The recent tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas truly shook the nation and intensified questions and concerns over security in our schools. ZeroNow, the industry movement and organization formed by the safety community to end harmful events in schools, wants to increase the pace and scale of technology innovation, ideas and investment in campus safety designed to bring about real change now. Today. Not years from now. They recently hosted a panel session with prominent active shooter and safety experts, to discuss lessons we can learn from this event so it never happens in another school, or any other public or private space that is at risk for gun violence.
The presentation was led by Ara Bagdasarian, co-founder of both Omnilert and ZeroNow, who welcomed three highly experienced and insightful specialists in active shooter incident prevention. The following provides key highlights from their discussion.
Preventing Gun Violence in Schools - Citing the Need for a Cooperative Effort
The overarching theme supported by each of the experts was the need to view gun violence prevention in schools and other public spaces as a cooperative effort.
There needs to be a plan that encompasses not only installation of gun detection systems. And not just correct direct response to threats by potential victims and law enforcement. But also active attention to violence prevention through concerned observation and intervention - addressing the mental health issues of troubled individuals before they resort to violence.
Brandon Rhone, Director of Training @Navigate360's ALICE & National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC)
An award-winning veteran law enforcement executive, Brandon Rhone is one of the nation's highly respected school safety and violent critical incident/active shooter experts. Brandon's overall experience includes advising some of the nation's highest-level leaders of corporate executives and educational leaders, and training tens of thousands of individuals.
Guy Grace, Chairman of the Advisory Committee @Partner Alliance for Safer Schools
In the security field for 35 years, Guy Grace served for over three decades as the Director of Security and Emergency planning for Littleton Public Schools, a suburb of Denver, Colorado before retiring in August 2020. He was recognized as the 2020 Campus Safety Director of the Year for his work there. The recipient of many additional security industry awards, Guy serves as Chairman of the Advisory Committee for Partner Alliance for Safer Schools.
Chris Grollnek, Active Shooter Prevention Expert @Active Shooter Prevention Project
Award-winning former police investigator, Chris Grollnek is one of the nation's highly respected policy experts in the prevention of domestic terrorism. With experience advising the highest levels of government and corporate executives, he is now recognized as one of the nation's most sought professionals in the Active Shooter Prevention field and is considered the legacy expert. In 2022, Chris helped found and serves on the leadership board of a non-profit dedicated to the prevention of domestic terrorism, The First Preventers. He also serves on the Advisory Council for ZeroNow.
Key Components of a Plan to End Gun Violence in Schools
Major topics addressed by ZeroNow's expert panel included:
Establishing and Following Preventive Protocols - Implementing Consistent Response Training
Preparing for a disaster that may never happen is the key to preventing future disasters. As an example, established procedures and drills for proper response have prevented any school fire fatalities since 1958.
The panel posed that future school shootings could be just as effectively prevented by paying serious attention to consistent enforcement of preventive measures and active shooter response training of all full-time, part-time, and temporary instructional staff and support personnel for every department at every school.
The first line of defense in regard to preventing school shootings is to become aware of at-risk students. Monitoring in-person and social media behavior and comments was recommended, not to pose accusations, but to offer assistance to troubled students.
The panel noted the fact that many schools become less stringent in following gun violence prevention procedures, including maintenance of physical barriers, and/or fail to familiarize all employees, including substitute teachers, with protocols for preventing and mitigating active shooter situations. Also noted was the need for nationally standardized guidelines regarding appropriate reactions for people in all roles, during an active shooter incident - i.e.: if "run, hide, fight" is the advised reaction, what does that mean for each person (students, teachers, school security personnel, police).
The unfortunate extremely delayed response by local police during the Uvalde school shooting was noted. Possible reasons for the hesitation and the need to resolve uncertainties in such situations were discussed.
Technology Combined With Human Response to Prevent Shootings
Putting the right people in the right places is an important consideration when forming a team to implement a program to prevent school shootings. The panel's consensus was that a person with a law enforcement background would be the most effective person to have in charge of a gun violence prevention program in a school. It's unfair, and often ineffective, to put the burden of protection on the shoulders of an administrator.
School districts easily spend millions to construct public buildings. The panel discussion pointed this out - and the fact that, for a comparatively small amount, a gun detection and response system could be put in place to protect staff and students by providing an early-warning system.
Early threat detection and rapid response with visual gun detection and flexible communication capabilities, like those provided by Omnilert, can help save lives. The system not only detects the presence of an unholstered gun, but it also pinpoints the location, notifying pre-approved response personnel and calling911. Such an automated alert, paired with efficient human reaction, is invaluable during an active shooter event.
The training and experience of Brandon Rhone, Guy Grace, and Chris Grollneck brought to light a wide range of solutions regarding a multi-point approach to addressing the tragic occurrence of gun violence in our schools.