CommCore Blog and News

An Elementary School Teaches us about Crisis Response

The kids at Rancho Tehama Elementary School in Rancho Tehama, CA are safe. Why? Because their school had a crisis plan, they had conducted safety drills, and they knew what to do when a gunman approached the doors and started firing.

It was that scary and that simple. Only one child who crouched inside the school was wounded as the gunman – later killed by police after he had murdered five people and wounded ten others – tried in vain for several minutes to enter the building while shooting through windows and doors.

After Sandy Hook in 2012, scores of schools developed crisis plans. They conducted drills with the hope that they would never have to go into lockdown.

If elementary schools are smart enough to write and drill on crisis plans, why don’t more businesses do the same?

  • Have a plan.
  • Drill, drill, drill. It’s called a fire drill for a reason. Speed is essential in responding to a physical threat in particular. School staff acted almost instinctively without awaiting instructions over the school PA system. Prompt decision-making based on training likely saved lives — surveillance video shows the shooter trying to enter the building just 8-10 seconds after the lockdown was complete.
  • Review and update your crisis plan regularly to adapt to evolving physical, operations and reputation threats. To test your plan’s updates against both predictable and unexpected threats, conduct regular simulations such as CommCore’s PressureTest, recently profiled in a New York Times article.
As the superintendent in Rancho Tehama said, “If we can lock down, the kids can go home safely at the end of the day.”