Students, psychological effects, and active shooter training

Dotan Sagi

In today's reality, shooter scenario training is essential for us to prepare students and staff members for a potential worst-case scenario. 

As much as fire drills, bomb threats, hurricanes, and real-life earthquake simulations are essential and proven to have good outcomes, things tend to be different in active shooter training.

These realistic simulations tend to be psychologically harmful to students and are not proven to prepare our children or staff for crisis situations.

Most districts deal with these threats by developing a school EOP (school emergency planning) built upon preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation & prevention steps.

These protocols are usually revised each time there is an exercise, but we sometimes forget the negative impact these drills have on children at their development stage.

Maintaining crisis readiness while avoiding negative psychological effects on students.

To be best prepared for an active shooter event, school administrators sometimes replicate real-life events by adding masked actors dressed as shooters, using blank ammunition, and even putting makeup to imitate injuries, adding to the realism of the training.

As much as these types of training may have good results, they also increase anxiety, stress, and depression among students who may have had unfortunate related experiences or were exposed to online graphic content or social media sources revolving around such events' outcomes.

Even without the theatricality, such sessions are time-consuming.

There are different ways to achieve similar outcomes, such as tabletop exercises or other real-life training methodologies.

Even so, there are only so many times one can perform these events, as they take time away from the trainers, staff, and students going through their everyday routine.

Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, crisis management is no longer as time-consuming as before. It is done locally or remotely, resulting in valuable insights on readiness, resilience, and event-based interactions between players with digital training simulations.

These tools are within a hand's reach of active shooter training consultants and could prove helpful to them, district offices, schools, and students' well-being.

Tabletop emergency exercises, digital and post-exercise evaluations

Digital solutions have changed the way the world operates nowadays.

Much like the car replaced horseback riding and chariots, digital solutions provide us with data-based insights, save us time and money, and as in this case, avoid stress and other adverse outcomes for our students and staff.

Building such simulations is much easier than many think and is very similar to how things work in everyday life:

  1.  Start by developing attainable and well-defined objectives.

The first step to success is understanding what you want to achieve. This is critical as it will determine your entire planning process (including selecting exercise participants and developing scenarios).


  1. develop scenarios that validate your objectives and engage relevant personnel.

Your exercise objectives should underpin the entirety of your exercise planning process. The exercise scenarios you develop should create situations in which the participants are exposed to real challenges they'd face in their real lives and provide the space participants need to take on these challenges with the same resources and methodologies they'd leverage in their work environments.



  1. Emphasize learning and testing before, during, and after the exercise

Tabletop exercises frequently function as training sessions that enable a "break from routine," yet the lessons learned often become distant memories once the exercise is complete. It is essentially the responsibility of the exercise planner to build the organization's capacity to learn from its exercises and improve its performance. Hence, having a digital recording of everything saves time and is always available to you.

So by using up-to-date digital solutions, it is easy to access data, see what happened where and when, and figure out how to revise and improve the protocol.

Now, as much as digital solutions are fantastic, today, we also have AI-driven systems that analyze the entire scenario, identify the problematic areas, and provide you with insights for improvements.

Re-evaluate active shooter EOP protocols

The saying practice makes perfect is very accurate. 

The more training sessions you have, the more likely you will be able to identify what needs fixing and how we could perform optimally next time or in real life.

The question is - how many realistic training sessions can you perform in a given time?

Wouldn't it make more sense to perform multiple daily sessions in a digital environment? Or perhaps you have spare time to enjoy the fresh air and the workout? If so - I envy you:)

EOP validation is what takes an actual event from tragedy to damage minimization.

Choose the best tool for your students, staff, district, or clients.

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