Training helps parishes, schools prevent, prepare for active shooters

  • Written by Brian LeBlanc
  • Published in Local
School security expert Paul Timm discusses safety topics, including how to handle an active shooter incident, during a September 12 seminar for schools and parishes that was sponsored by the archdiocese’s Catholic schools office. Photo: Brian LeBlanc School security expert Paul Timm discusses safety topics, including how to handle an active shooter incident, during a September 12 seminar for schools and parishes that was sponsored by the archdiocese’s Catholic schools office. Photo: Brian LeBlanc

TUKWILA – Schools and parishes need to cultivate an atmosphere of “see something, say something” to help combat active shooter incidents, a school security expert said during a recent training session for schools and parishes.

Such training is “something all of our principals have been asking for,” said Kristin Dixon, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

The Catholic schools office sponsored “Preventing and Preparing for the Active Shooter” September 12 at St. Thomas Parish in Tukwila. About 150 principals, administrators, priests and staff attended the pair of seminars featuring Paul Timm, author of School Security: How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program.

Besides what to do in case of an active shooter, Timm covered a variety of safety topics: handling a disgruntled person, controlling access to buildings, managing visitors, monitoring playgrounds and other areas and dealing with bomb threats and suspicious packages. He also spoke about emergency preparedness and communication methods, and stressed the importance of paying greater attention to one’s surroundings.

Marti Lundberg, pastoral coordinator at St. Benedict Parish in Seattle, said she found a lot of value in the seminar.

“You’re helping people develop an awareness — it’s easy to do and helps everyone,” Lundberg said. “If a school just implemented these things, it would be a benefit.”

The seminar has inspired St. Benedict’s to consider putting together a safety team to respond to incidents during Masses, Lundberg added.

Since attending the seminar, “I’m a little more alert to my surroundings,” said Susan Roettjer, receptionist at St. Edward Parish in Shelton. Her parish is working with its local police department to offer an active shooter training exercise tailored to the parish facilities, Roettjer added.

After the seminar, when asked how parents and parishioners can get involved with emergency preparedness initiatives, Timm suggested raising the topic with an attitude of stewardship and collaboration.

“I think it’s always a good idea to start with your local administrator and say, ‘I’m interested,’” Timm said. “I think if people know [you’re] concerned and they hear that legitimacy, they’re going to want to involve you.”

Active shooter — What to do?

When an active shooter incident occurs, you have three main options, said safety expert Paul Timm:

  1. Run; evacuate if you can.
  2. Hide in a safe place; go into lockdown.
  3. Fight if your life is in imminent danger.

For additional information, visit the private citizen section of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Preparedness website.