VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. — School bus drivers and other transportation staff here spent a stimulating day learning how to respond to active shooters and other security threats.
The in-depth, interactive training program, held on Friday at a Storey County School District facility, was spurred by recent incidents, including the October shooting at Sparks Middle School and the December shooting at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno — both within about 30 miles of Virginia City.
Kelly Knapp, director of transportation for Storey County School District, told SBF that the eight-hour class was "so informative and empowering ... I feel like if someone put a gun in my face, I would know what to do in that situation."
On the day of the Sparks Middle School shooting, Knapp was in Reno to pick up a bus that was in for repair. Upon learning of the tragedy, "I immediately thought, ‘What if this were to happen on one of my buses full of kids?' It was a very frightening moment.”
Knapp decided to seek out a protection training program for her drivers. She got in touch with Jeff May, founder and CEO of Reno-based firm ApexSCF, who has developed a curriculum to teach emergency security countermeasures to non-security personnel.
May and his team adapted their program to the school bus environment — the first time they had done so. The result was a full day of attack countermeasure training that incorporated classroom instruction and scenario-based sessions aboard a school bus.
The training covered such topics as profiling threats, making evasive maneuvers and "how to use the element of surprise," Knapp said. For a school bus driver with an armed intruder on board, that could mean making short, quick turns and hitting the brakes to throw the intruder to the floor.
The ApexSCF team also taught the drivers and other participants how to physically disarm or incapacitate the intruder once he's on the floor, using such actions as putting a knee in his back or punching him in the throat.
"You're doing it for the kids," Knapp explained. "You're doing everything you can to save lives on the bus."
The training bolstered her staff's confidence in being able to maintain school bus security, Knapp added. "Everyone is feeling more empowered, more in control of their routes."