"Every year we try to improve … last year we actually chained the doors where the scenario shooting took place. Officers had to physically take a bolt cutters and cut through the chain to breach the door," adds Freese. The recordings, he adds, provide a low cost real-time way for constructive criticism for the officers, proving helpful to see from the camera's perspective.
Similarly, Buntrock saw potential for the Concordia University Wisconsin training to be more than a tactical exercise. He wanted to know how the participating organizations were able to work together. "I was more interested to see if the officers and dispatch were asking the right questions and communicating properly — trying to see where we were weak and where we were strong."
Educating/training the public
One aspect within communications is education. In its effort to educate its community on safety, the UC-Riverside PD provided guidelines for how to respond in a crisis. Developed about two years ago, its paper "Safety Tips & Guidelines regarding potential 'Active Shooter' incidents occurring on Campus" defines an active shooter and offers tips on actions based on location and situation. These guidelines are based on the RAIN program (Respond, Assess, Isolate and Notify) created by the University Crime Watch organization. A disclaimer reminds readers that "these safety tips and guidelines are not all inclusive, but if understood and followed up with periodic reminders and training when feasible, it can increase your chances of surviving an active shooter incident."
Understanding that each situation is unique, the nation has seen another aspect to combine with training its officers and tactical teams: professional teachings and training geared towards the community.
The concept of "lockdown" as a response for students, workers and church members has been to "prevent access from an intruder," says Vaughn Baker, Strategos International's president. New ideas teach the public that they may have other choices to aid their survival in the event of a violent intruder situation.
As a former SWAT officer, Response Options owner, Greg Crane asks, "What are the potential victims doing to maximize or increase their odds of survival? While law enforcement are on their way, they [police] can't be there immediately, what are you [civilians] doing to maximize your chances of survival?"
Response Options offers education of just what their name implies: knowledge of the alternative choices along with lockdown, until help arrives. Crane adds that "We [Response Options] thought securing in place as the only tool was inadequate and unrealistic."
Educating the public in a similar fashion, Strategos International provides law enforcement and the public with active shooter response training in specifically designed programs. Courses such as Interfaith Intruder Response, School Intruder Response and Workplace Intruder Response teach its participants about the options in response to a violent intruder. Strategos also provides small and larger agency law enforcement with operator and instructor courses as well as a course designed for the school resource officer.
However, these courses are not to be misconstrued as in opposition to the lockdown concept. While the lockdown remains an important option in the response to an active shooter or violent intruder, these ideas are meant to enforce that there are other options available.
Buntrock reminds that, "Every scenario is different."
Both Response Options and Strategos International offer a central process in their teachings built in the public's point of view.
"We have got to convince people that if their life is worth fighting for, then maybe they need to fight for it," says Crane.
He sees "fight or flight" with a third option: freeze. With the latter two an uncommon part of a school's procedures, the choice must depend upon the situation. To assist this Response Options provides its ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) program.
The Strategos International staff teaches a "three-out" principle: lockout, get out or take out. "Most schools and districts have plans in place already for lockdown and how to conduct a lockdown for their school," says Baker. "Almost no school has a plan for what to do when a lockdown fails.