Quick Action of School Officials Saves Countless Lives

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A feud between two neighbors in the community of Rancho Tehama County, California escalated on November 14th, leading to the death of five people and injuring at least 10 others. According to police, the man’s wife and neighbors were his first victims. The gunman targeted seven random locations in a 45-minute span, including a neighboring elementary school. Upon arriving at Rancho Tehama Elementary School, the gunman began shooting at a vehicle. As detailed in an interview with FOX8, Sarah Gonzales had just dropped off her daughter, when the gunman blocked her car.

“He pretty much stopped me and shot at me three times through his windshield,” Gonzales said. When he stopped firing, she says he continued toward the school. School officials heard gunshots and made a critical decision to lock it down.

The gunman attempted to enter the school and with no avail, began firing into classrooms from outside and injuring students. Thirty rounds were shot before he left the property, fleeing in a stolen vehicle.

According to Tehama County Assistant Sheriff, Phil Johnston, “The quick action of those school officials. There is no doubt in my mind, saved countless lives.”

The school later released a statement to the public:

This morning prior to the beginning of classes, a gunman crashed his vehicle through the school’s locked gate and fired dozens of shots at Rancho Tehama Elementary School.

The gunman shot out windows and through walls. In addition to injuries from broken glass, a student on campus was wounded by gunfire. We are informed that the student is in stable condition. We do not have any further information regarding students’ current medical condition.

The rampage ended with law enforcement ramming the suspect’s vehicle, opening fire and killing the gunman. Officials are piecing together the suspect’s past, including an alleged assault earlier this year against one of the neighbors he killed.

Although a motive is unknown, a few key points of this article are known and important:

  1. School officials heard gunshots and made a critical decision to lock the building down.
  2. The quick action of those school officials saved countless lives.
  3. The gunman tried to enter the school, but could not gain access.

When an organization or school is under a threat, leadership must act. Making critical decisions under stress may never be easy; but planning for an event increases the likelihood that your staff and/or students will remain safe. One way to plan is by establishing secure entryways.

Related: Is Your Secure Entryway Really Secure?

Jason Russell, a Firestorm partner and former Secret Service Agent, dedicates his time to preventing episodes of school violence. As the Founder and CEO of Secure Education Consultants, Jason has extensive knowledge on how to increase safety. Recommended by SEC, minimally, a secure entryway must have the following components: locked doors, a clear view of the entryway (either via a window or camera), and a way to verbally communicate with visitors prior to allowing entry (such as through an intercom or phone system).

Additional components of secure entryways could include elements like glass supported with safety and security window film, ballistic glass, biometric readers, uniquely coded pin pads, and an additional locked door placed prior to entry into the main facility.

Security elements are not the sole necessity when establishing secure entryways. As stated by Jason, “Unless you align the physical and technical security measures with effective protocols and appropriate staff training, your secure entry system may just end up being an expensive doorbell.”

Predict your organization’s vulnerabilities and plan how to minimize threats. These two steps will ensure employees, staff and students are prepared to perform in time of a crisis.

“When a trained and empowered staff follows well-established protocols in a school with well-designed and employed physical and technical security features, the building becomes a safer place for everyone.” – Jason Russell

The worst crisis an organization will witness is the one that strikes their people. Whether it’s a lone wolf or act of terrorism that inflicts violence on your organization, you and your people must be prepared, just like the school officials were at Rancho Tehama Elementary School. Is your crisis plan up to date and following best practices? Join Jason, Firestorm COO, Hart Brown, and Dr. George Vergolias, PsyD, LP on December 7th to find out. Our final Virtual Exercise of 2017 will require attendees to put their plans to action in real time. Grab your plans and crisis management team and join us for a live, simulated exercise.


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