At work, in our schools, we watch videos and go through lockdown drills.  We’re trained to react in case an active shooting takes place. Every day we see uniformed security guards and school resource officers, locked doors and metal detectors…all intended to keep us safe, right?  But what happens when those measures fail? 

I read the recent Public Safety Commission report drafted in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, FL. It detailed an array of failures and deficiencies by school staff, security monitors, school security measures and police.  Then came this federal court ruling in a case related to the same school shooting, which indicates the school district and sheriff had no constitutional duty to protect the students:

“Plaintiffs suggest that the essential nature of a public school’s role and control over its students requires that schools provide protection and safety for their students,” Bloom wrote. “However, the suggestion that school attendance equates to the level of custody implicating a constitutional obligation to protect has been expressly rejected by the Eleventh Circuit.”

Those words reflect a harsh reality when we look at accountability.  It’s never comfortable to think about bad things happening around you, or worse, happening to you.  It’s much easier to look at a collection of security measures, believe that institutions and their processes have it under control…we feel safe…and many of us stop there.  I’ve worked with so many people over the years who didn’t think past the window dressing…until something happened that shook up their beliefs.  We want to feel safer at work?  We want kids to feel safer in schools?  For that to happen we need to more proactively address fear…to engage people, demonstrate mindfulness, connect at a more personal level.  This can all be done while we work to improve process and even change laws to help improve outcomes.  None of this is an instant fix…but there’s a long term value when people learn positive, proactive behaviors. Understanding we can’t control others is key, as is shifting our focus to our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

The best way to start is an acknowledgment that we are all responsible for our safety.  That understanding helps distribute the enormous weight that is the responsibility to help prevent violence.  How can you help create a safe, inclusive and proactive culture to support speaking up when red flags appear?  How can you participate in creating wraparound solutions to help deal with red flags instead of passing them on to others?  How you can help engage and connect with others in a way that may help them combat feelings of isolation and fear? What can you do that is positive and proactive to help derail danger in your everyday life? To be clear, I’m not advocating that we stop what we’re already doing.  Security measures and lockdown drills are necessary.  The difference between me and many others, though, is that I see them as merely a good start.  In the legal arena, security measures and police intervention may or may not turn out to be an obligation.  But if we’re honest with ourselves, the Parkland shooting and others we’ve seen in recent years demonstrate that the best laid plans and security measures just don’t always work.  Looking at our society today, it’s not hard to imagine more dangers will arise. Nothing alone is likely to change that sobering fact.  So how can we leverage our own behaviors with the world around us, help prevent violence and make existing security measures more effective?