School/Church Defense (Part 2): Armed Guard Employment

Last week’s article on school and church defense focused on the importance of integrating three elements into a cohesive plan of action: On-site armed guards, auxiliary security/support personnel, and local law enforcement. In this second part of the 4-part article, we will focus on seven suggestions for employing armed guards for school defense and integrating them into a larger plan/drill to respond to a deadly attack.

While the more guards a school can have, the better, even just a single armed guard on campus can significantly reduce the threat. Many schools have started to employ armed guards; however, the approach we suggest is not the conventional armed security model. While we don’t claim to have a definitive answer, we think the following seven suggestions might offer some new perspectives on making armed security more efficient and effective. Finally, while this article refers to “school security,” the same principles can apply to both schools and churches.

The guard should be heavily armed – From our perspective, the armed guard should not be a traditional armed guard with a pistol. Recent attackers have employed high-powered automatic weapons. The guard should therefore look more like a “single-person assault team” than a traditional guard. The guard should wear body armor, carry a weapon with high magazine capacity, extra magazines, and the appropriate optics to engage targets at range. Many seem to think it is inevitable that security guards will be outgunned in a fight. The easy solution to this problem is to bring a different gun to the fight.

The guard should stage in a secure/hidden location –The guard should ideally not be visible and instead remain on standby in a secure area. Not only will this prevent attackers from trying to ambush the guard first, but it will solve the problem of many schools objecting to having a scary-looking, heavily-armed guard visible on campus. While doing so might provide a deterrent, it might also scare students and inadvertently accomplish the core terrorist objective of causing fear and paranoia in society and changing our way of life. There are some countries where people live in constant fear, and tanks patrol the streets. We believe that America should avoid going down that path if possible. If our enemies make us change our way of life, they have achieved a victory. If we can provide a “low-visibility” security solution, we believe that is preferable. A deterrent effect can be accomplished using signs, warnings, and information campaigns announcing the presence of armed guards on campus.

The guard should be centrally located – A deadly attacker will probably not initiate the attack at the school entrance but closer to the center where the majority of students are located. Therefore, while it is good to have an access control point, the heavily armed guard should be more centrally located to respond to an attack anywhere on the campus.

The guard should be highly trained as an assaulter – Because threats used to be less lethal, traditional guard training generally doesn’t focus enough on the skills required to rapidly find, fix and finish a hostile, heavily armed, and rapidly moving threat. A modern guard’s training should include skills that are traditionally reserved for military and tactical units, including close-quarters battle, long-range marksmanship, barricade shooting, and combat casualty care. A large number of military and law enforcement veterans already have experience and training in these skills. Furthermore, veteran law enforcement and military personnel who have experienced combat will have a degree of “stress inoculation” to reduce the chances that they will freeze or panic in an emergency.

The guard should stage ammunition, medical supplies, and other equipment in secure, hidden locations around the school – It is impossible to know the scale or duration of the next catastrophic attack or predict how long an engagement will last. Therefore, there should be secure caches of ammunition and critical supplies spread across the campus. While ammunition should remain hidden and securely locked, the medical supplies can be visible and marked. This will also allow the armed guard(s) to carry a lighter combat load, giving them greater mobility and allowing them to get to the fight faster. It might also help to stage other, heavy, tactical equipment such as ballistic shields around the campus as well that the guards can use in an emergency.

The guard should be incorporated into the deadly attack drill – The school must have a unique alert system to trigger an evacuation and activate the armed guard. The system should ideally help identify the shooters’ location and rapidly direct the guard to neutralize the threat while the students/staff evacuate along pre-designated movement corridors. Ideally, these corridors should be chosen to provide covered and concealed escape routes. There also need to be established recognition signals to ensure the students/staff know who the guard is and vice-versa. While Special Tactics has methods to accomplish these objectives, we do not want to go into too much detail here since specific procedures work better if they are not accessible by potential threats. Special Tactics will provide free consulting services for any school/church that wishes to know more.

The drill should look more like a combat scenario than a fire drill – Ideally, the deadly attack drill should include a role player simulating the deadly attacker, and the guard will have to locate and engage the threat while others evacuate. It is possible to execute this drill as a dry-fire drill; it is also possible to use training ammunition or laser technology for the simulated engagement to facilitate better preparation. The exercise should include simulated casualties, casualty evacuation, and emergency medical treatment.

These seven recommendations only scratch the surface of the planning and thought needed to achieve maximum effectiveness when employing on-site armed guards to protect our schools and churches. We realize that the approach advocated in this article is not the standard model for armed guard employment, and we do not claim that our method provides any definitive solution. We are also not opposed to employing additional, visible armed guards at entry points in a more traditional role if resources allow. However, given the ability to have only one guard, we believe the above model will provide the greatest chances of averting a crisis.

The next article in the 4-part series will discuss incorporating auxiliary security and support assets into the greater security plan.


  1. Fred

    Great part 2 to this series. I like what you have written here but hate the idea of having to do it! Although the times have changed for sure. I like the idea of having highly trained and fully outfitted guard but my first thought was why have him out of sight, why not random and unpredictable foot patrols or a blending of both? The drilling is a big key aspect I agree fully and all should be involved and they should be as you mentioned realistic exercises and include everyone, students, teachers, guard, and even parents and other loved ones outside the school. I say parents because they can become part of the problem if they do not know what to expect when their loved ones are in harms way. now with cell phones the folks with loved ones inside a school or church are notified very often before the first responders, police etc are. In all the AARs I have read this is a big problem for those first responding officers, attempting to locate and stop a threat.

    Another Big obstacle will be getting that fully outfitted and armed guard to be accepted. It took my department years to get cops in uniforms while armed without a huge debate taking place. Cops in schools is more common nowadays with the increase in the active killers here in the U.S. But our kids are our greatest assets, hell they are our future and one dying in a place that suppose to be safe is one too many.

    Love what your doing here with this series. Its an important topic that needs to be discussed, debated and adapted to the current threat trends and the security precautions necessary to stop a active killer once he starts.