Would Your Kids Know How to Survive a School Shooting?

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By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

(originally published in May 2018) Imagine getting a phone call like this from your high school-aged child.

“Mom, there’s been a shooting. I’m running.”

Those were the chilling words heard by a mom in Kentucky in 2018 when her son was fleeing from a classmate who killed 2 students and injured 17 more. The two 15-year-olds died at the hands of another 15-year-old boy, who was later arrested.

Shocked students have described the terrifying moment the shooter opened fire before classes began, forcing nearly 100 children to run out of the school and seek safety.

‘He was determined. He knew what he was doing,’ a classmate said of the shooter.

‘It was one right after another – bang bang bang bang bang. You could see his arm jerking as he was pulling the trigger.’

Another student said: ‘No one screamed. It was almost completely silent as people just ran.

‘He just ran out of ammo and couldn’t do anything else. He took off running and tried to get away from the officers.’

…Mitchell Garland, who rushed outside of his business when he heard about the shooting, described seeing the students flee the school.

‘They was running and crying and screaming,’ he said. ‘They were trying to get out of there.’ (source)

The scene was utter pandemonium.

It can happen anywhere.

No place is safe from the violence these days. This was the tiny town of Benton, Kentucky, population 4,531.

Would your child know what to do in the event of a school shooting?

There are a few important things to note in the story about this horrible incident. Four of the kids who were injured weren’t shot – they got hurt fleeing the scene. And secondly, first responders shut down all the exits, meaning the shooter – and kids who were still inside – couldn’t escape.

As horrific as it is to think through a scenario like this, doing so could save your child’s life. And this information isn’t just for kids in the school system. Even homeschooled kids can sometimes be in a situation where they are without a parent and a bad thing happens, like sports practice, church events, or other outings.

One thing to consider that could be pre-emptive is to teach your kids to be nice people. This shooting, like many others, is said to have been triggered by extreme bullying. I’m not blaming the victims who were shot, but we all bear the responsibility to treat others kindly.

Acceptance is the first step to surviving an attack.

In many of the descriptions of this shooting, students said they heard a “popping” noise and didn’t really grasp what was happening.

It’s the actions you take immediately upon the realization something awful is occurring that have the potential to save your life. And the first step to that is accepting that a terrible thing truly is happening. In an article called How to Survive Anything in Three Easy Steps, I wrote:

No matter what situation comes your way, the first step is to accept that whatever the event is, it really happened.  This is tougher than it sounds, because our minds are programmed to protect us from emotional trauma.  Cognitive dissonance means that when a reality is uncomfortable or doesn’t jive with a person’s beliefs, that person may opt to believe in something false just to assuage his desire for comfort. Psychologist Leon Festinger, who identified the principal of cognitive dissonance, suggested  “that a motivational state of inner tension is triggered by logically inconsistent ways of thinking.”

If you’re wondering exactly how powerful cognitive dissonance can be, check out Amanda Ripley’s book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why.  Ripley, a journalist, covered many disasters of immense scale: plane crashes, natural disasters, and 9/11.  She became curious about the difference between those who survived, and those who did not, wondering if it was dumb luck or if there was some other quality that made survival more likely. She interviewed hundreds of survivors and got her answer.  The ability to immediately accept what was occurring was the quality most of the survivors possessed.

The story that stands out in my mind the most was the one about the people in the World Trade Center on September 11. They described the last time they saw some of their coworkers.  There were many people who simply could not accept the fact that a plane had crashed into the building and that they must immediately evacuate. They gathered their belongs, tidied their desks, finished reports. They didn’t feel the same sense of urgency that those who survived did, because the situation was so horrible that they just couldn’t accept it. Their inability to accept the scope of the danger caused many of them to perish in a tragic incident that other people, who acted immediately, survived.

When disaster strikes, you can’t spend 5 minutes thinking, “This can’t actually be happening.”  It is happening, and moving past accepting that propels you through the first step into the second one.

The people who freeze in a mass shooting have done nothing but make themselves easier targets

Freezing is an innate reaction for some people, but you can train your way through that. Training in self-defense, first aid, and disaster preparedness can help to offset the brain’s neurobiological response that leaves some people paralyzed with fear.

Pat Henry of The Prepper Journal recommends action plan simulations to help you become more prepared for a sudden crisis. He wrote:

When you are out in public, try going for an hour without looking at your phone to start with. Instead, observe your surroundings. Who is near you and who is walking toward you? Does anything seem suspicious? If something were to happen, what would you do and where would you go. Do you know the quickest way to get out if needed? Can you access your concealed weapon if you need to? Imagine what you would do if you were out at a mall with your family and someone started shooting. Where would you take cover? What would be your escape route? What if that was blocked?

It isn’t fun to go through this exercise with your kids, but it could save their lives.

There are 4 courses of action

We can’t always predict when an attack is about to happen. There might be no indications in your immediate surroundings to alert you to the fact that something is going down. At school, your kids are in comfortable surroundings and they don’t have their guards up. They may be blithely unaware until the moment the first shot is fired.

If your child suddenly finds himself/herself in the midst of a school shooting, he/she needs to be ready to take one of the following courses of action:

1) Escape. Get as far away from the threat as possible. If you can do so safely, run for the doors and if you can’t get to a door, don’t be afraid to pick up a chair and smash out a window. This will take some forethought because most kids would need to get past the mental taboo of destroying school property. Teach kids to run for cover as fast as possible.

2) Take cover. If you can’t get away, get behind something solid and wait for your opportunity to either escape or fight back. Make sure your kids know the difference between cover and concealment. Many schools have thick concrete walls that will provide sturdy cover, but a wooden door or a desk will not.

3) Hide. If you are in another part of the building and you hear shots, your first choice should be to escape. But, if you aren’t in a place where you can safely do that, you may be able to quietly hide somewhere. Bathrooms aren’t ideal, but hiding quietly in a locked classroom with the lights out may keep you away from the shooter.

3) Fight back. This is absolutely a last resort. When you aren’t armed, you will be at a serious disadvantage against an armed opponent. The only possible advantage is the element of surprise. Most people with a gun don’t expect a direct challenge. If you have absolutely no other option, you should be prepared to fight for your life. Go in low to knock the shooter down, from behind if possible. A group of students will have a better chance of subduing the shooter than one student alone. Obviously, this is an action to be taken by older kids. Younger children would be unlikely to launch an effective attack.

Some security companies are now doing training with schools to help them respond more effectively in the event of a school shooting. As a parent, encourage your local school board to consider investing in such training.

Have you talked to your children about school shootings?

Have you had this uncomfortable discussion with your children? Do you have tips that weren’t included in this article? Please share them in the comments below.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • Two points: I am always armed, “Gun Free Zones” in my opinion do not exist, My creator gave me the right of self defense, government cannot take that away. Second: I bought my grandson a backpack that is armored.

    • Here in Australia, we do not have that opportunity, I am blessed to live in a country with no amendments, and my creator gave me the opportunity to live without the violence, alas now due to gangland wars here in Sydney due to drugs, guns in the underworld are starting to appear above ground, and soon there will be school shootings. Sad world, when you believe an armed weapon is the most valuable tool.

    • You don’t need a gun to be “armed”. It is great if you can carry one.
      If you can’t, then learn to use what is at hand.
      An improvised bat, swung from cover, can do a good job on an unwise shooter, who is entering an area.
      There are courses on throwing Knives and improvised objects at targets.
      As a last resort there is also hand to hand fighting. In a Close Quarters attack, you will probably get shot in the process, but you might survive if it was planned right. A pencil, pen, etc., to the eye socket will debilitate their vision at the very least.
      You just have to catch the shooter off guard.

      Better to go out fighting than cowering before them and getting shot multiple times at the shooters discretion and choice.

      • Tim Larkin, Target Focus Training.
        I can’t recommend his DVDs highly enough.
        You can also find him on YouTube.

  • IIRC in the late 60’s Israeli schools were being targeted. They trained and armed the teachers, janitors, EBBER BOTY. Then after a couple of attacks failing and the attackers having the crap shot out of them, the attacks stopped.

    Just a thought

  • Thanks for this post. We try to be aware & make our kids aware but your story was a reminder that we hadn’t discussed this with the kids in a few years. They are older & have greater capabilities & understanding of a situation like this than when we talked to them before. Hopefully it was information they’ll never need but better to be prepared-whether at school or restaurant or mall. Thanks for all you do. I really enjoy reading all of your articles & it helps me to see things in ways I sometimes haven’t already.

  • Daisy,
    Another great article. I once more am going to try to get my daughter and son in law to open their minds to the realization that bad things do happen and can happen any time and at any place. Hopefully this article will open the door for preparing for potential disasters. For sure I will not give up trying to get them out of the normalcy bias mind set they have.

  • If there was really such a concern, any parent should look for homeschooling options. When you attend a government education/re-education center, expect some sort of victimization. You can only blame yourselves, if they get hurt at such locations.

    • While I did homeschool my child when she hit high school age, your comment is quite sweeping. Not every parent can do this and it doesn’t mean they are “to blame” or should feel guilt. If I had not been able to create a business where I work from home, as a single mother, I would not have been able to homeschool my kids and still make a living. For that reason, they went to public school up until I had the opportunity to homeschool. You don’t know if a child has special needs that can be better addressed at a school, if the parents must both work, if it is a single parent household, if the child desperately wants to be with other kids. Making generalizations can be very harmful – don’t you think that parents are scared enough?

      • This is why many people have trusted friends, and can help each other out, kind of like a tribe of American Indians, who treated others kids as there own, and helped each other out.

    • Your right on Joe, homeschooling is also what the Bible said, “Teach your own kids ” ! public schools have just become propaganda agenda
      brainwashing centers, these days to aid the Government takeover.

    • I would modify this to state that parents can be blamed IF they had the opportunity to pull them out of government schools but couldn’t.

      Parents who don’t yet know how they could possibly homeschool should research it – they may find out how it could be done. There are for example homeschooling groups where it’s like a class taught by one of the parents, or kids could be homeschooled just at times parents are home, lots of possibilities to consider.

  • Could help to add a few things for the kids/ coworkers: After running and hiding didn’t work- Look for items in the school/classroom that can be used as weapons. IE: that stapler, held just right, could be a formidable weapon. That magazine, rolled up tight, could strike the attacker in the eye. A large trashcan could be dropped from the balcony overhead; desks for that matter too. Broomsticks, shop class items, etc. Fight back in large numbers. Stack everything from in the room against the door.

    Take the breaking the window advice further: what could you use in the class/building to break out the window? And strike the glass in the lower corners, not the middle of the middle, as it may help it break easier. Middle may bow out more. Jump from a 2nd floor- I’d rather have broken arms/legs than a bullet hole.

    Plant the seed that if you think you hear popping-run…. if you’re wrong, oh well, you can explain why you ran out of class later.

  • Ballistic Shields could have saved the lives of many assault weapon victims.

    Picture this the deranged gunman enters the church, rock concert, or other densely packed gathering. A dozen muscular athletic male attendees grab for the readily available Riot Shields with attached stun guns. Several of these men are killed in so doing but the remainders charge the psycho/terrorist zap him with their stun guns and take him into custody so that he (and thus his enablers) can stand trial and, subsequently proceed to execution, a few years later!

    With a defense/law enforcement budget that ballons into the hundreds of billions of dollars each years, would not, hundreds of thousands of ballastic shields scattered in key locations throughout America be but a pittance of this enormous budget.

    Wake up America! Why should you trust your survival to the Johnny Come Lately Boys in Blue?.

    Supply us with ballistic shields that could save hundreds of lives each year.

    George Meredith MD
    Virginia Beach

  • Thank God this wasn’t a conversation I needed to have with my children. Now early 40s to 50s. But its a workplace or public place kind of conversation.
    It’s a look for alternate exits conversation.
    Ie: the Wal-Mart’s I shop aren’t part of a mall. Other than employees only exits where are alternate exits and does something only look like an exit but is really a holding pen? Does your store have an auto service area? That is a real exit. The garden center at some stores is open to the parking lot during business hours. At some stores the enclosure is only open sometimes. Know your store! In many store the only way out of the store is through the front doors or out through the warehouse that’s market employees only. If the front doors were to go into a locked position the only possible exit might be a place baskets are pushed in. Again many stores push carts in the same doors customers use. Out of sight is all you may have as isles of merchandise don’t stop bullets. Or head for the employee areas. Those do lead to loading docs or alternate ways out.

    • I had read an interview from a Buffalo Tops survivor that some went into milk fridges for safety. I had never thought of that possibility as a hiding place in a store.

  • My children are grown and on their own.
    But still, what the heck?
    Thinking back on it, there were a few kids in my school whom I could see would commit a horrific act like the recent shooting in TX.
    But they never did.
    What has changed since then?
    Diet? Video games? Social media? Parenting?

    • I would say all of the above. We had plenty of guns around when I was in school in the 70s and none of the current hoopla to buy more. Many schools had shooting teams and I knew at age 8 to not mess with Grandpa’s hunting guns. We didn’t have these kinds of shootings back then. So what changed?

      Parents that don’t parent, video games that reward killing, social media that’s turned the collective discourse toxic, and the 24/7 sensationalist news cycle that leads with blood and scandal. Also, we’ve all been under an enormous amount of stress over the past few years. It affects kids too. Some past the breaking point.

    • “What has changed since then?”

      expectations. “you have a right to be loved and accepted for who and what you are.” never been true, and if a high school outcast is taught this he no longer just finds his own space but becomes a vengeful omega.

      • I myself had my fair share of being on the receiving end of bullying.
        I sure was not popular, and something of an ouster.
        It never occurred to me to become a vengeful omega.
        Then again, I guess I was an unaware alpha having defended a few others from bullies, as I became aware of later in life.
        Seems those who do, seem to have some grandiose ideas of themselves, and the attention they would gain from MSM.
        Sick eh?

    • As a mom of a soon to be 11 year old son I’d say parenting (lack of) is likely the biggest issue. Parents use tv, video games or anything as a babysitter as long as the parents aren’t being bothered. We don’t do social media so neither will he. He’s one of 3 in his class who doesn’t have a phone. He has an iPad but I monitor every little thing and get involved. He doesn’t have free range of it. He doesn’t have a tv in his bedroom. He does play video games but only in the living room and I pay attention to everything being said. Not worried about his actions but definitely other people. He mostly plays with school friends but occasionally I have to step in when I hear a random kid cursing him. Yelled at what sounded to be an older teen a few days ago and he immediately left the game. Kids these days aren’t held accountable for their actions. They aren’t used to parents like me who get involved and it clearly shocked him. I. explain to my son that these kids who act like this clearly have parents who aren’t present and essentially he should empathize for their situation . That’s not being a good parent. he also knows life is not Always fair. We don’t believe in the everyone gets a trophy idea. These kids are just being set up for failure and disappointment. Parenting also comes into play with social media. Yes they are made to be addictive but as a parent it’s your job to monitor and take it away if they’re using it too much. Yes I’d say lack of parenting is the biggest issue I see right now.

      • I agree. As a former school educator, I also think we tolerate far too much bullying and bad behavior in public schools. I remember working in a middle school and there was a lot of hitting and bullying going on in the hallways. An administrator told me, “That’s just part of being a kid.” I disagreed. Being allowed to bully other kids is NOT just a part of life. That shows a lack of good parenting, and the schools are serving as parents while the children are in their care. The internet has made this much, much worse as a single unhappy child can terrorize many other kids. Adults have to be paying attention and have some kind of consensus as to what is acceptable behavior. The moral fabric of society has a lot of holes in it now.

        If your child is in public school, maybe you could try meeting once a month with other parents in your child’s class–just to talk about some of these issues. One easy way to do this is to send an email with an article talking about a particular topic, and then all meet together (even on zoom) to discuss it. One discussion to start with is the bulllying that goes on on school buses. Or how to monitor a child’s social media. You have to create your own village, because the old “everyone-knows-everyone small town model” doesn’t exist anymore. (At least in a lot of places.)

        Or maybe meet right before school is out or on a weekend for breakfast or before a school event. If you can get a majority of parents on the same page, it makes it easier to monitor behavior–and maybe easier to know if there is a real problem developing with a particular child. I know you don’t want stuff like this to turn into a witch hunt, so have to monitor for that. However, if there IS a problem developing, as a group of parents, you would have more power than just an individual expressing some concerns.

        I wonder how many parents knew the Uvalde teen was troubled. And if they did, was there a structure in place to report this? Obviously the kids knew there was a problem. Nobody seems to have told their parents or anyone else.

  • There are myriad reasons to HOMESCHOOL and get your kids out of the public schools. That they’re almost all “gun free zones” – i.e. magnets for mass murderers who know nobody can defend themselves – is just one of them, and it’s enough by itself to justify not letting the corrupt government “teach” your kids and have them in such an incredibly dangerous situation.

  • Here in Commiefornia I raised my Girls by a constant simple RULE
    Think What To DO
    With that said when unarmed an for the most part all children are
    ONLY One course of Action
    Daisy Luther There is only One SOUL-lution when ShotS are fired an YOU ARE A
    Keep it Simple advice for Parents to advise their children
    KISS Theory
    Children in todays world need to know what the sound of Gun Fire IS and when confronted RUN For YOUR LIFE
    Fight EVIL with a gun hell bent on your demise ,we see it again an again THE ODDS are not in your FAVOR
    Your advice IS SOUND for Adults
    BUT Children can RUN and Fear is some thing when the sound of Gunfire is heard by its very design is the sound of fury
    Movement is LIFE
    Even your Good friend Selco says so .

  • I am armed at all times – even in so-called gun free zones. I don’t give a damn about the law or the politicians who make them. I am a moral person and won’t act outside my conscience. Your kids are safe around me. In fact, they are protected even though they don’t know it.

    I hope others share my sentiment. I and those like me would be your ONLY defense in a situation like that. Obviously the cops, who have no duty to protect you, are not going to risk their own skin. They just waited outside until the shooter exhausted his ammo. Cowards.

  • “The ability to immediately accept what was occurring was the quality most of the survivors possessed”

    was in a gun store when someone accidentally discharged a round. took me about 15 seconds to even realize what had happened. “immediate acceptance” might take a while.

      • “no such thing”

        (nod) what happened was that someone left their tube-fed lever action in a closet for 20 years loaded, then sold it to the gun store. the gun store cycled the action and cleared it – except corrosion had locked a cartridge at the top of the tube. the gun store checked the breach and feed tray, saw they were empty, and put it on the rack. a customer came in and checked the breach and feed tray, saw they were empty, and cycled the action. the cycling dislodged the cartridge which then loaded and discharged.

        it was a good lesson – tube-fed guns require more than a simple visual inspection to be cleared.

    • I had my suspicions, but now you have confirmed those suspicions: You are that guy who should not be allowed near a gun.

  • Another thing that has changed is the coverage of these events by mass media. I worked in public schools for years. When they first televised the Columbine shooting, I said, “We are going to have a lot more of these.” Now an alienated misfit (and yes, probably often bullied) young man can get his 15 minutes of fame and televise his anger to the world. He can be a hero in his own action movie.

    The media often describe how the shooter did it. I remember the shooting where the young man pulled the fire alarm so all the kids would run out of the building. For years after that, every time we had a fire drill, I would wonder if we would be shot. How helpful of the media to show the rifle and how the shooter carried all of his ammo, and how some people were able to survive. Maybe they should offer a certification in active shooting as you can learn a lot about how to be a really GREAT active shooter by watching the news!

    What actually helps is if administrators develop a sort of “underground network” with different kids, so they will know more about what is really going on. In my at-risk school, we had a great principal who loved the kids. She quietly developed a rapport with a number of students, and those kids would tell her who was selling drugs, etc. What has often struck me is how often the kids will say–after the event–oh, yeah, we knew he was crazy. There are often a LOT of red flags. The kids knew this shooter was posting pics that glorified guns and animal torture (not sure if this was true, but it was reported). Nobody said anything. They would have had to tell some administrator and that person would have had to start a quiet investigation. When you start looking at the big picture, you can see there might be a problem developing–instead of a well-adjusted, well-liked kid who likes hunting.

    I know this is a tough privacy issue, but in my opinion, an 18-yr-old buying a gun is a different story than an older dude buying a bunch of ammo for deer season. Not sure how to solve this issue, but 18-yr-old brains really are NOT as mature as older brains. Their frontal lobes just haven’t quite connected yet. If anyone shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun, it would be that teen in Uvalde. (Or at least it looks that way from first reports.)

    I know I will get a lot of flak for saying this, but I think we went the wrong way in Texas when we allowed 18-yr-olds to buy firearms. An 18-year-old teen is not a man yet. Years ago, when many teens worked on farms, they grew into stable adults a lot quicker. We also had a better moral foundation, so using a gun to kill a bunch of children would NOT have been glorified. Our society has broken down in that regard. Just saying…

    (And before anyone can say, “Well, 18-yr-olds can fight in the army,” I want to point out that the army doesn’t let just anyone in and they do a LOT of basic training / boot camp before they turn anyone loose with a gun. I suspect the Uvalde teen would have washed out of the army pretty quickly.) Just my opinion.

    • Cher from Texas,
      Recently read an article how “childhood,” has been extended from the high school years, now into college.
      Not entirely sure I would agree with that assessment. Although it seems there are students whom wholeheartedly embrace the concept, as it allows for them to behave more like 6 year olds throwing a temper tantrum than a young adult and have to engage in intellectual debate.
      Growing up, my father told me he would support me going to college. If I did not, the day after high school graduation, I was moving out, I better have the means to support myself.
      Graduation from high school was supposed to be the demarcation of childhood to adult.
      What happened?

      • “Graduation from high school was supposed to be the demarcation of childhood to adult. What happened?”

        the elevation of self and individuality above god and society eliminates any such demarcation. there is no longer child or adult, there is only “me”.

  • Thankfully today is the last school day in my state, and the students are already home…
    I’m a teacher, so this article hits home. I love the logical strategies presented here, and how this clarifies the decision process in a time of potential panic.
    I worry that option 1 might put me in a difficult position. I could potentially save lives of my students (and myself), but fleeing the classroom is not an easy call to make and goes directly against what we are trained to do. What if we attempt to flee and it doesn’t go well and students die as a result? Still, I would do it if it seemed the best option. I would definitely NOT be someone who stays in the twin tower that was just his by a plane. I would not wait to be told what to do! (I remember thinking that back in 2001!)
    Our school bell system has been broken this entire semester (supply chain issues with getting parts). If we have a lockdown situation the only way I would know is by text, hearing something directly, or someone coming to my room to tell us. My office phone can barely be heard from my classroom floor and I rarely reach it in time. Since the shooting, Administration are now coming up with plans, so I guess that is a good thing.
    This gives me a lot to ponder. I’m moving classroom over summer, and my new room has 2 doors, which makes me happy, because it could prevent us being trapped by a single door.

  • One thing that saddens and concerns me.
    Talking to another teacher, he said his students were watching the video the shooter made (he livestreamed). He said the students were quite okay with watching it, not really horrified, and even a bit entertained by it. This tells you a lot about what games, social media and disconnection from fellow humans and God has done to these kids…

  • I have no kids, but if I did, and they had cell phones, I would tell them to set their phones on mute, send me a “.” text, and hide as best they could. (And I would go invade their school.)

  • this was another government ops to change your gun laws, disgusting that the cops do nothing while the kids get shot but the cops use full force to stop parents from doing something…
    its the governments worldwide that are the enemy

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