Safety and security can be accomplished if we all learn to READ

 Law Enforcement Today


Safety and security can be accomplished if we all learn to READ

The recent school shooting in Florida at Parkland High School that left 17 dead and many others injured along with past active shooter situations in our educational facilities over the recent weeks, months and years must be addressed.

These events have generated a substantial amount of public outcry and major concerns to school officials and administrators nationwide. These officials and administrators are searching for information on the best evidence-based practices that are needed to create and maintain a safe and secure school environment.

The main purpose of educational facilities is to educate and provide a safe and secure environment for students and faculty members. Because of recent tragic events, we must move rapidly to educate and train the boots-on-the-ground educational community to be prepared to act in a manner that provides for safety and security, in a critical situation, until first responders arrive on the scene.

The first responders and law enforcement agencies provide outstanding service regarding emergency response to active shooter situations, however, an active shooter situation, which unfolds and ends extremely fast, is unique to other emergency situations because of the time span of the event.

Police response time has drastically improved over the years. However, the focus has to be narrowed to situational awareness and threat assessment. Teachers, students, and support staff must be trained in best practice methods to be able to identify, recognize and address all emergency situations.

Active shooter training, drills, and exercises will provide the knowledge and ability to evaluate, assess, address, and readdress any deficiencies in the emergency plan. It is extremely important to keep the emergency plan current by updating as necessary with the latest best practices.

More importantly, we need to look at the proactive approach to reduce these events before they occur in the first place. We (I) have created an acronym for all educational facilities as well as every person in their communities to assist them in pinpointing and reducing any possible threat in their homes, place of business, public events or any large group gathering.

The acronym READ incorporates word association along with memory recall training and awareness techniques that should be available to all school personnel to mitigate any possible threat of violence before they can unfold. Awareness is proactive, being aware of your surroundings at all times.

READ will assist you in being more attentive to your surroundings. Recognize, Evaluate, Address, and Deter, can reduce and help to stop these events before they can occur.

R: Recognize

If your natural senses are heightened, or you get that gut feeling, your senses are telling you something is wrong, alert someone immediately. Some examples of your senses are your eyes or sight, if you see something that does not feel or look right to you, say something to someone of authority. Another sense is hearing, if you hear something from friends, social media, even rumors, tell someone as soon as possible.

We have all had that strange feeling in our stomach about someone or something this should never be ignored. If it does not feel right to you, tell a teacher, a guidance counselor, a security guard, your resource officer, your principal or your parents and more importantly, law enforcement. There is an old saying “better safe, than sorry.” Take the right steps before something happens.

The process leading up to violence is just as evident as an act. A violent statement or statements, small acts or telltale signs of behavior are ways to recognize a possible escalation of a violent event or episode. The behavior may be the culmination of long-developing social and economic problems, family or school conflicts, social or academic failures, or clashes with authority and are all identifiable traits that are recognizable.

EEvaluate or elevation.

Evaluate or the evaluation process needs to be conducted by professionals to assess if the subject is a danger to himself/herself or others. The assessment starts as soon as the first incident has been reported. The first incident, statement, act, action or concern you may have or others may have along with any personal intuition is very important and must be reported to the proper authority for further evaluation immediately. This will assure that proper action is taken to prevent an incident. Evaluation is imperative because it will be the catalyst for addressing the

A: Address

Address the issue, no matter how big or small. Trained personnel in different areas of the assessment process will not only start a written dialogue they will also take the steps necessary to notify all agencies involved to be on alert and to coordinate efforts to prepare for and prevent an incident. In order to effectively address situation, agency personnel, institutions and all authorities involved need to have a plan in place that utilizes the best practices known at that time. By coordinating efforts, it is possible to stop or mitigate any incident before it can come to fruition. Each agency should and will have a contingency plan in place.

D: Deter

Deter the violence from ever happening in the first place.

The R is Recognized by you or me and the E is Evaluated and A is Addressed by the proper personnel or agency. If these steps are followed there is a great possibility that the incident will be Deterred.

If our educational community learns to READ the signs, schools will once again deliver on the promise of a safe and secure environment for our children.


Downs, Scott. “Active Shooter in Educational Facility.” Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 13, no. 4, 2015, pp. 303–326., doi:10.5055/jem.2015.0244

Fein, Robert A., et al. “Threat Assessment: An Approach To Prevent
Targeted Violence.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, doi:10.1037/e517592006-001.

“Threat Assessment for School Administrators & Crisis Teams,” National Association of School Psychologists

Scott Downs is currently an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Briarcliffe College that has been published in the Journal of Emergency Management, as a content expert on Active Shooters Situations. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Saint Joseph’s College and holds a Master’s Degree from the Long Island University- Homeland Security Management Institute that was designated by Congress after 9-11. Scott being a former 4th generation law enforcement officer and former Director of Operations of a national security company combines his educational and real world experience to actively serve both the public and private sectors, as safety and security consultant and instructor. He can be reached at

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