COLORADO SPRINGS – In a mass shooting, time is critical. By some estimates, a gunman will claim another victim every 17 seconds. Even in the best circumstances, the police in Colorado Springs are eight minutes away.
It’s those eight minutes that troubled local high school teacher science teacher John MacFarlane enough that he signed up for the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) training this summer.
MacFarlane is a certified pistol instructor and has maintained a permit to carry concealed for years. He said he’s willing to die to protect students, but he would much rather have a fighting chance if the unthinkable ever happens.
“I’ve asked myself many times, why should it be that I have to die to protect my students, why can’t I live protecting my students,” MacFarlane said. “If I have that training, and I’m willing to take any training and go through any tests that they want me to go through, why can’t I be part of the solution to this problem.”
He’s not alone. Nearly 100 teachers and school staff members from around Colorado went through the FASTER program in 2018. Executive Director Laura Carno expects even greater demand next year, especially since a panel investigating the mass shooting at a high school Florida recommended arming teachers as a way to prevent future mass shootings.
“I’m assuming we’ll need at least six classes this coming year,” she said. “I’m in the position of needing to look for extra range space to have some extra classes.”
There’s more to the FASTER training than just shooting techniques. In fact, you have to already be a skilled marksman and have a carry concealed permit to qualify for enrollment.
The trainees also learn advanced first aid techniques to treat victims until paramedics arrive. McFarlane said he learned how to correctly apply tourniquets for arterial bleeds, how to pack a wound for trauma to the torso, and how to apply a chest seal. He said it’s recommended that schools keep a bleeding control kit on every wing of a school and designate a staff member who is properly trained to use it.
“I don’t know where that is and I don’t think there are enough of them,” MacFarlane said of the kits at his school.
While his school does not allow teachers to carry concealed at work, MacFarlane thinks the first aid training he received can be a starting point with district leaders for a broader conversation about school safety.
“That’s where I would like to reach a common ground and start a dialogue and a discussion because what can we be doing more to save lives.”