Experts all agree that it’s not enough just to tell people what they should do. You have to give them a chance to act out those lessons through exercises, both to test their training and to test the protocols themselves. “We have to do drills because there’s only a few times we know if our emergency procedures work and one of those is during the emergency. So that would be an inconvenient time to find out they don’t work,”says Timm. He advocates including local law enforcement agencies in such drills when possible so that there is collaboration and consensus between the school and potential first responders to any incident.
Watson says that going through the motions during drills can make the actions that will be required feel more like second nature to the students should they ever have to respond in a real incident. “We pop up, and we hide under a desk, and we all pull into this room…or we all shelter in place so that it becomes a very natural, not a scary thing, just something that we do maybe once a month or whatever the frequency they feel they need,” says Watson.
Klinger says that for the lockdown enhancement drills, her group conducts “what-if” scenarios, where teachers might find out from the principal whether there is a certain level of lockdown or if there is a shooter in a certain area, and then they have to figure out what the appropriate reaction would be to that particular threat situation. It’s not as crucial for the students to actually practice barricading as it is for them to understand all of the potential evacuation routes, she says.
It is important to drill for a variety of possible situations that could arise with an active shooter. Trump is concerned that some schools do drills that are convenient for them, rather than ones that will be helpful in demonstrating the different problems that might come up during a true emergency. For example, some schools will only do drills in the morning but not when there are lunch periods. “That doesn’t make sense. That’s not good practice,” he states.
The age of the children involved will affect how they are trained in these procedures, says Klinger. “When you’re looking at high-school kids, when you’re looking at secondary kids, I think you can be very open and very forthcoming, [explaining] ‘this is what we’re doing and why,’” Klinger says.