How To Prepare Yourself For Terrorist Attacks On Our Schools By Chuck Remsberg, Senior PoliceOne Contributor
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[Editor’s note: In previous installments, we documented the plans of Islamic terrorists to murder hundreds of U.S. school children, as reported at a recent anti-terrorism conference sponsored by the International Assn. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI), and we summarized counter measures proposed by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.
In this final report, we explore recommendations of another conference speaker, Todd Rassa, a trainer with the SigArms Academy and a member of the advisory board for The Police Marksman magazine. We conclude with Grossman’s suggestions of what LE agencies can do to defend our schools despite current budget restraints.]
Trainer Todd Rassa considers active-shooter training, which is now being embraced by more and more departments, as “a good start,” but he warned that much more is needed to adequately protect our children from terrorist attacks on schools. Here are some of the items he enumerated for a conscientious “to do” list:
1. Train every patrol officer in bomb awareness, crowd management, riot control, ballistic shield tactics, team firing drills and other response skills likely to be needed for a mass school takedown. Responsibility for an immediate effective response will most probably fall heavily on street cops, given the activation time for most SWAT teams.
2. Proper equipment needs to be readied. “Patrol rifles are needed now-as many as possible with as much ammunition as possible,” Rassa stressed. Also ballistic shields, helmets and other protective devices for every officer. Have a plan in place to get large amounts of additional ammo to the scene ASAP. Soft body armor may prove inadequate, but extras should be available anyway in a better-than-nothing effort to protect fleeing hostages by draping vests and ballistic blankets over them. Armored transport vehicles may prove crucial. Less-lethal rounds may be useful for crowd control, but will be futile to attempt against terrorists.
3. Work with school officials to anticipate problems and realistically rewrite their emergency plans. “They are not going to fix themselves,” Rassa predicted. Cross-train with school personnel and consider involving community leaders with training on crowd-control tactics and intel collection. Manpower and tactics will be needed to handle “outraged, violent parents” if a siege develops. SROs, who likely will be targeted by terrorists as first casualties, need training on “surveillance awareness, including real-life testing of school security” by would-be invaders.
4. Expand your active-shooter training to include “large, complicated, multi-adversary scenarios and exercises,” Rassa urged. Practice against a booby-trapped environment, simultaneous attacks from multiple levels, ambushes from the rear. Rehearse tactics for CQB with both pistol and rifle. Also practice counter-assaults on school buses. “What if terrorists hijacked a couple of buses and drove them into a school? What if they hijacked several and spread them out across your town?”
5. Incorporate suicide-bomber shooting drills into your firearms training for every officer. That should include “practicing head shots from a distance with a pistol after running.” Build the ability to shoot while moving into your qualifications. Also integrate self-defense DT into firearms training-“blending two important worlds that usually never meet.” Even consider training with AK-47s and other “exotic” weapons that may be in your property room, on the chance you may have to use the weapons of neutralized terrorists if yours run empty.
6. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with your schools. Videotape them inside and out and collect and review floor plans, making sure they are kept up to date as remodeling projects take place. Work with schools to get classroom numbers put on street signs and mounted on the exterior. Also check to see if computers in your squad cars can be made compatible with CCTV cameras inside the building, so you can tie in to what’s going inside in event of trouble.
7. As a parent, you may want to falsify your occupation on school records so your child will not be easily identified as a desirable hostage.
8. And, of course, stage frequent incident-command training and exercises, so multiple jurisdictions and multiple disciplines (fire, police, EMS, city services, etc.) learn the importance of putting political egos and turf wars aside in the interest of saving children’s lives.
Agency actions that don’t take $$$
Dave Grossman, the well-known author of On Killing and On Combat , concluded IALEFI’s excellent conference with suggestions of how LE agencies can improve their protection of schools without further straining already tight budgets.
1. Encourage officers always to carry off-duty. Always. No one can predict where a given officer might be when terrorists strike. What if you were off-duty on a visit to your child’s school; would you have the primary life-saving tool of your profession with you? Remember, Grossman said, “One person behind cover with effective fire can hold down a whole company of invaders for 5 minutes” while help arrives.
“If we stop them dead in one school and kill them before they kill kids, that will convince the country that we can fight back. If they fail in one school, that will undermine their plan.
“If you walk out off-duty without your gun, every time you pass a fire exit or see a fire extinguisher, say to yourself, ‘Firefighters have made more preparations than I have.’ Plant the seed with other officers. Once you tell them, they can’t not think about it.”
2. Exploit opportunities to expand your equipment inventory.
* Many cash-strapped agencies now encourage officers to buy and carry their own rifles on duty. If certain standards and training are maintained, that’s a quick way to strengthen your counter-force.
* Officers should also be encouraged to prepare and ride with “go bags” that can be slung over their shoulder as they head into a crisis. Loaded with backup boxes of pistol and rifle ammo, these can be comforting safeguards against running dry in a firefight, where “three magazines can easily be burned up in less than a minute.”
* Get the name and phone number of every private owner of a helicopter in your area and coordinate with them ahead of time a plan for pressing their chopper into service in an emergency. Even news agencies might be willing to cooperate if promised “great footage” in exchange for transporting officers to a siege site.
“There will be gridlock chaos on the ground within moments wherever an attack comes,” Grossman said. “Helicopters can be great for getting firepower in and wounded out.” Practice hovering over schools and landing personnel on the flat roofs that most have.
* Envision fire hoses as “crew-served weapons.” At a terrorist scene, hoses can be used not only “to put out fires that may be caused by booby traps” but can also “knock a combatant out of a window 50 yards away-an incredibly effective weapon.”
A firefighter directing the hose can be protected behind two officers holding ballistic shields and two officers behind the shields with rifles, Grossman suggested. Obviously, this tactic requires practice well before it’s needed.
3. Build the right mind-set in your troops.
As a police officer, “you have to have your heart and mind ready,” Grossman said. “In our nation, the military is not coming to save your kids. You are the Delta Force. It’s your job to go in like thunder when they come to kill your kids and destroy your way of life.
“Get training-all you can. Advance steadily along the warrior path. Live life in Condition Yellow, vigilant readiness. Cultivate hobbies that reinforce your survival skills.”
He conjured a bumper sticker that says: “Piss on golf. Real Americans go to the range.” “We don’t have time for childish pursuits,” he declared.
“Most people in our society are sheep. Wolves will feed on them without hesitation. Anyone who thinks there are no wolves is in denial.
“You are the sheepdog, the protector. When bad stuff comes, the sheepdog is prepared, even eager. If you are not ready, who is?”