Responding to an incident involving a hostile or angry individual is cause for concern. Hostile people are often unpredictable, causing uncertainty about how to respond to their aggressive behavior. Schools should always have a plan for contacting law enforcement and other emergency services. While each incident is unique and requires modification if the level of hostility increases, there are personal safety considerations designed to make such interventions safer and to de-escalate the threat.
PERSONAL SAFETY PROCEDURES:
- Model control, don’t demand it when approaching a hostile intruder
Maintain a calm, professional demeanor. Demonstrate self-control to avoid increasing anger and anxiety in others.
- Assess as you approach
Approach the hostile situation or person overtly, if approach appears safe.
Disperse crowd immediately. When possible, assign tasks to individuals such as: “Go to the office, request 9-1-1 help, and ask for another teacher to come here.”
- Watch the periphery of the area
Any weapons involved may be passed to intruders on the periphery. Watch for weapons and other problem individuals.
- Listen, listen, listen – Let them talk
If angry individuals are willing to talk, let them whether or not you agree with what is said — it gives them a way to “let off steam” and delays until more help arrives.
- Let them “save face”
Everyone appreciates a way out. Construct your dialogue to encourage this result.
- Work in pairs, when possible
Person 1 makes contact and initiates dialogue.
Person 2 monitors incident while standing about 8 feet from person 1.
- Ensure you have a clear exit
Prior to entering the area, ensure you can leave easily, if necessary.
Never stand with your back to the door.
- Keep your hands free
Avoid carrying anything in your hands, other than a cell phone. It is difficult to appear in control when your hands are not free.
- Identify yourself by name and/or position
Don’t assume this will bring about immediate compliance. It avoids the trigger phrase — “Who do you think you are?” from the aggressor.
- Maintain casual eye contact
While the issue of eye contact has many variables (gender, culture, etc.), it is important to maintain at least casual eye contact.
This allows you to keep a safe distance and discourage direct contact.
- Allow the intruder a clear exit
If the intruder chooses to leave, allow the person to go. Never stand in the doorway blocking the exit.
- If you approach a vehicle
Note the license number and description of the vehicle.
Do not stand in front or behind the vehicle.
Do not stand beside doors or lean in the vehicle.
- If bullets start flying, the goal is to stay alive
Do not move toward an area of gunshots. Principal should move to locked office or control center to communicate with staff and make necessary decisions. When police or firefighters arrive, they are in charge.
Source: Brandywine School District Crisis Response Manual