Training to deal with an active shooter. That idea is a buzz word, if you will, in political circles as well as in law enforcement circles, teacher circles, and on the minds of everyday Americans, especially gun owners who have a desire to protect the innocent people around them.
But like many subjects, active shooter training comes in a few different “flavors.”
Much, maybe most, active shooter training focuses on specific scenarios as they try to be “reality-based.” But is that really what you want in your training?
Daniel Modell says that it’s not. Modell writes,
For psychologists, the focus [in “reality based” training] was and is “[stress] inoculation.” For Law Enforcement trainers, the focus was and is “stress.” In practice, for law enforcement, the concept devolved into heaping stress onto trainees with little regard to anything else. Stress became an end in itself—and the more elaborate and wild the stress, the “cooler” and “more real” the training. “Ready, stress, go!” became the clarion call of the high-octane trainer. The problem with this approach is that it contradicts the premise of stress inoculation. Heaping stress on trainees does not magically prepare them. On the contrary, it deepens the tendency to inaction and pathology. Proper training can and should empower.
Put simply, you don’t want active shooter training that is going to focus on increasing your stress levels under the mistaken assumption that training with higher stress levels will help you to handle stress better in the heat of the moment. The result of that type of training is the exact opposite of the intention.
There is a type of training, though, which works in helping people perform effectively in these types of high-stress situations. Again, from Morell:
By contrast, lockdown drills, as fire drills and evacuation drills, can be very effective precisely because the drills focus on developing simple, fluid mechanics in prescribed contexts. The basic mechanics, reinforced by regular practice, support action against stressors that would otherwise overwhelm a mind asked, in effect, to improvise its way through the chaos. Just as with fire drills or evacuation drills, lockdown drills should be conducted with a focus on calm, deliberate action. And they work. Where employed, lockdowns have provably impeded killers from gaining access to victims. Training “scenarios” should do essentially the same thing. They should focus on developing mindset and mechanics in tightly scripted—not improvised—exercises designed to train, not test, such that action becomes “second nature” rather than frozen. Fire drills would never have worked if, while practicing the mechanics of calm, orderly evacuation, administrators ran about with flame throwers screaming “Fire! Fire! The fire is going to get you!” But Active Shooter training for civilians—including children—teems with that loony sort of drama.
Put simply: you want active shooter training that tells you the steps to take and trains you in taking those steps so that you can perform them in the high stress environment of an active shooter situation. You want training that focuses on skills and drills, not on scenarios.
So, if you decide to look for active shooter training, look for training that focuses on what actions to take and drills those actions because the stress is going to be there in that situation regardless. What gets you to take action is having drilled those actions enough times that your mind can do them even when you have difficulty thinking clearly due to the stress.