When an active killer targets a school, the standard protocol is to wait for law enforcement to arrive on the scene to stop the violence.
In 2013, that protocol started to change for many schools in Ohio and other states with the introduction of the FASTER Saves Lives program, which provides lethal force training and medical response to teachers and staff members.
Now, after five years, FASTER Saves Lives has trained 1,091 school teachers and staff members from 225 districts in 12 states. This includes teachers and staff in 76 of Ohio's 88 counties. Before the end of the year, the program will also provide "Trauma Medicine for Active Killer Events" training to another 200 staff.
Teachers in Tuscarawas County and the surrounding counties of Holmes, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Carroll and Stark received the training.
Sponsored by Buckeye Firearms Foundation, the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response training provides school staff with the knowledge, mindset, and skills to stop an active killer and start treating the injured.
Created by concerned parents, law enforcement, and nationally-recognized safety and medical experts, FASTER Saves Lives is a groundbreaking, nonprofit program that gives educators practical violence response training.
Funded by donations, classes are provided at no cost to school districts. The core program offers a carefully-structured curriculum offering over 26 hours of hands-on training over a 3-day class that exceeds the requirements of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
The purpose is not to replace police and EMTs, but to allow teachers, administrators, and other personnel on-site to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately.
"When we started, it never occurred to me that it would continue beyond the first class," said Jim Irvine, Buckeye Firearms Foundation Chairman. "Even in the second year, we were still training 'gun people,' most of which were still in the process of begging their boards of education for permission to carry firearms. Today, participants are selected by schools administrations, who ask us to train key people."
Law enforcement has become an important partner. Many school resource officers (SRO's) have taken the training along with their district school staff. They take the lessons back to their local department and serve as a liaison between the school and law enforcement.
Police regularly re-qualify the school staff and provide continuing training opportunities. Schools are allowing police to train in the school buildings. In addition, school staff who do not want to carry a gun are learning how to treat trauma injuries and schools are investing in trauma equipment.
"This is a 100% voluntary program," Irvine notes. "Some people think we're just handing guns to teachers, whether they want that responsibility or not. But every one of the nearly 1,100 educators who have gone through our program have done so voluntarily.
"Critics of the program said no teacher would ever participate in a program like this. But the moment we announced it five years ago, our waiting list began to grow with thousands of volunteers who wanted the training."
There have been several instances where the medial training and equipment has saved lives, and others where school staff's possession of firearms undeniably made their school and children safer during critical events.
One superintendent helped his sheriff identify a suspect in a double murder. Many ingenious safety/security improvements have been made before events happen because school staff now have a proactive mindset.
Ohio has model language (ORC 2923.122 (D)(1)(a)) which gives schools local control on who carries guns and how much training they are required to complete to continue carrying. Over the past several years, several states have moved to allow schools to designate people, but too often burdensome restrictions have prevented real progress.
Ohio also leads the nation in funding this important program. The current Ohio biennium budget designates a small amount of money for the FASTER Saves Lives training and the purchase of trauma equipment, including tourniquets, compression bandages, and chest seals, for schools that train their staff in their use.
While all four Republican gubernatorial candidates were invited to attend some of this year's training, only Secretary of State Jon Husted took time to attend. Husted attended a class conducted at Tactical Defense Institute in West Union, Ohio, and visited with trainers and school staff.
For more information about FASTER Saves Lives, visit fastersaveslives.org.