What to do as a parent
1. Communicate with your kids on a plan if an active shooter or terrorist attack happens at his or her school. But then see the next section which details how to ignore all but the "official" plan
2. Communicate with school officials. Ask to see a copy of their working plan in case of an active shooter or terror attack. If they don’t have one, put them in touch with people who can help them create one. Failure to have a plan may be actionable in court, and it’s certainly grossly negligent and unprofessional. And get reported as a "terrist" for trying to find out how they plan to serve your kid)s) up on a platter.
3. You may wish to consider falsifying parental information in school records if true information would make your child a more desirable hostage in event of a takeover. Are you a cop, prosecutor, judge, religious or political leader, or similar? Don’t let school records make your kid an extra-special target. You’re now a shoe salesman as far as the records go. Again, setting yourself up to be labeled as a "terrist".
4. Establish a family plan in case of an event. This should include identifying safe harbors for your kids in event of an emergency at the school. Family friend or relative live or work close to the school, for example? See comment #1 above.
5. Assist school officials in identifying security deficiencies at the school. Does a back door get propped open when it should be secured? Are there maintenance issues needing attention (as in doors that don’t lock properly)? Can they install shatter-resistant plastic over windows near doors to slow down someone willing to break a window to open a door? This plastic can be as affordable as a $1-$2 per square foot but it’ll be priceless if it delays an attacker long enough for armed good guys to respond. And just who asked you to butt in? What are your qualifications as a "security analyst"? You must be some sort of "terrist"!
What to communicate to your kids
1. Tell your kids to pay attention to their surroundings. Notice suspicious people who don’t belong and avoid them and/or report them to trusted adults. Of course, they are just kids, but if you teach them to pay attention, it might save them down the road. Identify one person on the school staff that meets the definition of "trusted adult" when it comes to protecting your kid(s) in a situation such as is being discussed here.
2. Let your kids know that if they are out on a playground, athletic field or elsewhere outside the school and something terrible happens, that they should be very reluctant to return into the school. A better alternative would be to run to the nearest safe harbor location you’ve identified with them where they can contact you or wait for you to arrive if there is no telephone service. Of note: text messages will sometimes go through when voice calls will not. Just how much time does your kid(s) get to be outside on a playground, athletic field or elsewhere outside the school building? And do you have any idea what the school staff's response will be if your kid(s) attempt to leave the group, let alone leave the school grounds?
3. Tell them that unplanned fire alarms and bomb threat evacuations may be pretext for an attack. Your kids should be in Condition Orange (“Alert”) when they exit the building, watching for potential threats and being prepared to run for cover, or possibly concealment away from the school if gunfire should break out. Tell them to ignore their teacher if the adult appears to be dithering under a real, credible threat. Have your child lead their classmates to safety. Pretty much see comment #2 above.
When they evacuate out into a playground or parking lot, for drills or real fires or bomb threats, tell them to look around for anything that doesn’t belong or is out of place. Look for boxes, bags, pipes, strange cars or trucks – anything that might contain bombs. Make sure your kids point suspicious object out to those in authority and stay as far away from those potential threats as possible. Again, pretty much see comment #2 above.
4. If it is a real emergency event, tell your kids not to linger in a school parking lot or open field. Flee the area into nearby trees or nearby buildings and don’t stand around for a sniper or gunman to shoot them down. Don’t hang around parking lots where a 400-pound fertilizer bomb in someone’s trunk or a thousand-pounder in a box van can wipe out a whole school that has evacuated. Definitely see comment #2 above.
Secondary attacks, via explosives, are expected in future attacks. While ISIS terrorists in America might shy away from securing real explosives, they may be able to build a crude ammonium nitrate / fuel oil bomb similar to the one that devastated the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The goal with the secondary attack is to destroy first responders or evacuees at a likely staging location to add to the confusion and casualty count. Comment #2 above, OK?
5. Lockdowns. If the “Lockdown” alarm sounds, the classroom door should immediately be closed and locked. Follow standard protocol from there. If there is gunfire after a lockdown, which might sound like firecrackers, urge your son or daughter to go out a window and run for cover or concealment away from the school campus. If that involves breaking a window to escape a classroom during an active shooter incident, do so if at all possible using a chair or a desk. Once again, comment #2 above.
If escape from a classroom is not possible (or even if it is), barricade the door with desks, tables or anything else at hand. The idea is to delay entry for bad guys. As tiring as it is getting for me as well as for you - see comment #2 above.
If escaping through a window is not possible because it’s not a ground floor classroom, search for improvised weapons. Fire extinguishers can be used to temporarily blind attackers or obscure escaping kids from view. Chemicals (potent acids, for instance) in chemistry labs may be useful, just as some musical instruments in band rooms. Flagpoles may be able to be used as improvised spears or clubs. Golf clubs and baseball bats beat empty-handed fighting. Utilize whatever improvised weapons are available to fight an attacker or attackers. I'd suggest seeing comment #2 above, except now you have gone too far by encouraging your kid(s) to commit criminal acts of assault.
If the classroom is on a second floor and death seems imminent, a jump from a second floor may be the best course of action or use a rope or extension cord to minimize the fall. Now this might actually be worthwhile.