Teachers’ active shooter training saves lives at Covenant School, expert says

Covenant School staff learned how to respond to an active shooting months before one happened.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 7:36 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - On Monday morning, when news broke of the deadly attack at Covenant School, Brink Fidler was at a school in Memphis, training teachers and students there how to prepare for an active shooter.

“I know those people at The Covenant School,” Fidler said. “So, it hit me really hard.”

Fidler is the founder and president of Defense Systems, a local security firm that specializes in active shooter training. He is also the man who put together Covenant’s threat plan and trained the school’s teachers and staff on how to respond to an active shooter back in January of 2022.

Fidler says the training lasted four hours total, three spent preparing for an active shooter, and one hour on treating medical trauma.

“The training is important, but this story is about the teachers,” said Fidler. “Just like you know a sports team coach, I mean the coach can have the best plan in the world and train his team to do whatever, but if the players don’t perform then none of that matters.”

When it mattered most, on Monday, when suspected shooter 28-year-old Audrey Hale shot her way into the school, Fidler says Covenant’s teachers put their training to use, responding to the life and death threat without flaw.

“I knew they had the training obviously,” Fidler said. “But I prayed they were able to put it into place, because it’s very difficult to do, even for police officers and members of the military under pressure to perform. But that’s why you train.”

According to Fidler, Covenant’s teachers were trained on how to recognize the sound of gunfire coming from inside the school, and then make an almost immediate decision to save student lives. Evacuate your students, or lockdown your class.

“We don’t teach people to evacuate just automatically unless you know where the threat is, and you feel like you can do that safely and not put yourself and the kids in the line of fire,” Fidler said.

Fidler told WSMV that several teachers did evacuate students immediately and then followed the next step in their training to find safe cover from the shooter.

“We had talked to them specifically about where to go if that does happen. On why two sides of the building were bad, and why two sides of the building were better,” Fidler said. “And both of those things happened. They went exactly where we talked about.”

Other teachers evaluated the situation within seconds Fidler said, and opted to lock their classes down, barricade the door, and get their students out of the line of fire. And a couple of days, when Fidler walked through the school with Metro Nashville Police to assess how the active shooter plan worked, Fidler said it became clear, the teachers locking down executed their training perfectly.

“On my walk-through, one of the things I noted that really just continued to drive home how well they did, are several of the teachers had their trauma kits staged out on the desk and ready to go to treat people,” said Fidler. “The fact they had the wherewithal to not only lock down, barricade, but also get the kids out of the line of fire, do all those things, and get their medical kits and get it ready, I mean, just blows me away.”

Looking back on the shooting and how well Covenant’s teachers executed the school’s active shooter plan, Fidler says there is no doubt in his mind that every teacher at Covenant is a hero.

“Those teachers are the reason those kids went home, period,” Fidler said. “People keep talking about training, and yes, it’s important, but if you don’t perform that doesn’t matter. So, those kids went home to those parents because of those teachers.”