All eyes were on South Carolina for a few hours on Wednesday as the first words of another school shooting spread across the Internet. But attention quickly faded as details became clear: two children and a teacher wounded, the teenage subject already in custody.

That the incident didn’t linger longer on the national stage is a sad testament to how routine school shootings have become. If there are not “enough” deaths, news like the shooting at Townville Elementary barely makes a blip on our collective radar.

But we can all learn a lot from the teachers, administrators and first responders in that small South Carolina town, who acted quickly and selflessly to protect students and subdue the shooter, who had allegedly shot and killed his father just prior to crashing a pickup truck through the fence outside the school.

Some media reports mentioned that the school had practiced safety drills, but the mention was glossed over. Their advance preparation enabled them to respond appropriately to the incident – and once again underscored the twin mandates of having a plan and then practicing.

The difference in this incident, though, was that the shooter struck outside the school. The playground is a much different situation than the classroom – or a football field or an assembly. We tell our clients that it’s important to think through all the situations where students and teachers gather and prepare to deal with those scenarios.

It’s critical to understand the options available in an active shooter situation like Townville Elementary faced. There are three:

  • Secure: Get behind a locked door or some other type of cover or concealment
  • Evacuate: Get away from the area as quickly as possible
  • Confront: Challenge the threat directly

In the case of Townville Elementary, teachers performed a reverse evacuation, getting students inside as quickly as possible. The volunteer firefighter tackled and restrained the shooter before he could follow everyone indoors.

Training and muscle memory clearly kicked in for both the teachers and the first responders, who quickly assessed the situation and chose the best options available to them. Had they not done so, it’s possible the situation would have escalated – and the headlines with Townville Elementary would continue to haunt us for days.

Back to school means new crayons, new backpacks, new teachers, new friends – and new safety drills.

Fire drills have long been a fact of life in our schools. In fact, I dare you to find an elementary classroom where the kids can’t finish this set of commands: Stop. Drop.

Of course the answer is Roll – and of course, that’s what we teach children to do in the event of a fire. Each month, from kindergarten to high school, teachers routinely conduct fire drills. They are engrained in our culture – we conduct fire drills and there’s no fear associated with them.

The same can’t be said of safety drills, though. Increasingly, we are seeing a pushback from schools, teachers and parents who object to practice for sheltering in place or lockdowns. The disparity in response is puzzling – fire can kill as much as gunfire, yet we see a visceral fear when it comes to safety drills that just isn’t there for fire drills.

We are strong advocates for age-appropriate safety drills. It’s less important for kids, particularly younger kids, to understand why they are practicing certain movements than to understand the movements themselves. It’s a case of stimulus-response: When you hear this noise, it means we have to move to this area and be quiet – just as when you hear the fire alarm, it means you have to line up and exit the classroom and then the school quickly and quietly.

When younger kids ask why we are doing a particular drill, it’s OK to be general. We have found it works to tell them that there are some emergencies where to be safe, we have to leave the building – but other times, we have to stay inside to be safe. Framing it as practicing being safe within the classroom is a non-scary way to broach the subject.

Of course, the answer is age dependent. High schoolers will know – and likely have less anxiety over – the reason behind the drills. Even middle schoolers may have some concept of the reasons behind a drill.

For younger children, though, such as daycare, kindergarten and early elementary, safety drills are more designed for teachers to practice and understand the spacing issues. Do all the kids fit in this area? How quickly can I get the door locked?

We recommend that schools practice safety drills at least twice a year. These should consist of:

  • Establishing a simple alert: Schools could use the public address system, but they need to have a back-up of some type, such as an air horn, verbal alert or something that can’t be easily defeated by a technology fail. When it comes to alert, two is one and one is none, so be sure to have a backup.
  •  Recognizing the safe areas of the classroom: We helps schools identify this during the site assessment. They want to pick spots away from doors, our of the line of site from windows and preferably behind a locked or secured door.
  • Understanding what you can physically do: The capabilities of the school will determine the protocol, so it’s critical to understand what the building will and will not do. It’s not enough to say that you have to lock or barricade the door to a classroom – some classroom doors have no locks while others open from the outside. A site assessment will allow teachers to identify the protocol that works best with their facility.

Approaching safety drills in an age-appropriate way ensures students practice the movements they need to respond quickly in a crisis, giving both parents and teachers added peace of mind.

From searing heat to powerful storms to dangerous insects, summer’s extremes present a number of challenges for child care center workers as they manage safety.

Already this summer many across the country have dealt with oppressive heat, damaging storms and devastating wildfires. When evaluating how you will respond to these situations, it is important to keep in mind the unique characteristics of how children react to issues such as heat and multiple bee stings, as well as your own building and geography and climate.

Little kids, especially, are susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. They may say they are not thirsty but that is not always a good indicator of whether they are suffering from the effects of heat. It is important to keep them – and everyone under your care — consistently hydrated.

As far as outside exposure in the heat, licensing requirements often delineate how much shade a facility must offer and the temperature threshold at which children need to stay inside. But you need to make your own common sense judgments, too.

If the temperature threshold for staying inside is 100 degrees and it’s 98 degrees and very humid, making if feel much hotter, then err on the side of canceling outside playtime. There may be minimum requirements for shade, but it may make sense for your center to offer more options. And, of course, when you are outside, every kid needs plenty of sunscreen.

Speaking of playground safety, another factor to keep in mind is dangerous insects. Inspect your playground equipment and other structures as well as the ground for nests for wasps, hornets and other stinging insects. These creatures can build nests quickly so even if you (or a professional) remove one, daily checks are necessary for new or rebuilt nests.

Providers routinely prepare for known allergies to stings but what is hard to account for is the child who has never been stung and doesn’t know he or she is allergic until it happens. For that reason, it is always good to have an EpiPen on site, even if you don’t have any reported children’s allergies.

Storms, of course, present particular issues for those overseeing children. In the summer, two events that require close attention are tornadoes and torrential rain.

First, a general reminder on tornado shelter: Make sure the designated spaces are below grade or interior rooms without large ceiling spans that are more prone to collapse.

Keep in mind that the right place for sheltering from a tornado might not be the same place for another event such as a chemical release. Also, a key point: Make sure the shelter area is one where the kids can actually fit. I have encountered circumstances where the chosen shelter is not large enough to fit everyone. As always, preparation and anticipation ensures a smoother reaction when a crisis hits.

Anticipation also is necessary for the potential of flash flooding. First and foremost, if extreme rainfall is predicted and you know your area is susceptible to flooding, consider a pre-emptive release of kids.

Of course, weather is unpredictable so you also need to have a plan if flash flooding occurs. Sometimes a deluge can literally trap you in your building. As part of your emergency planning, identify the highest areas possible for safely sheltering everyone.

Another natural threat to account for is wildfires. Again, you can do some research online or through other safety entities to find out how prone your area is to wildfires so you can configure your emergency planning accordingly.

If a wildfire does threaten your facility, evacuation plans are specific to the characteristics of the wildfire – namely, try to evacuate upwind of the fire and onto a concrete slab or sidewalk. Why do we recommend a concrete area when we might tell you to evacuate to a grassy area for a building fire? That is because a wildfire’s path is dictated by wind direction and fuel, and its fuel is grass and brush.

The key takeaway from dealing with summer’s extremes is to prepare for what this season can throw at you. While there is an unpredictable nature to many events, there also are many opportunities to predict and prepare to help you ensure a safe environment for children and staff members.

Just this month, we have again watched the disturbing images of innocent people dealing with the trauma of an active shooter situation.

The terrible events in Orlando remind us once again of the current realities in our society. And another shooting incident earlier this month on the UCLA campus reminded me, as a law enforcement and security expert, how much more progress we need to make to properly prepare for these situations.

In the UCLA incident, students and staff members used any objects they could find – desks, chairs, belts – in makeshift attempts to barricade themselves in rooms with doors that do not lock.

It is distressing that those trying to get out of harm’s way were left to try to jury-rig barricades in an active shooter situation. That is not reflective of the world we live in given what happened at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and now Orlando.

I believe strongly that we need to adjust our thinking on security planning so that we are addressing a 21st Century problem with 21st Century know-how and safety features. The time has come to establish building safety standards, backed up by law enforcement inspections, much in the same way we now mandate fire codes and inspections.

The UCLA situation points to a fundamental problem with many emergency plans at schools and other public buildings and institutions – the procedures often do not fit the building’s features.

We regularly see security preparations that call for a lockdown in the event of an active shooter. But the daycare, school or office is often filled with doors that do not lock – just as we saw in those UCLA classrooms. During a threat, it does you no good to have a plan that calls for locking doors when those features do not exist. A threat is not the time to find out the safety plan and safety features do not match.

Security plans must take into account how a building is configured. For instance, if doors don’t lock and open out – some of which we saw at UCLA – then experts need to devise a plan that takes those features into account. Security experts can work around the nuances of a building but the situation needs an honest assessment.

We also increasingly find that considerations for fire prevention and safety are often at odds with considerations for security. In the simplest terms, during a fire, officials want people to get out. During a threat, though, those in law enforcement often want you to stay in place.

Make no mistake, our fellow public safety colleagues in fire departments have done a superb job instituting safety features into public buildings and imprinting fire safety onto our collective psyches. If you’re in a building the fire prevention features are apparent everywhere – fire extinguishers, illuminated “exit signs” and sprinkler systems are just a few examples.

But the time has come for us to put as much thought and practice into security measures for an active shooter as we have for fire risks. We need to address an issue that is part of our lives today and statistically presents more of a risk than other threats, including fires.

If you think about it, fire codes have evolved through the decades to address changing times and safety needs to the point where we have the effectiveness we see today. Security plans are lagging and need to follow suit to catch up with the times. We must find a way to ensure fire codes can co-exist with modern-day security needs.

That starts with adjusting our thinking on active shooter preparations to ensure we aren’t thwarted by the very mechanisms that are supposed to protect us. We need strong standards and good law enforcement oversight for safe buildings. In 2016, we can’t have traumatized people trying to come up with barricades on the fly because they can’t protect themselves from a shooter.

We owe it to our children and to ourselves to make sure proper security measures and a plan are as prevalent as fire extinguishers.

About Jason Russell: Jason Russell is the founder, president and CEO for Secure Education Consultants, a Michigan-based firm that specializes in security plans for schools, child care facilities and businesses across the country. Russell is a former special agent for the U.S. Secret Service, where he worked on protective and investigative assignments, as well as protecting the current president and vice president and former presidents. He leads a team of former Secret Service agents who help clients with security assessments and emergency plans. He can be reached at jason.russell@secureed.com.

For child care centers, summer is a busy time of year for field trips. Most days there are off-site activities planned, whether it’s a trip to a park, petting zoo or nature center.

When you are taking children off site, it’s important to remember that you need a plan to minimize risks and hazards that addresses the circumstances you are facing outside the school environment.

Think of it as a portable emergency plan.

While there are a number of considerations to ensuring your charges are safe, much of the preparedness comes in three areas: Response to emergencies, being ready for children’s needs and keeping track of everyone.

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Response to emergencies:

 A key part of any facility plan is having in place strategies in case of inclement weather. But what will you do if there is a threat of bad weather – or worse, a storm hits while you are at the park or zoo?

You can’t create a response on the fly, particularly since you are outside your environment and often have a number of children for whom you must account. Before you take a field trip, study where you are going and then find suitable evacuation locations – just in case. We recommend finding a nearby fire station, police station or emergency rooms.

It’s not enough to have an idea of where you might go. Determine the navigation ahead of time and have it ready in case you need to evacuate. And don’t forget to have cell phone chargers on hand so that phones are available for quickly retrieving information and calling supervisors or parents as necessary.

Also, be sure to check the weather forecast before venturing out. If storms or other extreme weather are likely, it makes sense to modify plans rather than risk a potentially scary situation for your group.

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Being ready for children’s needs

Some needs are universal for children: Ensure sunscreen and insect repellant are available. Take extra clothes along in case they are needed – such as if there is a sudden turn in weather or kids’ clothes get wet or soiled, as well as water and snacks.

Also, be sure emergency supplies are on hand, which applies to staff members and the vehicle. And ensure emergency medical authorizations are available for students and emergency contacts for parents are updated and with you.

While these are general precautions, some children have specific needs and you must account for them. Ensure that you have every child’s medication, be it insulin or an EpiPen. The latter is especially important in the summer with more outdoor activities and an increased chance of bee stings and the like. Be sure to have a way to keep those medications cool and secure so that kids are safe.

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Keeping track of everyone

This is as daunting as it is crucial when on a field trip.

Take a headcount at the beginning of the trip and share with staff members. Once there, count again. And again. And again. You need to count continuously throughout the trip and then do a double count at departure so you don’t leave anyone behind. It doesn’t take much of an online search to find news stories about children left behind on field trips – and very angry parents waiting for them to return.

Also, be sure you aren’t just counting heads but that you are actually matching up names and faces (and have digital photos of each child). Kids wander, and you could have the wrong kid wander into your group while one of yours is elsewhere.

Use the “buddy system” to assign kids in pairings of two to maintain accountability. Consider using tags or common-colored shirts to help keep the group together – but don’t use names. Have staff members in front of and in back of the group while it’s moving.

Select an easily identifiable meeting spot in case a student or staff members gets lost. If possible, point out to children what a worker at a location is wearing and who is a safe person to approach.

Above all else, make sure everyone is clearly communicating on these trips. Supervisors need to know itineraries. If there are chaperones, communicate expectations clearly with them and make sure you have a way to reach them at all times in case one goes rogue and wanders off with kids – which happens more than you think.

And lastly, be sure to talk ahead of time to the children about expectations, rules and the importance of safety. In the end, adhering to all of these practices ensures you can provide what these are meant to provide: fun, education and great memories.

SEC Founder, Jason Russell, recently sat down with Maranda from WOTV’s “Where You Live” to discuss the rise in school emergency preparedness and the steps parents can take to understand their child’s school’s training and emergency response plan.

You can watch the full interview on woodtv4women.com

SEC President and Founder, Jason Russell, sits down with WWMT NewsChannel 3 to discuss what has been called an epidemic of gun violence in America and the importance of being prepared and properly trained to respond if it ever happens to you.

You can watch the WWMT story and read the article at WWMT.com

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

SecureEd founder and CEO, Jason Russell, speaks with the West Michigan media regarding the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino.  Jason points out that despite the fear these senseless acts cause, there are ways organizations and individuals can train and prepare for such situations.

See the full interviews at fox17online and at wzzm13.com