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Teachers Taught How to React During a School Shooting Scenario

Educators from school districts across Oakland County, including Royal Oak, attended a large-scale active shooter training session in Waterford today.

Run, hide or fight.

Those three actions may save your life in an active shooter situation similar to December’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, according to Oakland County Homeland Division officials.

About 85 Oakland County school administrators, teachers and school staff focused on the kind decisions one may have to make in an active shooter situation during a 2 1/2 hour training session at the Executive Office Building in Waterford Thursday.

The important takeaway—react quickly.

Teachers were told to have an evacuation plan prepared and as a first action to flee a bad situation, bringing their students with them, but only if it’s safe to do so. If it is not safe, the next step is to hide, preferably behind something that is made of metal, concrete or block. And, if all else fails, as a last resort, fight.

“If you can’t escape or run, then throw a table, swing a purse, throw a fire extinguisher,” said Homeland Security Specialist Michael Loper. “Commit 110 percent with anything you can get your hands on.” 

Statistics show 43 percent of active shooters will take their own life. They come prepared to die, Loper said, not prepared to fight.

Teachers were also told what to expect and how to react to first responders:

  • Avoid pointing, screaming, yelling.
  • Do not ask officers for help or directions.
  • Evacuate with hands up and fingers open. Officers arriving are in a high stress situation—they are in hunter mode—and even a cellphone in your hand can look like a weapon, officials said.

In addition to helping school districts prepare an action plan, Homeland Security is also working with law enforcement across the county on a unified response plan, Loper said. 

“If an event happened at Royal Oak High School, and Berkley and Troy police were called in to help, we want everyone to be on the same page, regardless of what department they belong to,” said Loper.

"We’re a consortium. We’re not little kingdoms anymore,” as one official put it.

Royal Oak reaction

The Royal Oak School District sent key people from each school building to Thursday’s training, including Royal Oak High School Principal Jim Moll.

“What was nice about today’s training is it was reinforcing stuff we already do,” Moll said. “There is a proactive and a reactive response. If you have both in place and you drill, then if a bad situation occurs, hopefully you react quickly and in appropriate ways. 

Each teacher at the high school has a one-page, double-sided laminated copy of emergency procedures in his or her classroom, Moll said. Lockdown drills are conducted with assistance from School Liaison Officer Steve Teichow, of the Royal Oak Police Department.

“We did a lockdown drill just a little bit ago with Steve and then we did a debriefing,” Moll said. “Our plan is solid.”

Teichow is also working with Shrine Catholic High School and Academy.

“He has graciously volunteered some of his time to help us at Shrine,” said Carla Hotts, coordinator of Shrine’s crisis team. “We just established a 10-person crisis team and we are revamping our policies and procedures. It’s a big undertaking but we’re doing quite well.”

Hotts said the active shooter training was valuable.

“What really resonated with me today was the fact that something can happen anytime or anywhere,” she said. “You can be a big school or a small private school. There is no rhyme or reason as to what can happen, so we all need to prepare.”

In addition to school personnel training, the Royal Oak Police Department will be involved with the special countywide unified response plan. Chief Corrigan O’Donohue has been very proactive in coordinating with Homeland Security, Loper said. 

“The Chief has made it a high priority,” he said.

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