Chances are you have taught your children what to do in emergencies, such as fires and earthquakes. But what about an active shooter scenario? According to Deputy Mike Perez, SWAT Team Leader in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, parents should teach their children, particularly older kids who may not always be supervised, what to do if they are faced with an active shooter. While details will vary based on a child’s developmental age, parents need to be honest and consider the basic premise of Run, Hide, Fight, says Perez.
Teach children to do anything they can to quickly get away from the situation. Leave belongings behind. Families should agree on a word that promptly gains the attention of children, who should drop whatever they are doing and follow mom and dad. Perez encourages parents of teens to talk to them about ignoring any tendencies to explore loud noises or disturbances. “In today’s world of camera phones, teens tend to gravitate to situations they think make for great video footage or social media fodder, when they should really be removing themselves from any potential harm,” explains Perez.
If children are unable to run away, the next best option is to hide. If possible, take extra precautions to create the appearance of a deserted area by turning off lights or closing blinds. Lock doors and create barricades. If there’s no hiding place, stay as low to the ground as possible and remain still.
Turn cell phones on silent and turn down the screen brightness. Even a vibration could give away a hiding place. Leaving the phone on allows the user to communicate to law enforcement, if it’s safe to do so.
As a last resort— and only if in imminent danger— individuals who are physically able to should attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter, says Perez.
Other tips for parents:
Be aware of the emergency plan at your child’s school, and make sure your child knows what to do. For safety reasons, administrators may not be able to provide all details of the plan, but should be able to provide you with enough to feel confident. Ask local law enforcement if the school’s plan coincides with what they recommend.
Kids and teens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and notice if anything stands out. If something looks suspicious or just doesn’t feel right, they should alert a trusted teacher or adult.
Teach children to always look for the nearest exits. Knowing this information for frequently visited locations may actually reduce fear and anxiety when emergencies arise, shares Perez.
No matter their location, tell kids to remember that help will be on the way.