In the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, there has been an incredible upsurge in interest for Active Shooter preparedness training across the country in all market sectors, not just in schools. This increase was not surprising. Unfortunately, we have experienced it after many tragic events post-Columbine.

Each violent event creates more demand for solutions, for training.

But are all “training programs” in the market created equal?

Since building what is considered the first comprehensive, proactive, options-based response training program for citizens in 2001 (ALICE training), I have seen many other programs come and go. The first competing plan that received any traction outside of ALICE was the US Department of Homeland Security’s program called the 3 Outs (Get Out, Hide Out, Take Out) that was released in 2008. The program only consisted of a booklet and a poster. There was no accompanying curriculum. In 2013, it was replaced by the agency’s next slogan-titled program, Run, Hide, Fight. This program consists of a video produced by the City of Houston with funding from DHS. There are now many other programs available.

But are these truly training programs?

One of the primary components of a real training program is the ability to practice. It allows for the practice of all skills necessary to achieve the objective. This is particularly important for responses to situations of contact with the shooter. With ALICE, every recommended skill for Counter and Control strategies is 100% practiced with minimal equipment required. If your program tells folks to fight, what skills are you going to teach them? What practice is going to be required to become proficient in these skills? Additionally, the result of using these skills should be a known outcome, not a “we’ll see when it happens.”

For instance, if it is suggested that a person take a fire extinguisher off the wall and use it as blunt instrument against the attacker, how do we practice that? And how will I know what the outcome of that action will be unless I am able to practice it. If it is suggested that people can attempt to gouge out the eyes of the attacker, same question: how do we practice?

The inability to practice any recommended skill makes it useless. Without practice, users neither build muscle memory around the skill, nor do they gain confidence in the skill’s ability to achieve a desired effect. It would be like our high school football team spending all week in the locker room going over the X’s and O’s, and the only time they get to run the plays is during a real game. They may be the smartest team on the field, but their lack of practice will lead to poor performance.

There is no time for poor performance when someone is trying to take your life. All recommended skills must be very easy and very effective. Practicing new skills that can be easily learned, or better yet, using skills already well-known to users, allows for them to experience the effectiveness of the action. This will build their confidence in using their skills to survive and enhances the likelihood that they will actually use these skills if necessary. This will result in mitigated disasters.

Remember, if they can’t practice it, it’s not training.