I’m spending some time in our Firearms Coalition D.C. area office, having just returned from this year’s annual Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) in Tampa. As always, it was energizing and informative to hear the latest updates and meet friends and fellow activists from around the country. One person I met was Laura Carno, an author and activist out of Colorado. I knew Laura by reputation, having followed her work on the 2013 recalls in Colorado, and more recently, an article she had written, “Keeping Kids Safe In A Broken World,” about a project called FASTER.
FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response. The program trains teachers and administrators to be first responders for emergency situations in their schools. Created by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation (BFF) in the wake of the Sandy Hook horror, FASTER takes a pragmatic approach to preventing atrocities and reducing tragic deaths. The program recognizes that the faster victims can be moved out of harms way, the faster someone can stop the killer, and the faster someone can administer effective first aid, thus saving more lives. With that in mind, FASTER provides coordinated emergency response training for police, fire, paramedic and school personnel.
A standard rule of first aid is to stop the bleeding, so FASTER emphasizes emergency medical training for school personnel, teaching them how to properly apply chest seals, tourniquets and other life-saving techniques instead of waiting for medical professionals to arrive. That’s critical, but stopping the bleeding also means stopping the cause of the bleeding – stopping the attacker – so FASTER includes firearm, hand-to-hand and improvised weapons training for school employees who are likely to be in the best position to take immediate action. The program also includes communication and coordination with local law enforcement and medical professionals to make sure that all involved are working from the same playbook and working as effectively as possible together to stop the threat and render the assistance needed to save children’s lives.
The FASTER program has been a huge success in Ohio, with thousands of educators and school administrators volunteering to take the free, three-day course. All funding is provided by concerned citizens and corporate sponsors. [Note: Angels Wanted.]
BFF is anxious to export FASTER to every state for every child. Jim Irvine, president of BFF, told me: “We have four years of FASTER training under our belts. The instructors at Tactical Defense Institute in Ohio are world class, and they are willing to train instructors in other states in the methodology. We know that FASTER saves lives. Every child – regardless of geography – deserves this level of protection.”
The first challenge is overcoming the legal roadblocks in many states that mindlessly prohibit trained and capable school staff from having the critical tools needed to effectively respond to these types of events. Jim pointed out that deaths due to fire used to be common in schools in this country, but that threat is virtually nonexistent today thanks to changes in building standards, availability of fire suppression equipment and response training. He noted that every school is equipped with fire extinguishers, most schools are equipped with AED automatic defibrillator devices for treating heart attack victims, but few schools have even one proper, serious trauma, first aid kit, and fewer still have staff with access to life-saving, rampage cessation devices – guns. That needs to change.
Laura Carno wants to bring FASTER training to Colorado. She sat in on a FASTER course earlier this year, and she’s convinced that it is the most effective way to prevent future tragedies like Sandy Hook and Columbine. “Law enforcement has changed its protocols since Columbine, but even when response time is just a few minutes, those are the crucial minutes,” she said. “The faster that an attacker can be stopped and medical aid can be administered, the smaller the loss of life. Colorado families – all families – deserve this.”
Laura went on to explain that, “During the three days of training, I was able to interact with teachers, principals and other school employees. These are people who would place their bodies between bullets and your kids. Not their kids, your kids. They just want a chance to help children survive.”
In Ohio, the school employees applying to the program have to have a concealed carry permit, have their district’s permission and be a volunteer. Those Laura spoke with had no hesitation when they volunteered. They are people who were already familiar with firearms, including many veterans and folks with some law enforcement experience, who wanted to be able to defend the kids in their school, just as they are accustomed to being prepared to defend themselves and their families.
The trainers, too, are dedicated to saving lives. Laura was impressed with the intensity of the training. “It was as if the instructors knew that this one skill,” she said, emphasizing each word, “that they taught to this one teacher was going to save a life.” And it just might.
After Jim Irvine spoke at the GRPC, he was surrounded by a crowd of folks wanting more information about how they could bring FASTER to their states. “It’s a pretty compelling case,” he told me. “When we started FASTER in 2012, they laughed at us. They told us no one would sign up for the class, but we had 2,500 applicants for the first class of 24.”
Thus far, FASTER has never been tested in a trial by fire, and ideally it never will be. While it could be a deterrent to a lunatic seeking a “soft target,” it’s unlikely that we’ve experienced the last attack on innocents in our schools. If another attack does occur, wouldn’t it be better if there was an armed first responder in the room when it started, as opposed to five minutes away?
If you are interested in bringing FASTER to your state, or you’d like to contribute to the efforts, you can visit their website. To learn more about what Laura Carno is doing to bring FASTER to Colorado, you can reach her here.
The faster we get this going, the faster we’ll be saving children’s lives.
Media wishing to interview Jeff Knox, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.