Combat Tactics for School Defense?

Are schools learning from the military in protecting classrooms?

I’m probably the last person on earth to discuss military tactics — except for perhaps Hillary Clinton — but I’ve known a couple people over the years. One of them is ex-CIA and one of those unassuming people who could kill you five different ways before you’ve figured out what you want for lunch at Noodles.

Something he mentioned a few years ago was his frustration that schools do not utilize basic military training for defending a doorway. I’m going to mention a few things to kick off the discussion and perhaps we’ll learn something together.

The Fatal Funnel is the area where a shooter is more vulnerable to an action by someone in a room. From a military or police perspective, this is usually the bad guy. In school shootings, it tells us where NOT to position students — in the field of fatal fire.

Which, of course, is exactly what happens when you tell someone to hide under their desk.

In an article for Men’s Health, Alon Stivi (Note 1), CEO of Direct Measures International (DMI), noted that:

If you’re under a desk, waiting for him to come in, you’re dead. But if you or a group of people are waiting on either side of the door, he won’t be expecting that.

Moving students along the walls takes them out of the Fatal Funnel cone and eliminates casualties from someone just blasting from the hallway.

The shooter needs to move into the room to shoot. Quoting from the article:

You make an interesting point in one of your videos, about how when a shooter enters a room, he doesn’t look to his left or right. He’s just looking straight ahead.

That’s correct. I don’t know if you’ve ever been involved with shooting firearms, but when you shoot, you’re looking down that barrel. You’re looking to align your sights with a target. Otherwise you’re not going to hit anybody. That puts you in tunnel vision, or target fixation.

So they’re like a horse with blinders?

Essentially, yes. There’s no other way to shoot effectively. Which, by definition, makes you vulnerable to anything that moves from your side, from behind, from above, or from below.

If the shooter enters the room, you have to do something to defend yourself. Here I completely enter into “Mark’s Opinion” mode so feel free (not as if you haven’t felt free in the past!) to disagree or add to the conversation.

It seems clear that a teacher trained in the use of a weapon has a reasonable chance of stopping a shooter who is untrained at how to clear a room by using the element of surprise combined with sufficient stopping power.

Does this “stopping power” need to be lethal? No and it probably shouldn’t be simply because there might be a potential moment’s hesitation about using lethal force. There are also all sorts of ways to disorient someone who doesn’t have actual combat training long enough to hopefully incapacitate them in some manner.

The most obvious point of vulnerability are the shooter’s eyes which can be affected by turning off the lights, using something like flash bangs, and chemical sprays.

Will this stop all deaths? Certainly not but if it takes additional time for the shooter to select targets, eliminates random shooting deaths, and makes the shooter more concerned about people defending themselves, this gives more time for good guys with guns to arrive.

One other obvious thought — make sure teacher desks aren’t in the Fatal Funnel and turn them into a defensible firing position.

I feel like I should be putting a Homer Simpson cartoon here. Or am I wrong?


Note 1: Alon Stivi is a recognized authority on security, dignitary protection, travel safety, counterterrorism, mass violence prevention and survival. He is certified by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Dignitary Security/Protection and coordinated a broad spectrum of security programs and protective operations in 30+ countries. He has protected fortune 500 executives, elected officials, and dignitaries such as: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Warren Buffet, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mark Rosneck

Written by Mark Rosneck

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