooting or a shooter on a campus, being prepared can be the difference between life and death for students, teachers, and staff members. The unthinkable nightmare of a gunman on campus is something no child or educator should have to consider, but that’s exactly what unfolded on November 14th, 2019 in Santa Clarita, California. A student at Saugus High School opened fire on his classmates, killing two, and then turning the gun on himself. Gracie Anne Muehlberger, age 15, and Dominic Blackwell, age 14, both lost their lives in this tragic event. 

On the day of the shooting, most teachers and students began their day just like any other, getting classrooms set up and arranged, and getting lessons underway. In an interview with CNN, teacher Kaitlin Holt explains how she was playing back a recent choir performance for her students so that they could analyze it. They had no idea that their day was about to be turned upside-down, as news of a shooter began to trickle into their classroom. Because they had not heard the gunshots ring out in their particular part of the building, they were unaware of the situation as it was happening. A young lady who had been shot came into the classroom, in shock, and not realizing she had two gunshot wounds. Kaitlin risked her own life to exit the classroom and find the supplies in a gunshot wound kit that would help her treat the wound. Her quick thinking about where the kit was located, and how to stop a bleed was incredibly important. “We had watched a tutorial on how to use that in one of our staff meetings and I did that the best I could,” she told CNN. 

Her students cooperated beautifully during such a stressful time, and Holt further explained that they had been through lockdown training at the school, to prepare for what they hoped to never experience. This training proved invaluable as the students knew to lock the doors, help create barricades, and to stay quiet and hidden. Holt ushered them into her office, which had locking doors, and worked to create an atmosphere of calm and confidence. Additionally, she shared with the news station that she felt the immense gravity of the situation, and didn’t feel that being a paramedic should be part of a teacher’s job, since there are such life and death consequences, adding, “That should not be part of the teacher’s job”.

How does nSide help?

Kaitlin Holt, the choir-teacher-turned-paramedic, repeatedly emphasized that she barely had time to think through her options in a situation that she had never anticipated before, but it draws attention to her excellent training. She knew what to do, where to go, and how to best assist her students, even without all of the information or the location of the shooter. She knew where medical supplies were located and how to use it, and where the safest location was. She also knew how to close off exits in the room, and where each one was. Training like this is crucial when it comes to protecting students, and it’s one of the reasons that nSide exists. Although our hope is that no teacher or staff member would ever have to use their emergency training, we desire to equip faculty members with confidence and training that will kick in, no matter the adrenaline, shock, or unknowns that are occurring around them. It’s easy to think through these things before they happen, but when they ARE happening, have you practiced enough for it to be second nature? Have you put enough precautions in place before the emergency? We want every student, teacher, or staff member to be able to answer this with a resounding YES. 

Since 2015, we have been thinking through what it means to truly feel secure in the walls of a school. Unfortunately, there are many things in our modern times that pose threats to staff and students in the academic setting. History has shown that emergencies can happen at any time, in many forms. Although this is sobering, there are things that can be done before the emergency that will set educators up for success, instead of chaos. Here at nSide, we are broaching the topic of school safety head-on. After all, when it comes to our children, straightforward answers and education are powerful tools, and school safety should never be passive.

Preparation can save lives

In the instance of this brave, amazing teacher, we saw how her preparedness and training worked together to allow her to make split-second decisions in a horrible situation. The things that were done ahead of time truly mattered. Saugus had practiced lockdowns with their students, so the students knew that panic and noise would increase their level of danger, and they cooperated to assist their teacher. Their bravery was based out of one of our key concepts: training works. Here are some of the ways that nSide can give schools peace of mind by equipping them with the training they need and want: 

  • Emergency Operation Plans: These plans are built on a cloud system, and allow accessibility school-wide, in the event of an emergency. Rather than being caught off-guard, teachers like Kaitlin Holt would know immediately if there was a threat to their classroom, and would have time to assess the situation. While Miss Holt had access to some of these types of features, such as location of exits, and locations of medical items, having an earlier notification would have given her additional breadth. Our systems use a combination of surveillance, communication, and controlled access so that those who need to know, do. No parent loves the idea of strangers having access to viewing the school, so the access is private and controlled, enabling parents, staff, and educators to be in rapid communication with each other when necessary. 
  • Training Sessions: Our training modules are research based and include subjects such as “Active Shooter Training”. We work with other organizations and partners to provide the most up-to-date and current training. We also work off the WICC Model of training, which stands for “Warn, Information, Choices, Communication”. It focuses on how to warn the school of an incident or impending situation, notifying and providing crucial information to those who need to know (public, media, parents, staff), equipping everyone to make appropriate choices, and communicating effectively. In her CNN interview, that brave choir teacher noted that her students had done lockdown drills before, and that’s why they knew precisely how to behave. These drills, when done appropriately, can decrease chaos and fear in the moment. 
  •  Mapping and Location: One of the biggest and most crucial moments in the Saugus High School shooting was when Miss Holt made the decision to secure her students and exit the classroom to find the gunshot wound kit for her student. She knew very quickly where it was, and how to find it. This was lifesaving for the student who had two gunshot wounds, and saved valuable time while things were still very unknown. Our mapping and location plans give staff the ability to troubleshoot on the fly by knowing where exits are, where the access points are, where medical items (such as AED machines or gunshot wound kits) are located. This step can give back the gift of time to those who are protecting children on campus. That time can mean the difference between life and death for people with deadly wounds, so why not buy back every precious moment by fully mapping your locations?

Why this matters

Although we have talked about preparing our educators and students, we sincerely believe that just as a choir teacher shouldn’t be asked to be a first responder, a school shouldn’t have to do these safety measures alone. With the rise of mental health crisis’ and school emergencies, teachers and staff have many critical items already on their very-full plates. So, that preparation should be taken care of, long before the school day begins. That’s why nSide can do the planning and preparing for you, with our comprehensive safety plans and evaluations. Our experienced and trained team can discuss the best routes of action for your facility, based on the size of the school, the ages of the students, and the location. We can give your teachers back their peace of mind by making their response second-nature, and removing doubts from their actions. Not only will our secure, inclusive plans set your school apart when it comes to safety, it will also speak volumes to concerned parents, who entrust their children to your school each and every day. Teachers are not first responders. It’s not in the job description. Let your teachers be teachers, and let us tackle the issue of school emergencies. 

If you’re interested in learning more about our series of products and services, please reach out to us at help@nside.io. We would love to share more about how we can help shape a culture of safety at your organization.

Written by Grace Aspinwall | Silverbeet Creative Co.