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Active Shooter Incidents: Preparedness and Planning

Beth Simon

In the wake of yet another devastating shooting of America’s young people the Program Quality Assessment team extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims and the families of the victims in Parkland, FL. It seems as appropriate a time as any to relate this back to our small early childhood blog community. In this post we will not debate gun laws or place blame, we will not weigh in on political issues or take sides. We are all on the side of humanity and take the view that life is precious and you, as child care providers, take care of some of the most valuable lives every day. The perspective we’ll be taking today is that of preparedness and prevention and taking action locally in your program or community.

An active shooter incident can occur anywhere. Malls, elementary schools, high schools, colleges/universities, public streets, cities, small towns, and places of worship; none of us can truly say “that it won’t happen here.” The Department of Homeland Security has an active shooter preparedness program, an informational booklet, and a workshop series available along with many other resources that can benefit your child care programs. The resources provide you with tips of who may be an aggressor, why they might target your program, and what to do if you suspect that someone is planning such an event.

Do you have an emergency preparedness plan at your program? Is it up-to-date? Your plan likely addresses fires, natural disasters, or weather emergencies. If you haven’t already, it might be time to also plan for an active shooter incident. Here are some things you might want to consider in your plan:

  • How will staff and parents be notified if there is an active shooter incident at your program?
  • What is the response strategy that we are going to embrace at our program? Discussing the possible scenarios and coming to a consensus among staff will be important.
  • In the event that we need to evacuate, where will we go? How will we get there?
  • Who will be in charge in this type of emergency situation? Is it the director or is there another staff member who will be providing the support?

Programs often include Emergency Preparedness procedures in their Policy Manual, but unless these procedures are up-to-date and practiced the plan is not going to be effective when needed. Keep in mind, when an event of this nature is occurring there will be chaos, emotions will be charged, and children and adults will be frightened. Staff will need to find the courage to remain calm; what kind of training or support will staff need to be successful? Emergency Management Services are available in each county across Pennsylvania. These agencies have individuals who are able to work with you to create, review, and implement a plan at your facility.

There are many strategies and suggestions on how to handle an active shooter situation, many resources are available online. Many resources about preparedness can be found at the Sandy Hook Promise website. You will need to find the strategy that will work best for you and your program, train all staff, practice the plan regularly, and everyone must be committed to the plan; your local Emergency Management Services office can review the feasibility of your plan.

What should you do if you suspect that someone is planning an active shooter incident? Contact your local authorities immediately.

Additional Resources:

The warning signs of a mass shooting

Sandy Hook Promise – Say Something Fact Sheet


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