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Recently, the role of an educator has extended beyond imparting knowledge to our youth. Teachers must also create a secure and conducive learning environment. Whether fair or not, this includes protecting them from outside threats that wish to do them harm. Through many years of teaching Active Shooter Survival Training to schools across the country, I know many teachers and school administrators who are greatly frustrated by the regulations and requirements put in place, that protect from fire (though a child hasn't died from a fire since 1958) but do not assist teachers in a more likely threat scenario. Even more confusing, the standards are not consistent from state to state, at times, not even county to county, which begs one to question their safety validity.
Grappling with red tape and other hindrances can challenge a school's ability to protect what is inside its walls. Harnessing unconventional tools to help our educators fortify themselves, their classroom, and their students, all while abiding by fire codes, building codes, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines and more can be the most challenging part. In this article, I am going to provide you with some innovative solutions to help safeguard our educators and their students from unforeseen threats that may be lurking.
During my time as a SWAT Officer, many of us carried this piece of equipment on our kit. Its versatility allowed us to secure doors both open and closed. The Wedge-It is compact, affordable, and lightweight, without compromising effectiveness.
Teachers will find the Wedge-It to be an individual tool for barricading doors. Though the Wedge-It is marketed as a tool to hold doors open at a 90-degree angle (as indicated below), I have used it for years as a reliable door barricade. Simply place the Wedge-It under the door and then tap it into place with your heel or a tool. It will efficiently barricade the door no matter the floor surface due to its Thermal Plastic Rubber addition, without causing significant damage to the door. However, if you ever need to barricade your door, who cares what damage it could cause!
Fire Marshal regulations typically do not allow permanently affixed apparatuses to the building/foundation, which is another reason the Wedge-It is a viable barricading option. It easily fits into your pocket or purse and weighs less than 3 ounces because it is crafted from durable polycarbonate plastic. The Wedge-It is made in multiple vibrant colors, making them easily located under stress. They also have a loop you can utilize to affix a carabiner or paracord to hang on the wall next to the door. Best of all, it is 'Made in the USA'.
According to research conducted on active shooter incidents, on average, if you can prevent a shooter from entering a room for about 30 seconds, they will move on. The shooter knows that they have limited time to kill or injure as many people as quickly as possible to gain notoriety for their actions. They do not want to waste, what little time they have, attempting to gain access into one classroom. A simple, small, inexpensive tool like the Wedge-It can bypass the red tape schools have to endure while effectively preventing an attacker from entering the classroom.
You can also read how the Wedge-It is a useful tool for traveling here.
When it comes to locks that can be installed on a classroom door, TeacherLock excels. TeacherLock is designed to work on a variety of school doors, locks, and handles. It is an ADA, building code, and fire code complaint. It is easy to install and can be engaged with a simple press. The engineers at TeacherLock developed two different lock options to be code-compliant dependent on the local area codes and are compliant in ALL 50 STATES.
As I have discussed many times before, under stress, fine motor skills can be impaired during a stressful incident. A traditional key to lock/unlock a door is impractical, time-consuming, and may not prevent an attacker's entry. I have personally tested the TeacherLock and it is the easiest, most efficient, and code-compliant option on the market. The TeacherLock is made of tough aircraft aluminum construction and has a single-function operation. Making it easy and quick to use under stress, fortifying a classroom quickly and efficiently, while giving the teacher more time to hide students, turn off the lights, and prepare to fight.
GO GUARDED HANDHELD
The GO Guarded handheld gives an individual a sharp blade without the need to carry a knife in locations where knives may not be allowed. Go Guarded makes a heavy-duty glass-reinforced nylon blade, which is covered by a safety breakaway material. The safety material covering the blade flexes out of the way when the blade is engaged without having to manually remove it. They are light and easily carried in a pocket, purse, or otherwise on your person. If God Forbid, an attack develops into a physical altercation, this tool can assist in leveling the playing field.
Regarding an active shooter situation, shooters are cowards with guns. They are purposefully choosing locations that are considered "soft targets", meaning they are not protected and typically do not allow firearms on the premises. They choose these locations because they want victims who are not able to effectively defend themselves. If you must fight back, it is better to use a tool, whatever the tool may be, to meet their violence with extreme violence. With that being said, while utilizing any tool in a self-defense situation, the tool is only as good as the violence you're willing to put behind it. Simply put, a tool used to penetrate needs aggressive force placed behind it or it will just piss the attacker off more.
Another positive aspect of the Go Guarded handheld is the ability to carry a small pepper spray in the device as well, giving you multiple tool options to deploy in self-defense. The Go Guarded products are cost-effective, lightweight, easily concealable, and can be accessed in locations where other self-defense tools may not be permitted.
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SABRE PEPPER SPRAY
We've all seen a video or real-life encounter of the effects of pepper spray on an individual. If you haven't had such an opportunity, let me quickly explain what pepper spray does to the human body. OC (Oleorisin Capsicum) pepper spray is made from the resin of chili peppers and causes intense burning and watering of the eyes, skin, and nose, temporary blindness, severe sinus discharge, and involuntarily forcing your eyes shut. The effects can last 45- 60 minutes. Note: The effects can be re-engaged later when you try to shower (yes, I was the victim of this during the police academy). A benefit of pepper spray that a penetrating tool does not provide is distance. The use of pepper spray provides an advantageous distance from the threat that a penetrating tool does not, offering additional time to react and respond to the threat.
I recommend Sabre Pepper Spray because they use the highest level limit of OC, equivalent to police officer levels, and verify their product's potency through independent laboratory testing. this ensures effectiveness and guarantees the effects you expect in a flight for your life. Additionally, pepper spray is legal in every state but check with your local school district to determine if there are any restrictions.
TASER BY AXON
I carried a TASER device my entire police career and, after leaving, learned of a civilian device made by the same company I relied on as a police officer. I witnessed and experienced the effects firsthand of what a TASER device can do and am a huge advocate for this product.
The TASER by Axon closely resembles the police TASER device but is specifically developed for civilian use. They both deliver an electrical current through the body that induces a complete muscle lock-up and intense psychological response of extreme pain, with a 15-foot range and assisted targeting. Meaning, that upon successful cartridge discharge, the threat will be immobile and experience an intense pain that will cease once the cycle is complete. Oh, and it also leaves scars where the electricity enters your body (I still show scars to people inquiring about safety tools to this day because it works).
The primary difference between the civilian and law enforcement devices lies in the duration of the cycle. While a single trigger press for law enforcement entails a 5-second cycle, the civilian version extends this period to THIRTY SECONDS! Having experienced a 5-second cycle as a police recruit, I can attest those were the longest 5 seconds of my life. I can not imagine the intensity and pure horror of a 30-second cycle, which provides a significantly extended period to seek help and flee from the assailant. The Axon TASER provides the Safe Escape Replacement where they completely replace your device at no cost, should you ever fire it in self-defense.
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Ultimately, anything can be used as a tool to defend yourself and your students. Police Officers carry a belt around their waists with multiple tool options. These tools assist them in being able to successfully handle a threat at any force level. If officers were to fight fair, they would lose more often than they would like to admit. Tools assist in leveling the playing field against an attacker, who typically is utilizing a tool as well. Whether it is a chair, scissors, or a fire extinguisher, anything can be used to meet the attacker's violence with greater violence. Find a place in your mind to flip the switch and do whatever it takes to survive. These cowards won't know what hit them!
I hope this article helped alleviate some stress regarding classroom safety and provided you with some alternative classroom safety ideas. Always check with your school's regulations and codes to confirm the options above are permitted in your district. You can also check your school resource officer or reach out to me. I would love to help in whatever way I can. Remember this, something is always better than nothing! Even a ruler, screwdriver, or fire extinguisher used the right way can save the day.
Blair, J. Pete, et al. “Active Shooter Events and Response”. CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group. 2013.