“Escape an Active Shooter Camp” Opens in Alabama

Giving “summer escapism” a whole new meaning, a new camp in Jefferson, AL, will include a session for kids on what to do if they encounter an active shooter.

According to this piece by Carol Robinson on the blog AL.com, the five-day camp “Prepared, Not Scared” will be run by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office. Fifth- through seventh-graders  will learn some traditional skills —   how to make a fire, build a shelter — along with the more modern day skills of what to do when shot at, and how to escape a rampaging madman.  The post quotes one instructor saying, “Everyone should have personal safety skills in today’s world.”

Agreed. But the skills to evade active shooters out to massacre fifth-through-seventh graders? Isn’t that giving a little too much heft to the idea we are surrounded by crazies?

Crazies who don’t run camps, I mean? – L.

Welcome, diabolical school rampage re-enacters! Er…campers!

55 Responses to “Escape an Active Shooter Camp” Opens in Alabama

  1. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Lol. It sounds like fun actually.

  2. Lisa July 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Just showed it to my daughter (13) and she thought it was really cool – and bummed that I wouldn’t drive her to Alabama.

  3. Emily July 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Let’s just hope that this camp explodes in the proverbial hangar due to low enrollments.

  4. ChicagoDad July 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    There are a couple of zombie apocalypse summer camps too!!

    Ha! That would be fun!

  5. Warren July 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    With the paranoia running rampant in the states, it will be a huge hit. They will probably have to turn potential campers away.

    Used to like Alabama, not so much now.

  6. Ste LKF July 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    I remember camps where we learned and then “practiced” survival skills: snake bites, forest fires, etc. It was SO much fun. Especially pretending to be snake-bit. I think this would be fun too…if it were done right. If it were play. Whether we like it or not, kids hear about mass shooters and if their parents are freaking out about it then they are affected by the rhetoric. They should work it out the way kids work things out — free or somewhat directed play.

    What I love the most though is the irony. The same folks would freak out if the kids had organized a game of “mass shooter mad man!” is requiring that they play said game.

    Or is that the difference? I look at all of this and think, “this could be play, this could be fun! If they learn something…fine. If they work through something, great. But I can’t imagine they’ll ever deal with an actual mass murderer.” Whereas the camp thinks they *will* be around mass shooters and that this isn’ a game? That it might be a NO FUN ALLOWED! WE’RE LEARNING! TAKE IT SERIOUSLY! situation.

  7. Papilio July 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    So, what does Norway think of this?

  8. anonymous this time July 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Good ol’ U S of A.

    Pretty much sums up why I had to go.

  9. Dave July 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    You never let the sheriffs department lead on something like this. I had a good friend who was a cop. His kids where always given freedom to do certain things later than others. For instance they couldn’t ride the subway until they were late teens because my friend the cop only saw the bad side of the city all the time. He was overly concerned because he only saw one side of the story. The neighborhood always looks worse than it is through the eyes of a policemen.

  10. anonymous this time July 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Or through the eyes of a lawyer. My ex is neurologically programmed to imagine worst-case-scanarios.

  11. Daniel July 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    I want an NRA-run camp where kids are armed and taught to shoot back at madmen, zombies, and tyrannical camp counsellors.

  12. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Or a pediatric nurse. My sister worked in the PICU for a few years and is EXTREMELY protective of her son. Logic doesnt work when you see the worst case scenario on a daily basis. I think having another kid will help loosen her up a bit. Hopefully.

  13. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I’m all for the zombie bit. Can we get swords too? Beheading zombies would be more fun than shooting them.

  14. Earth.W July 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Preppers camp. 😉

  15. JJ July 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Dave and Anonymous, I too have seen this with police and prosecuters. I had several of both types that I met socially when I was in my 20’s and 30’s tell me never to go anywhere by myself after dark (hello–it’s dark when I leave work 6 months a year, am I supposed to take a colleague home with me?)

  16. JaneW July 10, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    It does sound like it could be a lot of fun. Unnecessary, of course, but what kid doesn’t want to run around the woods playing action hero? If they’re using paintball guns or something, that would be even better.

  17. Puzzled July 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Yes – I think the mistake being made by those who think it’s fun is that they’re picturing kids playing a game. This is designed by adults, run by adults, and will be no fun, I promise. The description they give is also very Orwellian – if kids weren’t scared, and if they weren’t trying to scare kids, they wouldn’t have programs like this.

    How about, instead, early driving lessons? Or use the money to instead teach doctors to wash their hands?

  18. Janice Stoffel July 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    A camp to evade school shootings?! Now there is fun! I can see how this can be incorporated into one hour long session, but to advertise that as a camp’s main focus? Now there will be kids jumping at every strange person they see entering their school. When the latest tragic school shooting happened, we talked to our 11 yr old about what is in his classroom that he can use as a defensive weapon…..flagpoles, fire extinguishers….how he could escape the room…better to jump out a second story window and break an ankle/leg than get shot in the head. If parents just give the message that their kids are not weak or unable to defend themselves I think there would be less preying on the innocent. I want to empower my kid, not make him wallow in his anxiety.

  19. Donna July 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Sounds like fun to me. When I studied taekwondo, I (and the kids in the kid classes) took lots of self-defense classes. That doesn’t mean that we are all cowering in fear and believe that we are going to be attacked any minute. They were just fun. And actually give confidence.

  20. Nicole July 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    I’ve covered that when someone is shooting or has a gun to lay flat on your stomach and cover your head. My cousin was in a drive by when she was a kid, I remember my mom talking to me about it and being surprised that what you should do (rather than run).

  21. oncefallendotcom July 10, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Kids who play FPS (first-person shooters) should alreadt know how to strafe, roll, and zigzag to avoid Nazi and alien gunfire.

  22. Andrea July 10, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    If this was just a segment of a “be prepared” camp, it could be a good idea. I’ve read about people going through training like this when they’re going to travel to a very sketchy African country, for example — how to escape kidnappers, how to react to an active shooter, etc. There’s so much violence on TV, the internet, and in movies that giving kids skills to handle a violent situation could, if done right, act as an antidote to some of the culture of fear.

    Of course, I’m not naive enough to think a sheriff’s department is going to do it right.

  23. Michele July 10, 2013 at 9:37 pm #


  24. Dee July 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Drove through AL a few days ago and saw a huge billboard about active shooter drills. It might’ve been referencing this camp. I really couldn’t believe it. How traumatic is it for a child to be so hyperly aware of the possibility of an active shooter in school. Kids cannot rationalize the likelihood. They will just be scared of school.

  25. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Why Nazis or aliens? Why not Nazi aliens? Or Nazi zombies? Or Nazi alien zombies? :)

  26. Taradlion July 10, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Active. Shooter. Drill. At camp? Is there a girls scout badge that can be earned for that? You know, like for first aid? Insane.

    I agree, this is not going to be a fun game (like flashlight manhunt or paintball). Looks like it is being billed as serious training for the probable/inevitable school shooting. I wonder what safety precautions will be in place for the drills…

  27. Taradlion July 10, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    @ Donna- Assuming they are not arming the children to take out the “active shooter” sniper style, do you think it is different than martial arts (TKD) which teach defense versus escape? I haven’t taken martial arts to know, and when my son took classes briefly, it was more for exercise and discipline…just curious since you made the comparison.

  28. Stevie July 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    What a schizophrenic culture we live in:
    1. Children are so helpless and in such grave danger during an ordinary day that they cannot walk to school or go into a public restroom alone or be left in a locked car while a parent runs into the convenience store for a soda.

    2. Children can be taught to be proactive, protect themselves and others, and find safety in an active shooter scenario.

    Which is it? Are children (1) helpless prey or (2) intelligent capable beings?
    And, you have to ask yourself, if we allowed our kids to walk to school, go into a public restrooms alone, entertain themselves in car while we ran into a store (or even let them run into the store to make a purchase for us!!!!) wouldn’t they be learning independent thinking, self-confidence, and situational awareness without having to go to an active shooter camp???

  29. John July 10, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    As a Civil Service employee, we were required to take a 4 hour computer based training course called “Active Shooter Training”. The course was about what to do in case you’ve got a nutcase in the office who decides to go postal. Considering how extremely rare this type of thing is, I thought there were better ways to utilize our work time at tax payers’ expense. This was right after that meteor exploded over Russia. So I commented to my boss that before you know it, we”ll be getting emails from Headquarters with a computer based training link requiring us to complete “Asteroid Avoidance Training”. America is such a country of over reaction.

  30. Emily July 11, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    @Stevie–I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I think a general “free range” summer camp would be a much better idea than the “active shooter” training camp, because while there’s only a small chance of being caught in a school shooting, but it’s absolutely certain that every child will eventually need to learn how to go places alone, and negotiate situations like buying things at the store, borrowing books from the public library, spending a night (or more) away from home, and later, more complicated things, such as joining a gym, enrolling in university classes, renting an apartment, travelling internationally, buying a car, and eventually, buying a house.

    Kids aren’t going to learn these vital life skills if they’re shepherded through life from birth until age 18, and then turned loose at university. They’re also not going to learn these skills if they’re shepherded through life from birth until age 18, and then shepherded through university via phone, Skype, GPS devices, and mandatory weekend visits if the university isn’t too far from home.

    I had a fairly bubble-wrapped childhood (by 80’s and 90’s standards), but I was still allowed to walk to school, go to sleepovers and summer camp, stay home alone once I turned 12 (local by-law, I think), and do all the normal things like buying candy at the variety mart, and borrowing library books. I’ve also joined gyms, rented a room in a townhouse, and travelled internationally. I can tell you now that if I hadn’t gone to summer camp as a child, I probably would have gotten extremely homesick going away to university, and also when I lived in Australia. Also, since I wasn’t told on a regular basis that the world was dangerous, and someone was going to try to kill me for no good reason, I was never afraid to go out and interact with the world. So, I just can’t get behind the idea that fear-mongering is “good parenting.”

  31. Donna July 11, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    @Taradlion – Martial arts is not taught to be self defense. It takes many, many, many years of studying any martial art before you are proficient enough to take someone out a la Chuck Norris and to try to do so just because you’ve studied a little taekwondo is foolish. And even years of study, doesn’t always make up for the size disparity. Most women and kids are going to be out-muscled by any attacker. I may have been able to kick someone in the head at one point, but at 110 lbs (at the time), I wasn’t going to do any lasting damage. The best I could hope for was to stun him enough to run away.

    However, every martial arts school I ever attended taught traditional self defense as a separate component. Much of it was just escape tactics – how to break holds, where to hit to get away, how to disarm someone, where to run, how to draw attention, etc. It is alot of pressure points, sucker punches to the groin and gouging out eyeballs. No different than what you would learn if you took a self-defense class offered by the police department (in many areas).

    No woman or child left the classes – and I took and taught many over the years I studied – suddenly fearing being attacked at any moment. The point of self-defense classes is to give solutions to potential problems. Having knowledge builds confidence. Most schools don’t catch on fire. We still support fire drills because knowledge of what to do lessens panic in actual situations. Despite having a fire drill every year, I didn’t spend my formative years terrified that the school was going to burn down every minute. I didn’t worry about fires at all. I knew it was unlikely, but if it did happen, I knew what to do.

    This is really no different. By middle school (the age this camp is geared for), kids are well aware of what is going on in the world. They’ve heard about school shootings. Even if you don’t say a word or have a TV, it is all over the internet, at their friends’ houses, in the halls at school, on the streets. They are thinking about it. To believe otherwise is simply being obtuse and hiding your head in the sand. How to deal with that depends on the family and child involved. This camp certainly isn’t necessary (frankly I don’t think fire drills are necessary), but this belief that going to a camp such as this is going to terrify kids is ridiculous. It is no more terrifying than fire drills or self defense classes, both of which have been around for years without terrifying the population. Some people (and kids are people) are soothed by knowing what to do in an emergency, no matter how unlikely the emergency.

  32. Gerald Shoultz July 11, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    I’m originally from Alabama, and my own sense is that the “Active Shooter Camp” idea is more than a bit much.

    Nevertheless, in the interest of trying to put a finger on the “why” instead of simply calling the “what” silly, there was a very sad event that happened earlier this year in Alabama. Perhaps the folks there had it in the back of their mind when they set the event up:


    Just a thought.

  33. Donna July 11, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    I don’t think worrying about school shootings is a valid fear – my previous post kinda made it sound like I did. I meant that kids are aware that school shootings have occurred and hear as much hype about them as we do from the world they live in, probably more since they are actually in school. They have formed their own reactions to that information. It is bizarre to think that this camp is putting the idea in their heads.

    Personally, I would do away with fire drills, lock down drills and active shooter camps. But I don’t really see a justification for keeping one that doesn’t apply to the others.

    And kids are different. I can see this being a huge reassurance to some kids – the nervous nelly types who need to be control. I would probably sign up my kid if she was worried about school shootings and my statisical analysis argument wasn’t helping. I can see where it would send some into anxiety. I think that most kids who are signed up for this camp are probably already in houses where fear is rampant. That such homes exist is unfortunate but the camp is not going to change the fear they are being fed and may actually give them some comfort in knowing what to do and help mom and dad stop fretting because they know Jr. knows what to do.

  34. Emily July 11, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Edited to add: My parents did have the “pedophile fear” in the early 90’s, in the thick of the O.J. Simpson hype, but school shootings weren’t on anyone’s collective radar yet, and they never taught me to be afraid of someone coming to kill me for no good reason while I was in a supposedly safe place like school or the YMCA. Actually, the bigger danger at school was the other kids–for example, a bunch of kids actually tried to strangle my brother by his own hoodie strings on the bus ride back from the Ontario Science Centre when he was in grade eight, and none of the other kids intervened, because standing up on the bus was against the rules, and they didn’t want to get in trouble.

  35. Taradlion July 11, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    @ Donna- I wasn’t trying to be argumentative. (I also said my son took martial arts for exercise and discipline). I get what you are saying. I have a kid who is well aware of the school shootings, and got a call from school when they seemed surprised he brought it up when they ran a lockdown drill days after Newtown (I had talked to him to reassure him that he was safe because it is sooooo rare). I am someone who likes being prepared in emergencies and have EMT training, etc…I thought about fire drills after I posted, I guess this just seemed rediculous to me. Like lockdown drills, I think it increases fear of the unlikely. People feel differently about preparedness. I think you teach kids to listen to adults in emergencies. If in the extremely rare case that a shoting happened, I’d want my kid to listen, not be performing some moves he learned at camp…

  36. Gary July 11, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    pffft, been there done that.

    Except we called it manhunt/army/war/what have you and the rule was no more than five pumps on the BB gun…

    No eyes shot out, no future mass shooters being groomed, no animals killed, no windows, cars or non-players shot at, more than your fair share of “I got you!!!” “No you didn’t!!!”

    And watching a bunch of 8-12yr old’s actually employ tactics is truly a sight to behold.

  37. Natalie July 11, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    I took Krav Maga classes in Israel. Those basically centered on what to do if someone attacked you, how to get your hands free, what to do with your hand if you manage to get it free (pretty brutal- ripping off ears and gouging eyes, jabbing the throat), what other parts of your body to use if your hands aren’t free, etc.
    But the overall message was to yell loudly at the person and try to run away. I’d probably just freeze in that kind of situation anyway.

  38. Natalie July 11, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    @ Gary
    Do you play paintball?

  39. Gary July 11, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    no Natalie I for some strange reason never got into it, not many of the places by me are the type I would want to play. If I am gonna play I want it in the woods, some of the ones I have seen are indoors or just an open field with junk to hide behind.

  40. Natalie July 11, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    That’s a shame. The first time I played was in the woods. Lots of fun. Pretty painful when you get pelted though.

  41. Gary July 11, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    yea that’s why we had the “no more than five pumps rule” paintballs leave welts, BB’s have a nasty tendency to become embedded…

    Oh, and point blanks were a big no-no too lol.

  42. Natalie July 11, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Embedded? (Cringe)
    I’ll stick with paintball, thanks! :)

  43. Gary July 11, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    yea, only one instance, just below the skin and it came out easily with a pocketknife.

    The things we did as kids growing up back then would put us on either death row, the No-Fly List or the terrorist watch list.

    Or possibly all three.

    Beauty is none of us were hurt in any real “holy crap” kinda way.

  44. Brooks July 11, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    I live here, just a couple of miles from the Tactical Firearms store/restaurant/church. They sell fear and they do it very well. We have a very good Sheriff in Jefferson County, but he does tend to be the “watch out for the bogeyman” type. I know this type of fear in nationwide, but in our Alabama gun-frenzied culture, it’s really gone overboard. Our local schools are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on new security (instead of on books or teacher), installing mag-lock doors, cameras, etc. My wife teaches 4 year olds at a church school. They have had shooter training. Now what was a open environment (with appropriate safeguards for who picks up kids, etc) is now a permalockdown place. My wife has to wear a walkie talkie at all times and keep the classroom door shut and locked unless moving the kids from one place to the next. My daughter’s elementary school is installing bulletproof glass at the front doors and around the library. This in a town that has about one murder every 30 or 40 years.

  45. Dark Space July 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    This Jefferson County camp doesn’t sound all that bad – they’re offering kids a chance to learn lessons that will be useful to them as adults. Teaching kids to be aware of their surroundings, respect for firearms, survival skills, wild edible and poisonous plants, etc. are all great proactive ways to give our kids skills that are useful in real life. I’m not so naive to think any of them will ever endure a school shooting (the odds are almost nonexistent), but this also doesn’t sound like fear mongering at all. This isn’t the Stranger-Danger program, which I think is absolutely horrible.

    I attended month-long summer camps most of my childhood in Alabama on Cheaha Mountain that provided some of the best educational and fun memories of my childhood. We learned hunter safety, including how to handle guns and achieve various levels of marksmanship, camping skills, rappelling, and relatively advanced electronics for the age right alongside water skiing and tying friendship bracelets.

    I’m a huge fan of this blog, but I think you got this one wrong. The YMCA story, the LegoLand story, etc. are all right on overboard regulations that do nothing to keep anyone self, but hurt people who are trying to be interested in something. This camp sounds like it gives kids tools that are actually useful throughout their lives and will make them more independent and stronger.

  46. Donna July 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    @ Taradlion – If we teach kids nothing more than listen to the adults, then don’t we have to teach the adults what to do? And yet people have mocked adult (teacher) active shooter drills here too.

    Being extremely rare and never happening at all are two different things. Lives shouldn’t be controlled by fear but I have no problem with people being instructed on the best ways to react in different situations. It is often empowering rather than fear-inducing.

  47. Ellie July 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    This could be a new trend in summer camps. How about:
    Escape a Tsunami
    (Featuring Climbing Trees, Tall Buildings)

    Escape a Dirty Bomb
    (Featuring Climbing Down into Caves and Staying There for a Week)

    Escape Extra Terrestrial Invasion with Mind Control
    (Featuring Wearing and Making Tin Foil Hats)

    Escape Rabid Dogs
    (Featuring Staying Away from Dogs of All Kinds at All Times; How to Panic Successfully when Seeing a Dog)

    Escape Volcano Explosions
    (Featuring Learning to Run Very, Very Fast)

    Escape Potentially Life-Threatening Dust and Mold
    (Featuring Latest Vacuuming Techniques and Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products)

    I guess I could go on.

  48. Papilio July 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    @Ellie: I still miss ‘Escape helicopter parents’ (Featuring Getting oneself abducted ASAP and How to Tie Bedsheets Together and Break out one’s Bedroom Window Quietly)

    Or should ‘Quietly’ be ‘Safely’? It’s still FRK after all…

  49. S July 11, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    I work with brain injured people for a living. So, I won’t be getting a motorcycle, but I will ride bikes and other wheeled objects with a helmet. I think people just focus on the bad things that they know about. My friend’s parents were VERY protective of her and it’s because they are EMTs.

  50. Warren July 12, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Even the US Army Rangers, the elite of the elite, do not use martial arts, for close combat. I forget what they called it, but it was escape tactics, and moves to create separation. This allowed them to get back to their tools or weapons. The demonstration was quite impressive, because of how effective it is.

  51. Natalie July 13, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Probably Krav Maga.

    Many Israeli tactical units have adapted it for their use, as have other countries around the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if both the US and Canada used it in some way, shape or form.

  52. Amanda Matthews July 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Well sure, the odds that you’ll be caught in a school shooting are miniscule, but so are the odds that you’d need to start a fire to survive in today’s world.

    If this is just about escaping SHOOTERS (rather than purely SCHOOL shooters) then depending on the area, it might even be a more likely scenario than needing to start a fire.

    In the city where I grew up, I was near several shootings, and know 2 people that were killed in drive-bys… when we go to visit my parents, I want my kids to be able to recognize a shooter and know what to do; because even there, I don’t stay close enough to be able to tell them at the time.

  53. Ellen July 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I live in Jeffco, AL. I do not see leanings toward paranoia coming from the Sherrif’s Office.

    There is a strong tradition around here towards outdoorsmanship, hunting, and camping , but also a strong and vocal base of helicoptering parents (and government).

    My guess is, the Sheriff’s Office got some kind of grant that was tied to “school safety” and paranoia-education, and chose to spend it on this camp that incorporates useful skills, instead of having shooter drills in the schools.

  54. Stacey July 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    They are also teaching gun safety, i.e. what to do if you or your friends find a gun, etc… It’s not just a “shooter” class.


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