Managing a Hostage Situation

The Teacher in the Classroom Should: 1. Evaluate the situation. Can this person be approached or controlled without the use of force? How many individuals are involved? What kinds of weapons do they have? What is their demeanor? Is negotiation an option? 2. Isolate the perpetrator from other innocent bystanders or potential victims. For example, ask the perpetrator to come to another location or attempt to dismiss his audience. 3. Secure the perimeter. It is important to prevent other students, staff, or visitors from entering the high risk zone. 4. Evacuate the area. Individuals who can be safely removed from the vicinity should leave. 5. Remain calm. The more intense the situation, the greater the need for calmness. Advising someone to remain calm is much easier than putting that calmness into practice; however, it is critically important to avoid escalating the incident's intensity. 6. Get help immediately from whatever source is possible. This may involve calling the principal, another teacher or staff member, the school police, or law enforcement. Law enforcement is the ideal choice when a serious weapons/hostage situation is unfolding. 7. Report the incident to law enforcement. A gun on campus is not simply a disciplinary matter. It is a criminal offense. Law enforcement officials who are trained in disarming individuals should be involved. 8. Negotiate, if possible. Sometimes you may not have the opportunity to negotiate. However, if you are still talking, most likely you will have an opportunity to buy some time. Find out what the individual wants. However, do not make promises you cannot deliver. Tell them that you will see what can be done and then work towards that end. Your commitments must be perceived as sincere and believable. 9. Avoid heroics. Don't threaten or intimidate. Keep a safe, non-intimidating distance. Keep your hands clearly visible. Avoid abrupt, sporadic movements. 10. With caution, ask the student or the intruder to give you the gun. Amazingly, individuals will often do what they are asked. Be careful -- they may actually give you the gun in a way you did not expect. 11. Look for a place to dive or jump. Your negotiations may not always be effective, be thinking about a potential escape plan for yourself and others. The Administrators Should: 1. When notifying the police about a firearm incident, advise them to use a code word on their radio communication so that parents or others who may be monitoring the police channel will not become alarmed and begin flooding the school with calls or with their presence. This can also be important to insure that the media does not arrive at the campus before the police. Any information that is placed on the local airwaves could create further crisis problems for the district. 2. School officials should utilize any two-way communications capability that may exist between the front office and the crisis scene. Being able to monitor what is happening over the intercom system can be very helpful. 3. Notify other classroom teachers over the intercom or PA system so that they will know what to do, e.g. either to evacuate or to secure their rooms. 4. If student or teacher are to hold their position, they should be advised to stay away from windows, drop to the prone position, take cover, and wait for the all-clear signal. Closing curtains or blinds, if it can be safely done, may be another option to make it more difficult for a gunman to know there are additional potential hostages. Keep the blinds or windows open in an area where the hostage situation is taking place. This will help law enforcement in monitoring the situation. 5. Once law enforcement has been called, someone from the school should stay in continuing communication with them to advise law enforcement officials of new developments. 6. Someone from the custodial, maintenance, or support staff should be assigned to secure the building doors so that other individuals will not complicate the crisis scene by their presence. They should position themselves in a safe place where they can maintain two-way radio communication with the rest of the emergency response staff. 7. Law enforcement officials should be met at a predesignated location so that they can be promptly escorted or directed to the crisis area. A campus floor plan should be available. 8. When the student who allegedly has the weapon leaves the classroom, the classroom should be secured so as not to allow the individual to return. 9. Identify a safe place or room on the campus where the individual may be safely interrogated or interviewed. 10. Once the police have arrived, the teacher will be instructed to have the individual with the weapon report to a specific location or office. If the individual refuses to go to the designated area, school officials will work with law enforcement to develop a back-up plan which may include further evacuation of individuals within the affected crisis area as well as procedures for disarming the perpetrator. 11. A continuum of options should be developed which begins with the exercising the least amount of force, up to and including deadly force. Unquestionably, deadly force is not the objective; however, procedures should be in place for considering that option when no other alternatives are available. Officers and support staff should be strategically placed to effect this plan. 12. Once the perpetrator has been asked to leave the room, at least two officers should be strategically placed near the doorway so that the individual can be subdued by their arms in such a way as to preclude them from reaching or using any weapon. 13. The individual should be advised as to why the search is being conducted. The individual should then be thoroughly searched in accordance with reasonable 4th Amendment guidelines and appropriate school district procedures. 14. Any weapons that are found should be turned over to law enforcement. 15. Once the situation has been safely resolved, the "all clear" signal should be announced over the PA or intercom system. These guidelines may not apply in every situation. The materials are provided by Dr. Ronald D. Stevens, Director, The National School Safety Center, in conjunction with Teacher's Safety, a teleconference inservice for educators; from The Teacher's Workshop.

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