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Old 18 June 2018, 11:49
Crucible guy Crucible guy is offline
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Follow up on the Sante Fe School Shooting from ALERRT

This is an interesting read. It is also important to have many of the academics understand that no plan survives first contact. The strong point is that because they took the time to train and had familiarity with each other it went better than it could have.


Lessons Learned Close To Home: The Santa Fe Shooting
John Curnutt
Assistant Director, ALERRT

On May 18, 2018 a 17-year old student walked into the Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas wearing a trench coat and carrying two weapons: a .38 pistol and a shotgun. The gunman walked into one of the art classrooms and began shooting. It has been reported that a teacher saw the gunman and pulled the fire alarm immediately before the shooting started to warn the entire campus of what was about to happen.
Instantly students and staff reacted. Some rushing out of the room and others into closets, closing and barricading the door to prevent the gunman from getting in. The gunman fired rapidly in the classroom, then walked over to the closet. He taunted the students inside the closet, then shot through the door and walls. Some students were struck by this gunfire but fared better than those who were caught out in the open.
Classrooms in the immediate area began closing and locking doors. Students helped teachers barricade. One of those students is the son of Officer Troy Dupuy, a Houston SWAT officer and ALERRT adjunct instructor. Troy’s son knew what to do because his dad had taught him. Troy and his son watched the A.D.D. video together and discussed what options might exist in different settings (school, mall, church, etc.). It’s a conversation no parent wants to have with their kid, but one that must be had.
A pair of Santa Fe ISD Officers arrived and attempted to engage the gunman. They had both been through ALERRT active shooter training. As a matter of fact, they’d been through the ALERRT Level 2 (medical) class in this very school only a year before. One of the officers was struck by a blast from the shotgun in his arm, striking the artery near his elbow. The injured officer was pulled to safety by the ISD Police Chief. The injured officer lost a lot of blood already and was becoming a critical patient. A tourniquet was applied to his arm to stabilize him.
For the next several minutes, officers arrived on scene and moved up to where the gunman was barricaded and had been firing at officers in the hallway. One of them was ALERRT adjunct instructor Cliff Woitena. Cliff had been dropping his kids off at school not far away when the call at Santa Fe High School went out. Wearing only a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, Cliff responded to the scene, donned his plate carrier, made his rifle hot and then ran inside the school.
Agencies in the area had been conducting this training for years. Everyone in the area knew the ALERRT instructors well and that instant recognition really helped break the ice quickly between multiple agencies in the middle of it all. Cliff arrived just as the shooter was talking about giving up. The deputy talking to the shooter was remarkably calm and even polite to the suspect, which helped expedite getting him out of the room. At one point, the deputy giving verbal commands had the shooter lay down in front of the doorway. Cliff told the deputy to have the suspect crawl away from the door and come closer to their position. It was almost like the threshold evaluation drill that had been practiced or taught hundreds, if not thousands, of times before by some of them on scene. The suspect was placed in handcuffs and taken from the scene.
Officers then entered the room and began trying to process it all. Processing the room per our textbook approach went right out the window. Frightened, panicked students were just frozen. It was obvious these students were not suspects. They were very compliant. For others, it seemed difficult for them to hear or focus on what was being told to them. The loud gunfire in their room. The intense reality of what they’d just endured overwhelming them. For the officers trying to assess and process the occupants of the room it became good enough to see that all of the students were obviously frightened, none of them had weapons on them and appeared simply to want out of the room ASAP. There was no need to yell at them. No need to point a gun at them. No need for them to kneel up against a wall.
No matter how realistic we try to make our training, nothing fully prepares you for walking through a room full of the carnage that lay at these students' feet that morning. So many kids. With security established in their immediate area, communication with outside units flowing like a river, medical interventions and evacuation plans started working furiously. A critically injured student was picked up and rushed outside to an ambulance that had just pulled up.
ALERRT adjunct instructors Pat Bradshaw, Stephen Antley and Nick Palomo arrived on scene and quickly took teams in to begin locking down critical areas and conducting searches.
Outside, another ALERRT adjunct instructor, Kevin Nichols, had arrived on scene and began to help make sense of the chaos inside the command post. So much to do, no time to waste in doing it all. As resources arrived there had to be a plan on where to send them. Kevin and other ALERRT trained leaders helped filter through the chaotic fog that had descended upon the scene.
Speaking with our friends and colleagues afterwards, the most important lesson relayed to us is the absolute importance of intense, frequent, scenario-based training. Also key is the importance of building relationships with other agencies, other services and other members of the community who’ll play a vital role in the response and recovery of an event like this one. Hosting a class is a big step, but it is not the only step to be taken. It is what the local community of responders, leaders and active community members decide to do beyond that point that really matters. Creating a culture of preparedness instead of simply checking boxes and hanging certificates on the wall.
Some other quick take-aways: More medical equipment in go-bags. If you are going to throw on a plate carrier or LBV, have that medical equipment pre-loaded on that as well. Wearing it on whatever you are going to throw on and go in with is vital. Having mission essential equipment spread throughout your vehicle will result in most of it getting left behind as you arrive on scene and purposefully sprint towards the gunfire. Have it set up for a one grab-and-go rapid deployment.
Clear communication is essential. Whether verbal or non-verbal. Teams of officers split off in all directions to begin the systematic clear of the school after the active attack had been stopped and injured had been transported from the scene. Santa Fe High School had a box located next to the Knox box system that contained detailed maps of the campus, which were very helpful to the TOC/CP to have. There were several locked doors that were never entered and were called “clear”. Be careful the terminology we use and stage folks at strategic locations throughout the building as the search is conducted to maintain history on what has/has not been done. It is important to have command and control, coordination…leadership at some level driving the allocation of resources to the tasks at hand. Traffic direction internally and externally.
There were lots of locked doors that needed to be opened. You should have a way to open them. Keys work well. Breaching tools if you must. Having neither won’t work well. These are not reasons to tell people in these buildings to not lock or barricade doors, by the way. These are reasons for us to communicate and coordinate before an event so we know where to find necessary resources when needed. These are reasons for us to have the right training and tools to make happen what we know needs to happen. Know who you can get keys from and plan with them before an incident so everyone knows where to find those key-holders. The staging area or near the Command Post are good places for building administrators to assemble.
Hospitals need to have surge capacity for these large numbers of injured with these types of injuries. Reunification of students with their families MUST be planned ahead of time, with all stakeholders knowledgeable of the plan or where to direct frantic parents that day. It is everyone’s responsibility to make this happen.
Many have said it already. The attack on Santa Fe High School would have been far worse than it was without the investment made by local responders, the school and the community in the years prior to that day.
I’d like to thank every single one of them. I’d especially like to express our immense gratitude to the instructors in that area for consistently applying pressure for more training and for effective policy and organizational change. It becomes less popular to continue to do so over time, but they did not relent and it paid off that morning.
We are way past wishing these evils acts would stop. If it were that easy, it would have stopped a long, long time ago. What continues to be made abundantly clear is that reality isn’t going to ask us how, where and when we want the nightmare served up to us. It will simply serve it up. It is up to every single one of us, and especially our leaders, to ensure that sufficient investment is being made into this vital community insurance policy.
If there is to be trouble, let us be there. We prepare more than the average person does for this. It’s who we are and what we do. Embrace it. Others are made safer and better off as a result.
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Old 18 June 2018, 16:22
bobmueller bobmueller is offline
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Appreciate your sharing that.
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Old 19 June 2018, 08:24
Doc Roberts Doc Roberts is offline
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Great read, thanks for the share.
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Old 19 June 2018, 08:43
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Doc P Doc P is offline
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"...no plan survives first contact." - But infinitely better than no plan. I hope many agencies read this and other AARs and truly absorb the lessons. Can you share the source link? Would like to share with others.
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