Slide to Safety is a “Patented Rapid Evacuation Slide” for schools invaded by an active shooter. It provides an emergency escape route for children trapped by a shooter, like the slides used on aircraft in the event of a crash or other emergency. The North Carolina company’s marketing goes straight for the jugular, citing the Sandy Hook slaughter and Columbine killings to push their product. I was a high school sophomore when the Columbine massacre happened . . .
I was sitting in an American History class at my school in Loveland, Colorado when we heard about the Columbine killings. I remember the teachers shutting the doors to the classroom as we watched live media coverage of the shooting on TV. The shock. The horror. The glances at the door. The relief when we got back to our families.
I don’t remember anyone talking about how we would have escaped from our classroom if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had targeted out school. How could we? We were in the middle of the school. The room had no windows. Other than the door, the only exit would have been through the large fan in the ceiling. The best thing my class could have done was what was done: close and lock the door.
That said, I can see how a Slide to Safety would be an excellent escape system for second or third story classrooms. If nothing else, they might be a safer alternative escape route for fires (which could result from a bombing or arson). I don’t know. But I do know that the Slide to Safety represents a significant shift in active shooter response.
The Slide represents the exact opposite of the “shelter in place” strategy being drilled into millions of American school children. It says LEAVE! RUN! SCATTER! As a Mom with school age children and a woman armed against violent aggression, I approve of that message. I don’t want my children – or anyone else’s – gathered for easy slaughter. I would want them to have a chance of escape – rather than waiting for the armed Calvary to take out the bad guy or bad guys. Which could be days later.
Again, escape doesn’t figure in schools’ active shooter or terrorist attack plans. It’s all about “lock down.” The idea of hundreds of children running off in different directions, many without adult supervision, is a complete anathema to administrators, people who rely on rules, order and procedure to do their jobs. That kind of chaos is not their friend – even in the face of the worst chaos imaginable. Even though it could save hundreds of lives.
We’ve come a long way since I sat in class trying to take in the Columbine killings. The old idea of the police establishing a perimeter defense while waiting for the SWAT team to show-up is gone. But in some ways, we’re exactly where we were. Very few schools have taken a comprehensive approach to defending our children, including better external security, improved communications and school-specific response procedures. [ED: the NRA’s School Shield Program offered schools “best practice” recommendations. It was ignored.]
And then there’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room: armed teachers and administrators. No matter what kind of response plan is in place for an active shooter or terrorist – whether it’s slides, dead bolts, or cans of food to throw at the bad guy – the fastest and most effective way to protect the children from killers is to stop the attack. With a gun. The sooner the better. Armed teachers and administrators are the answer. And there’s no getting away from that fact.