Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

When terrorism comes to school: Better planning through a focus on key functions, not scenarios

Michael Dorn, MSM, Chris Dorn


The 2004 terrorist attack on Russian schoolchildren, teachers, and parents in Beslan shocked the conscience of the world. Clearly, there are lessons to be learned from this and other atrocities. However, there is a dangerous tendency to focus too much on past terrorism scenarios when deciding how to address future terrorism concerns for our schools. While it is always crucial that we examine previous events and learn from them, our extensive research, training, and formal work experience in the field of antiterrorism in schools shows that an excessively scenario-driven approach is affecting many communities. This article explores how using a reality-based, functional approach to school antiterrorism measures will yield better results than in-depth analysis of previous instances of school-related terrorism.


school, antiterrorism, drill, public safety, scenario-driven approach, all-hazards approach

Full Text:



Thomas G, Hamilton LH: Freedom from Fear: A Guide to Safety, Preparedness, and the Threat of Terrorism. New York: Random House, 2005.

Dorn M, Thomas G, Wong M, et al.: Jane’s Safe Schools Planning Guide for All Hazards. Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group, 2004.

US Department of Education: Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities. Washington, DC: Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, 2003.

Laqueur W: The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Dorn M, Dorn C: Innocent Targets: When Terrorism Comes to School. Macon, GA: Safe Havens International, 2005.

Dorn C: School Bus Terrorism: A Practical Analysis of the Implications for American Schools. Safe Havens International Web site. Available at BusTerrorism.php. Accessed May 30, 2006.

Hickok EW: Letter to US schools after the Beslan attack. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, 2004.

Giduck J: Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America’s Schools. Archangel Group, 2005.

Gray R (ed.): Warning: Get SEMS/NIMS compliant now (Newswatch). Hospital, School and University Campus Safety. 2006; 14(3): 10.

Dorn MS, Shepherd S, Doss B: School Safety Essentials: Conducting Tactical Site Surveys. Horsham, PA: LRP Publications, 2002.

Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA Independent Study Program: IS-139 Exercise Design. DHS/FEMA Web site. Available at - cessed January 25, 2007.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Emergency Management