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I can remember, in school, learning to tuck and roll if there was a fire. I remember going over tornado drills. I do not remember, however, a plan for what to do if a gunman comes in to the school. Most communities and schools have plans that include lock-downs when gunmen are in the community. Kids, teachers, and parents receive almost no instruction on what to do if a gunman is in their school.

The philosophy should be easy: when you hear gunshots, you need a plan. School officials have great plans in response to fire and tornado threats. Not only are the plans posted all over the schools and in every classroom, but are practiced at certain times of the year. Did you know that more people are killed by gunfire in our schools than by fires or tornadoes? I think we need to take a look at this and do a better job of preparing our children, teachers, and administrators on what to do if a gunman is in the school. What’s the plan?

School districts review lock-down procedures, but often fail to cover strategies for when a gunman enters a room and starts killing kids and teachers. A lock-down is a sound safety tool and is especially appropriate when a gunman is involved. However, school districts and administrators need to provide a plan for what to do when students and teachers are approached by a gunman.

I know all this is a lot to take in, but I would rather have my six-year-old brother alive. So I researched and shared with my brother and his friends safety techniques that could help them if they were ever faced with a gunman in their school. There are three things kids can do to stay safe. First, they can run, hide, and push tables and desks against the door. Second, they can lie down and play dead. The third survival tactic called “Throw and Go” is the scariest, but nonetheless necessary. Here’s how it works. If a gunman enters the school or classroom and starts shooting at people and there is nowhere to run, the strategy would start with the first person who notices the gunman yelling, “GUN!” Everyone in the room throws whatever is available, as hard as they can, at the gunman’s face, startling him and preventing him from shooting straight. People who may be involved are taught to attack and move the hand of gunman holding the gun toward the ground. At the same time or shortly after, others start to attack and take the gunman to the ground. Students, faculty, and staff are taught to lie strategically on the gunman to maximize the amount of weight placed on the gunman. Also they are taught to place ready-at hand objects such as belts, t-shirts, etc., onto the gunman’s throat, nose, and eyes to disrupt breathing and sight. Once it is determined the gunman is no longer a threat, people are instructed to release pressure to allow breathing but maintain control on top of the gunman until the police arrive.

I know what you are thinking. I am not in any way saying the small and young victims that died tragically at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut should have done this. I am simply giving information that can be helpful for older students. There are so many people who think you can’t teach people to attack a gunman. But if you ask these same people for alternative options, they likely have nothing to offer.

We can at least expect that if the “Throw and Go” technique is used, only some may be hurt and possibly even killed by the gunman. However, we can also expect that if people in the same situation do nothing – lie in frozen fear, afraid to fight to live, the gunman will probably kill everyone in the classroom until stopped. This cannot happen again. People need to be taught tactics to live no matter how scary the situation. What’s the alternative! I never want to see young people or anyone just become a sitting duck.

Mary-Pat Hector

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