A retired police officer taught Sioux City Community School District staff what to do in an active shooter or violent situation – something that has been on the minds of many since a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida left 17 students and staff members dead.
Retired Sioux City police officer Chad Sheehan gave them a two-hour lecture Monday on how to respond to a gunman – including preparing to fight back and searching for a way out. Sheehan says school district staff are the real first responders if a shooter entered one of their buildings and his program is designed to teach them what they can do to increase their chances of survival.
“The more you help yourself, the more you’re helping your kids,” Sheehan said to an auditorium full of teachers Monday.
Sheehan said older strategies in situations like “duck and cover” or “going and hiding” are ineffective because they turn the victims into passive, easy targets. But the strategies he presented, which also include shelter in place and staying aware, help foster a survivor first mindset, he said.
Sheehan founded the S.A.V.E Yourself program. The acronym stands for “survive a violent encounter” and “shelter in place, awareness, violence stops violence and evacuate.” He said, if a victim has the ability to run away from the threat, that's what they should do.
“If you can get out, get out. If you can’t run and get away you should probably start thinking where you can barricade yourself – shelter in place – and start creating barriers to keep the threat away from you as long as possible,” said Sheehan before the training.
He continued, “While you shelter in place, I recommend you either look for a secondary evacuation or you prepare yourself to fight back as a last resort.”
Jamie Bratvold teaches math at West High School in Sioux City. She says the February school shooting in Florida has made things more real for her, and the local training was empowering.
“It was a great reminder of letting your 'mama bear' come out in a time of need and not being afraid to unleash the protector inside of us and to do whatever it takes to keep our kids safe,” Bratvold said.
If a shooter came to her school, Bratvold said she would use objects in her classroom as weapons to help protect herself and her students.
While visiting with staff last year, Superintendent Paul Gausman learned many wanted more training in the event of a crisis in the district. Gausman acknowledged the frequency of “school incidents” has grown around the nation.
“We still know, however, that schools are the safest place for students during the school day and while we’re in session,” he said. “Unfortunately we’ve just had a little more frequency of these coming forward.”
After the Parkland high school shooting, the district held meetings with the community to explain how they train staff, what they do to keep buildings safe and how they would communicate with them in a crisis.
Gausman said the district has made other efforts to foster a safer environment, including forming strong partnerships with local and county police and reconstructing parts of school buildings.
This is the fourth time the district has done this training.