Safe Rooms vs. “The Red Menace”

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Articles

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This is a guest post from my friend and fellow police trainer Ron Borsch.  In it, he discusses some of the realities involved in securing buildings from active shooters and some of the problems we unintentionally create. 





When I was the founder, manager and lead trainer for a regional police training academy, the research and history lessons of Rapid Mass Murder© by random actors in our database was intended primarily for law enforcement officers. However, the active killer patterns we have subsequently learned about and the rapidity with which mass murder can be accomplished should be shared with others. This sharing is important for citizens to both understand the extent of evil in our world and to work in unison towards prevention, stopping the killing and casualty treatment efforts. Just how big is this problem? How rapid is it? Why should you care? How about some developing good news?




Actually, Rapid Mass Murder© (RMM), is a low frequency event but one with a sky-high-level of potential tragedy. More than one attempted murder per second can and has occurred in past attacks. Typically, the shooting is over quickly.  The average active killer event lasts less than six minutes. Unfortunately, the little-documented delay in notifying police (the time from when the shooting starts until the first 911 call is made) is also averaging about six minutes. After that, the police need even more time to drive to the scene of the crime. Whenever off-site police can arrive in time, they then use up additional time making entry, locating the killer, and stopping the killing.  All this time creates more victims.


As an example, the 2011 Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford’s shooting in Tucson AZ was a 15-second event where six were murdered and 13 were wounded. The delay there in notifying police is unknown, but once notified, the first car arrived in four minutes. (“When you need help in seconds, police are only minutes away”). Some unknown time after this, the medics and ambulances arrived to treat the wounded. It is important to note that in this incident, three unarmed citizens stopped the attack.




Our Stopwatch of Death© database reveals the number one target of these random active killers is educational facilities. Homicidal invasion in a school by a mass murderer is every parent’s worst nightmare. Try to imagine the grief in a family, extended families and the entire community in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown CT where 20 children and 6 adults were massacred.


Sandy Hook TIMELINE: All times are both rounded and approximate.

-From first shots fired to notifying police, about 5 minutes.

– 9-1-1 Call taking to dispatching police, a minute or less.

-Police response time for the first officer, about 5 minutes. (A Training Scar here is using the Posse Theory©, where lifesaving action is delayed while waiting for other officers).

-4 to 5 minutes later, 3 officers began to enter the school.


The active killer deactivated himself, (the murdering stops when the murderer says it stops unless there is effective intervention, armed or unarmed). No shots were fired by police. This incident ended a minimum of 14 minutes after the shooting started.




 There are two distinct areas of responsibility here:  a facility’s responsibility for safety, especially for custodial responsibility as in schools, and an individual’s responsibilities. When individuals discover “You’re On Your Own”, (YOYO©), and are left to their own devices, you can’t blame them for devising their own advance strategies or for grasping expedient means to save their own lives.


Let’s discuss some facility safety responsibilities….




While I don’t pretend to understand the Rock-Paper-Scissors hand game, I do know that “Bullets-Beat-Glass”. The facade of ordinary glass panels and security doors, video cameras and electronic buzzers are bound to lend a false sense of security to the unenlightened. None of these security efforts even slowed down murderers in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary, the 2016 Saskatchewan Canada Junior/Senior High shooting, or the active killer in the 2016 Excel Factory in Heston Kansas. They all shot their way inside.


Some folks know about the heroic Heston KA/PD Chief of police Doug Schroeder. (Article, pictures and 22 minute news video at Chief Schroeder ran alone with a patrol rifle into this factory and stopped further murdering.  Student officers in one of my March Chicago classes, (, shared that this hero Chief ran past a deputy outside who was apparently waiting to round up a “posse”, before taking any lifesaving action.




Ever heard anyone responsible for the custodial safety and security of students, (employees, parishioners or customers), boasting “We use the second best safety measures to protect your children”? I think not, but we do need to inquire, exactly what are their best safety and security measures? You may be surprised to discover just how close that is to “Zero-Nadda-Nothing” for most facilities or how easy to defeat what they consider “security”.


Unless and until schools, churches, malls, theaters, workplaces, etc. become enlightened to the primary factor in saving the most lives is having armed good guys already on site, they will continue to be the preferred hunting grounds for active killers. Many locations like schools and churches have not yet seriously realized the threat from random rogue human predators. Why are schools and colleges the primary target of these active killers? Quite simply because they typically forbid our documented honest, law abiding and certified Concealed Carry Weapon, (CCW), permit holders on their property, when it is within their power to do so. There are two moral dilemmas here. The first is the risk of leaving students, employees, customers, and parishioners defenseless and at risk of murderous attacks. The second is what I call the “Red Menace”  and will be covered next.




The fact that evil in our world does exist is well-known. We also know that laws are fundamentally dependent upon the voluntary cooperation of the law-abiding. Yet it is documented that with or without a verified criminal history, active killers are criminals whose wish, purpose or even livelihood, is law-breaking. We should never forget that the original homeland defense is our Second Amendment.


Homeland defense should certainly include options for our citizens to legally and vigorously oppose active killers and terrorists everywhere, especially in schools, malls, theaters, churches, offices, and other workplaces. Because off-site officers typically cannot arrive quickly enough to stop the killing, more and more understanding sheriffs and police chiefs are telling their citizens to carry weapons wherever it is legal to do so.


Our moral dilemma is that naturally, killers focus their attacks on locations that forbid armed on-site good guys. In Ohio for example, a common-sense reading of the legal statutes makes it seem like we are ignoring the lives of children, students, employees, customers, and parishioners during a mass murder.  Creating fancy legal language in the state criminal code book is not a very effective solution for stopping a spree killer.


Our friend Chad Baus, author and Editor for puts it well:

“Yes, my understanding is the employer can’t be held liable either way – if they allow CCW and a license-holder drops his gun and someone gets hurt, they can’t be held liable for having allowed the guy to bring his gun in there. If they disallow CCW and an active killer takes a bunch of unarmed people out, they can’t be held liable for having disarmed everyone”.


If this is so (and we believe it is), what a shame that we do not have a significant number of honorable employers, school boards, teachers, community leaders, pastors, and legislators acting in support of allowing  CCW guardians, (especially retired military and police officers) the righteous opportunity to vigorously oppose an active killer or terrorist attack.




When an active killer invades a facility and innocents cannot flee or make it to a safe room, they are faced with an inevitable confrontation, (YOYO©, “You’re On Your Own). Unarmed victims are forced into a Fight-or-Die scenario. In such a fight the highest level of violence is required. Most people are unaccustomed to this brutality and many have died trying to fight an active killer without the proper tools and training. Our research and Stopwatch of Death© database has identified three key lifesaving steps:


The primary factor in saving the most lives is no big secret. The first is quite simply: Having armed good guys already on-site .


The second and lesser lifesaving step is: Immediate safe-room sheltering. Safe-Room sheltering is NOT a mere lockdown inside a room with an unmodified door. Various hardware is commercially available to economically reinforce doors.


The final lifesaving intervention is the rapid notification of the police.




 The stop-gap measure of safe-room sheltering leads us into the Red Menace obstacle to saving lives.


The Red Menace is a term coined by a Chief of Police friend, referring to the Fire Department enforcing provisions of the State Fire Code that work against creating truly effective safe rooms. A lockdown is not worth much if an active killer can gain easy entry by shooting or breaking a classroom door window and reaching through to open the door from inside.


Effective hardware to keep the murderer out is available in many forms. The floor-pin type is recommended. This variety fits on the bottom of a classroom, office, or home door with a pin that goes through it and into a corresponding pre-drilled hole in the floor. These models derive strength from the floor itself.  When not in use, these safe-room devices should be stored out of sight and not openly discussed with students.


A problem is created, however, when proactive solutions and the hardware necessary to fortify the door run into the dastardly “Red Menace”.  The issue here is balancing the need for providing security against mass murders with the fire code violations that such fortifications may potentially create.




As professional presenter, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman is fond of saying that:


American Firefighters and schools deserve an “A” grade for zero lives lost by fire in schools in a couple decades”.


A bigger problem, however, is that most schools earn grade of “F” for failure to prevent murders and mass murders. Our research has revealed that off-site responding police officers typically only reduce the body count in an active killer event, they do virtually nothing to PREVENT the killing.


Presently, schools and workplaces must decide between two competing harms…the risk of mass murder versus the risk of fires and violating the fire code. Until legislators see the need for an emergency exemption to the fire code for a the purposes of creating a better  safe room lock-down, common sense and necessity should prevail.


Massad Ayoob’s book, Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right To Self Defense, explains the Doctrine of Necessity:


“… The rationale behind the necessity defense is that sometimes, in a particular situation, a technical breach of the law is more advantageous to society than the strict adherence to the law…”.


Legislators should quickly act on a practical common sense exemption to a pressing lifesaving need for safe-rooms in schools and other public places for the emerging and growing threats of active killers and terrorists.




An Ohio building standards board is working to approve final rules allowing schools to deploy portable barricade devices in the event of an active killer. These devices gained popularity after the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School massacres and a 2012 shooting in the Cleveland suburb of Chardon that killed three students. Some such devices slide under doors; others attach to door handles. These interventions might break fire codes, but will undoubtedly keep students significantly safer if forced to lock down in an active killer event.




Similar to the term training scar, a “Legal Scar” could be defined as “An unintended flaw in the law that has not yet been identified”. Some sort of consideration is needed to adjust the fire code to allow for better door security.  Let no one say that this flaw in the law is yet to be identified. While common sense relief is pending, imagine a Rapid Mass Murder© event where families learn their loved ones died, (or were horribly wounded), when simple, effective and economical lifesaving hardware would have saved them.


The fact that many states laws do not recognize this legal scar is astonishing. We need to support legislators in their efforts to fix this deadly problem in our schools and workplaces.  Our children deserve better protection and our firefighter friends deserve a reprieve from any “Red Menace” blame ascribed to them after a heinous killing in a public building.




Police are unlikely to respond to an active killer scene if the crime has not yet been reported. We also must realize that, under current conditions, police will not arrive quickly enough to stop an active killer before he creates a large body count.  It is foolish for anyone to rely exclusively on the strategy of waiting for a rapid police rescue.


With regards to rapid police notification, I like the smart-phone app for teachers that provides them a direct link to police officers on patrol (if those officers have the free app). In tests from the school, officers have answered that they are responding as quickly as 10 seconds after receiving notification from the smart phone app.  The app also simultaneous dials 9-1-1.


It is virtuously impossible for a dispatcher to calm a panicked person enough to answer the necessary “Where are you?”  and “What is happening?” questions in 10 seconds.  In 10 seconds officers using the SchoolGuard app, would already be responding to the threat.


Delays in notifying police must be understood in context. Recall that the delay in notifying police during a killing spree is quite significant.  In past shootings the delay making the first 911 call to police has averaged about six minutes. Even after a speedy notification, off-site police response cannot be expected to arrive instantly. The SchoolGuard app enables a shorter police notification time.




The three most lifesaving keys to surviving an active killer attack, in prioritized order, are:

(1) Having armed good guys already stationed on site.

(2) Creating impenetrable safe rooms.

(3) Rapidly notifying police.


These three keys are all part of the principle of a multi-pronged counter to active killers and terrorists. Creating true “safe rooms” in large facilities such as schools, office complexes and workplaces requires more effort than merely telling teachers and students to “lock down” in an unsecured room.   There are numerous economical hardware solutions readily available to make “lock down” significantly more effective.


One of the biggest stumbling blocks to keeping people safe is the “legal scar” unintentionally written in to most fire codes    Please support our law makers in devising an exemption to the fire code  allowing the installation of temporary  safe-room hardware in any public facility during a serious life threatening attack on premises.








About the author: Since the 1990’s, Ron Borsch has been the manager and lead consultant of the PACT Consultant Group. Supported by the seven SEALE Chiefs of Police, he is also the founder and from 1998 to 2015, was the manager and lead trainer for the SEALE Regional Police Training Academy in Bedford Ohio. Ron built this academy from the seven police department cooperative to eventually serving over one hundred law enforcement agencies from ten states.

For the last several years at the International Law Enforcement and Educators Training Association in Chicago IL, (ILEETA), Ron has served on two panels of experts and the Guard911 advisory panel as well. Ron’s three decade law enforcement career was with Bedford Ohio PD, (Range-master, SWAT, Defensive Tactics, Etc.). He is a Viet Nam veteran, (1965-66), serving as a U.S. Army Paratrooper with the 101st Airborne. Ron has also presented subjects such as Practical Arrest Control Training and his proprietary course Tactical 1st Responder, (Single Officer’s Lifesaving Others©) in five states.


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