Have Active Shooting Drills Saved Lives in Michigan School Shooting?

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December 17, 2021 – Contact the FacilitiesNet editorial team »



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The shooting last month at Oxford High School in Michigan, which left four dead and several others injured, could have been much worse if students had not been properly trained on how to escape situations, some say students themselves, cited in a recent story in the New York Times.

The students had been trained in the ALICE program, which means alert, confine, inform, counter, evacuate. Administrators of this type of training say it differs from the traditional active marksmanship exercise, which inefficiently encourages students to stay safe in one spot. ALICE encourages more proactive approaches, says the program administrator.

But are active marksmanship exercises effective, on the whole? This is an issue that has been the subject of controversial debate. Before the pandemic, there had been a series of examples of active shooting drills that went horribly wrong and traumatized students and building occupants.

For school managers, working with school administrators to determine the type and frequency of active shooters can be difficult. Local law enforcement should also be included in all discussions, and law enforcement may have their own ideas on how best to conduct effective exercises.

But experts say the only constant to a successful active marksmanship exercise is good communication between all parties: building occupants, administrators, neighbors, and anyone who will be affected by the exercise. Making sure everyone is on the same page – and most importantly, that they understand that an exercise is going on, not an actual situation – is most important.

Greg Zimmerman is the editor of Building Operating Management magazine and FacilitiesNet.com.

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