School shooting response: Why we need to evaluate evacuation

The task of directing hundreds of students to staging points can put students in a tactically indefensible condition

The scene is familiar. Lines of high school students filing out with hands on top of their heads, watched closely by a phalanx of helmeted police officers with rifles at the ready. Is this really every school attack response planner’s end game? Should it be?

The purpose of evacuation is to move students and staff from a high-risk environment to a low-risk environment. This formula, designed with orderly demobilization of an active scene in mind, must also calculate the risk of the evacuation movement itself. We could also justify evacuation by claiming that we are moving from an uncontrolled environment with unknown risks to a controlled environment with known low risks. But are these assumptions accurate? Here are some arguments for re-evaluating evacuation and reconsidering protecting in place.

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