Would Your Kids Know How to Survive a School Shooting?

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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 was just kids running down the highway. 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 immediatelyaccept 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.

Do your kids know what to do in the event of a school shooting? It isn't fun to talk about this with them, but the conversation could save their lives.

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.

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9 Responses

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

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