With all due respect Mr. President: We need active shooter training

It’s important to know what we don’t know.

We’re not about to take on the president of the United States. We know who would win (hint: not us).

However, we would like to respectfully correct the record. President Trump made numerous headlines when he said this week that active shooter drills are “a very negative thing.”

“I mean if I’m a child and I’m 10 years old and they say we’re gonna’ have an active shooter drill and they say ‘what’s that?’ and I say ‘well, people may come in and shoot you,’ I think that’s a very negative thing to be honest. I don’t like it,” Trump said.

“I’d much rather have a hardened school. I don’t like it. I don’t like, I wouldn’t want to tell my son that you’re going to participate in an active shooter drill and I know some of them actually call it that. I think it’s crazy, I think it’s very bad for children.”

This is a case of simply not knowing what you don’t know.

We agree with the president’s statements on the need to “harden” schools. But knowing (and not knowing) the data on this topic matters.

The Massachusetts Fusion Center analyzed 67 school shootings between 1992-2012 and determined that 82% of the time the attacker was someone who was already inside the building. Therefore, no matter how “hardened” the school is, the killer is already in our midst.

Effective drills and training build mental pathways to help people of all ages respond correctly in a crisis. Active shooter training cannot be effective if it’s merely abstract or theoretical. You have to drill.

When I was a young student we did doing nuclear response drills. The threat was different then, but the need to practice was just as critical.

In terms of the distaste of talking to young students about risks, we agree. We wish it didn’t have to be done. But it does. The topic can certainly be discussed with sensitivity and wisdom.

In the workplace, we find that employees appreciate it when employers break the silence and say, “We have a plan: Here it is.” It reduces anxiety instead of increasing it. We can do the same with children: “We have a plan to keep you safe in this building in case anyone would try to do anything to harm you. Let’s practice it, care for one another and be safe.”

We all want children to feel safe. But it’s more important to actually be safe. And actually being safe leads to feeling safe. Preparation (AKA training and drilling) is what brings both the feeling and reality of safety. Fear comes from having a problem and no solution.

Let’s keep training and working at improving security at the same time.

Now, back to work.

Vaughn Baker is the president of Strategos International.