Task Force 101: Lessons In Progress
It has been a little over five months since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and subsequent request for volunteers issued on SOFX Network that resulted in the creation of Task Force 101.
Since that time, a number of former SOF communicated to us that they have been doing something similar: i.e. helping schools to develop more comprehensive active shooter mitigation strategies. These strategies include everything from simply meeting with school officials to personally developed full training programs. Key learnings have been shared by all, which should serve to educate us and guide next steps.
Key Findings Include:
- Schools are hungry for more progressive training and there is an urgent need for the type of training former SOF provide. However, the complexity of such a program starts once the volunteer realizes the need for recurring refresher training that goes beyond what can be provided by a volunteer effort.
- Many people still think of security as internal (looking external) or as a hardening of the school. Most still believe it is all about the plan and the response (the kinetic aspect). This mindset does not take a holistic approach.
- School safety is at its heart a community-based problem, in which a community-based approach is a platform for solution. The Village Stability Operation strategy (VSO) platform offers a partial outline for this approach. Getting persons to understand that the outreach, coordination, and communication with facilities (including business and homes) adjacent to the school is just as important as the execution of a well-designed internal The emergency action plans need to take a more community-integrated approach.
- The school security industry is filled with a wide divergence in quality. This results in a confusing market for school administrators. Security companies typically provide service or products along three dimensions.
The Current State of School Safety Training:
- RUN HIDE FIGHT drills:
- School lock down drills, cover “what to do if” scenarios (typically lock down, & first responder interaction). These are costly and require tons of time and coordination for the school. Schools face a significant financial burden due to overtime, opening facilities, etc. than the security firm or Law enforcement instructors realize.
- This is the most common solution. Lectures are great at explaining theory, showing pictures, and table topping. The commitment typically lasts only a few hours and is very efficient. This is the most appealing to school systems for cost effectiveness. Most rely on the DHS/FBI standard of run/hide/fight.
- Security Hardware and Software Products.
All 3 main courses of action somewhat ignore the opportunity to address the root of the issue. Identification of high probability threats before the crisis.
- Most programs do not train school administrators to realize they are the actual first responders and must solve problems all the way through to post-crisis activities.
- True understating of communication and coordination with all players is key.
- A mentorship program that works with all school staff members in awareness, responses, and reconstitution is a great start for a solution. More important is teaching them early stages of predictive analysis, threat identification, and empowering them to make good sound decisions during crisis.
- There is a market distortion in the type of high-quality leadership and security training that schools require. The costs are far higher than school systems can afford when provided by quality-focused security professionals
- However, increased resources are starting to trickle out:
- And there is a boatload of information resources already in place:
- Resources Detailed here: https://www.fbi.gov/about/partnerships/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-resources
- It is impossible for even the most well-resourced school systems (in terms of amount and quality of School Resource Officers a.k.a. SROs) to adequately address the range of complexity a committed attacker might impose during an attack. An SRO is a great resource for a school, but cannot be expected to be everywhere at once. So the appearance of an SRO provides a false sense of security to most students and administrators
- Providing adequate training, at a minimum looks like about a 40 hour investment per year for the school staff.
- Most emergency action plans, when they exist at all, are planned without reference to the reality of the physical layout of the school buildings. This winds up creating the situation of funneling students into potential kill zones in even the most basic of attacks, much less coordinated, multi-actor attacks
- Most companies that are writing these plans are making the same mistake.
- Most school emergency communication plans leave people in the dark about what is going on at precisely the time when increased situational communication is required to save lives. This is the tactical equivalent of: THE PATROL IS UNDER ATTACK… EVERYBODY QUICK TURN OFF YOUR RADIOS.
- Many communication plans pass miss-information that interferes with the people executing recovery at the facility. Communication plans are not interconnected nor mutually supporting.
Analysis & Next Steps
It is clear that there is an unmet market need for SOF involvement in the design and delivery of security leadership and decision making frameworks in the context of counter-active shooter captured by the TF101 concept. It is also clear that large blocks of money are coming available to address the active shooter problem in schools. At this stage of the game, many former SOF who are security contractors are trying to bid for this work. It is not in SOFX’s interest to ever get in the way of former SOF operators building their businesses. Providing free security consulting and planning would further confuse and degrade an already confused market, further, an unfunded volunteer effort would fall short in delivering the type of comprehensive training and active refresher training involvement required to be successful.
Knowing what we now know, I will now pose the question to the Task Force, what can we do to add value on a volunteer basis? One suggestion is that we create a rough and ready open source body of curriculum that we all contribute to, make available to SOFX Network, and people can use it to either bid for work or at the very least lower the cost to schools since they didn’t have to write an entire 40 or so hour curriculum from scratch.
I don’t have the answer and I ask your suggestions. Please email them to me at [email protected] and we will list them into a project board that we can all look at and discuss.