Every single year of my public educational career, my classmates and I always knew what was coming. Not the subject material, nor the amount of homework some teachers may give, but the drills the school would perform to practice our safety quota.
Fire drills. Tornado drills. Lock-in drills. Evacuation drills. Rarely, if at all, were any of these drills ever held for real situations. Unless you count a college freshman cooking Easy Mac in the dorm microwave without adding water.
It’s smart to know what to do if anything bad were to happen, to be prepared in where to go and do when fear could so easily take over and completely numb us. If we were ever to be in danger, we must be informed as to how to best protect ourselves and others.
Except there is now a huge discrepancy in the effectiveness in these regularly scheduled practice drills. And it’s not just that when people know it’s for practice, they don’t actually take it seriously. That’s a whole problem of its own, one I’m guilty of myself and wouldn’t know the answer to without leaving everybody paranoid and panicky.
No, the problem here is that our traditional drills do not address a growing occurrence becoming far too common: active shooters. Gun violence of any kind. The fact that I cannot count the number of gun-related crimes and terrorist acts I’ve heard about in this past month alone is scary. With all that our society has endured, with all of the information we receive, we are no longer fazed by a shooting in a public space.
I am lucky enough to have never considered how to handle such a risk, but that is enough to scare me. To think if I was caught in the line of a gun and would have no idea how to safely react is scary, especially if the risk affects other innocent lives. Not once have I been in a public space, whether that’s a school, church or wherever else, and someone mentioned how to handle an active shooter.
I mean, ideally, we shouldn’t even have to face this problem. We should have gun laws that prevent deadly weapons falling into the wrong hands. But the issue of gun violence is not a new phenomenon. Ever since Columbine, gun violence hit the forefront of our lives, a possibility that may strike anywhere and affect anybody at any time.
So it only makes sense that we prepare ourselves and others about how to respond, the lessen the initial frenzied panic that may ensue at the sound of a gunshot. No matter where we may be, we can know we’re doing the best we can to stay safe. Rather than paranoia from including the drill into the swing of the routine, it should provide greater comfort knowing that you’re educated and aware.
Because not having this education available and required for people to learn is a crime in of itself. We should know by now that ignoring our problems do not make them disappear. They only allow those problems to flourish further. If we are at a standstill creating policies that decrease overall gun use and ownership, then the least we can do is prepare our lives accordingly. Having a gun-filled country leads to a greater risk for misuse. The more often we see gun-related crimes, the less we respond to them and the more approachable they are for those wanting to wreak havoc.
Luckily, Homeland Security does have information regarding this topic available. Unlike other dangers, active shootings are quick, only ten to fifteen minutes. That means that whoever is nearby must think and act quickly, and the best way to do so is to have the procedures and drills as common knowledge.
Evacuate. If you can’t, hide out somewhere. If you can’t hide, then take action, at least until law enforcement arrives. The police are the only ones who can effectively stop the situation, leaving victims vulnerable for those precious minutes. Just like any other dangerous situation, no active shooting will look exactly the same, but relying upon history and patterned behavior is a starting point.
I cannot predict the future, but if it looks anything like present day, then gun-related violence is an epidemic here to stay. We must adjust our safety precautions and priorities to fit this growing problem, a problem that has become a prominent thread in the fabric of American society. But the most powerful we should have is our knowledge. Our instinctual drive to protect each other. Our desire to know about the world around us.
Drills or gun restrictions. One or the other is necessary, unless we want to continue down the downhill spiral we’ve been seeing exponentially growing for years. We must pause and think for just a moment and realize this reality, the lives already lost, passing tragedies we have yet to learn from. So let’s learn. Let’s do something. I don’t want to be a sitting duck for the next violent incident. Of course we cannot prevent all violence, but ignorance will certainly fire back against us.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie