A video was created to show people the Run, Hide, Fight method. See the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4IJA5Zpzz4.

La Grande School District officials are fine-tuning their school district’s response protocol for an active shooter situation. In doing so, they are honing the Run, Hide, Fight strategy their district is

adopting.

The strategy calls for students and staff to first try to escape the building, to hide in a barricaded room if it is not possible to evacuate, and then defend themselves if the active shooter enters the room they are in.

La Grande Police Lt. Gary Bell said they have worked in close partnership with the Union County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police to implement this method. The three law enforcement organizations have sent staff to talk to school administrators and private businesses about how they can enhance security in their buildings.

“We do what we can (to prepare people),” Bell said. “We have shared the concepts and videos from Run, Hide, Fight.”

Bell said the method is very instinctual and a strict plan cannot be made in a situation where there are many unknowns. He said having an escape route and a plan in mind will help, though.

The method helps people in a crisis know how to approach the situation. First, try to get away from the threat, Bell said. If that’s not possible, then hide.

“If the escape is locked or the threat is outside the doorway, the idea behind ‘hide’ is you block (the doorway or entrance), lock the doors and remain quiet. Make sure to silence your cell phones,” Bell said. “If that’s not possible, as a last resort, we really do suggest ‘fight.’ If your life is in imminent danger, then fight. Do whatever you have to do.”

La Grande School District Superintendent George Mendoza said it has not been determined what steps students and staff might use to defend themselves under the Run, Hide, Fight method.

“We want to know what ‘fight’ looks like,” Mendoza said.

The superintendent did not specify what options the school district would consider in terms of defending themselves. Should the school district follow the lead of a many other districts in the United States, it would recommend that students be prepared to toss books, scissors, staplers and even laptops at the shooter to disorient and distract the perpetrator, giving students a chance to escape.

A story in the March 25 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune said this is what students at Valley High School in Escondido, California, are taught to do if an active shooter were to enter their classroom.

This strategy is part of the Run, Hide, Fight plan developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It is an expansion of the lockdown method employed exclusively at many schools in previous years, through which students and staff would barricade their rooms and take cover rather than looking for a way out or preparing to defend themselves.

Mendoza likes Run, Hide, Fight better than the lockdown method because it gives students and staff more means for protecting themselves.

“It provides more options,” Mendoza said.

Bell said how a school implements the Run, Hide, Fight method depends on many factors. For instance, Eastern Oregon University staff and staff at a primary school are going to have different priorities.

“A university with all adults won’t necessarily have that sense of responsibility that teachers would with small children,” Bell said. “The concept gets different when there’s young children.”

Even so, he said, law enforcement recommends the method to all schools, even those with young children. All students should be taught how to behave in an active shooter situation.

“We’ve done fire drills for years in schools,” Bell said. “(Those drills have taught the students to walk) in an organized fashioned to a specific location. That doesn’t necessarily work when you have someone intentionally looking to do harm.”

Mendoza said that in the lockdown strategy, students and staff are more likely to become defenseless targets than if they are adhering to Run, Hide, Fight.

School districts are providing guidelines for responding to an active shooter situation, but Mark Mulvihill, superintendent of the InterMountain Education Service District, said it is important that people be flexible and keep their options open.

“There is no one-size-fits-all,” he said. “Everytime something happens, human beings will be making judgment calls.”

See complete story in Monday's Observer

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