This paper reviews the lessons that were learned from an effort that used a common industry practice, the Table Top Exercise, as a means for improving the safety and security procedures in public and private schools. The primary focus of this paper will be the sharing of the lessons that were learned from the Table Top Exercises. Eleven categories of lessons learned from exercises that were conducted at elementary, middle, and high schools will be addressed.
This process was developed to address a need to minimize the consequences of terrorism in schools that was identified after the tragic incident at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado. A team comprised of local school representatives, police, fire, emergency medical services (EMS) and industry were assembled to create and implement "Active Shooter" Table Top Exercises for all City schools in Kingsport, Tennessee. The primary customer for these exercises was the school system but a synergy developed early into the process for these groups to become an interactive team.
The first step is the selection of the exercise design team. Representatives from each of the four participating groups are selected along with a facilitator/controller. The group meets to review the exercise process protocol along with the existing policies, practices, and procedures for each of the participating groups. Exercise objectives are then selected from these documents and a master scenario is created which fulfills the scope of the exercise.
An Orientation Seminar is then prepared that will be presented to all participating groups at the same time. This seminar will familiarize the groups with the exercise objectives that have been selected for each group for the Table Top Exercise. The protocol for the Table Top Exercise will be explained and each group will have the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have. The groups are then given a period of time to review the exercise objectives and make any changes to their existing policies, practices, and procedures before the exercise. Changes should be communicated to the individual groups well in advance of the Table Top Exercise. The Orientation Seminar is used so that each group will have an opportunity to understand the scope and expectations for the Table Top Exercise and to ensure that each group has had time to prepare for the exercise.
The master scenario is then adapted to each school. This is accomplished when members of the design team walk through each school to determine strengths and weaknesses of the campus. Floor plans are carefully reviewed along with still pictures and videos of each school. These videos/pictures are then incorporated into a PowerPoint presentation that links them into an easily accessible multimedia format. These pictures and videos are then incorporated into the messages of the adapted Table Top Exercise to enhance the realism of the exercise.