Why We Overprepare for Swarms of Bees


Someone forwarded me this email entitled “Lockdown Averted.” You might think this is crazy. Maybe you’re even thinking, “Why am I still reading this post?” Well, let me give you some background…

In our conversations about lockdown at schools, we often use the – now notorious – “swarm of bees” example. At the beginning of our work with schools, we quickly realized the words “active shooter” or “bad guy” or “hostile person” or anything else associated with “lockdown” created an uncomfortable energy in the room, and even more importantly, created an environment where people began to check out. “It’ll never happen here.” “Not my problem – security will thwart it.” Those were the responses we were hearing.

So I went on a mission. I needed to find the answer to this question: How can I get staff, faculty, and students to feel that lockdowns are relevant to them without causing fear or asking them to meet me on a militant level?

The answer: bees.

I simply replaced the words “active shooter” or “bad guy/gal” with the word “swarm of bees” and began watching people’s body language, knowledge retention, and willingness to stick with me in the conversation improve. It was pretty incredible. Bees in and of themselves are a real threat, don’t get me wrong, but that’s the very reason they are such a great resource to us in conversations. People – staff, faculty, students, parents – can relate and even see themselves being attacked by a swarm of bees. Nearly everyone has been stung once or twice, and for those who are allergic, the fear is even greater. But while the threat is very real, the anxiety produced during one of these conversations is so much less, and people’s willingness to envision themselves responding is so much more.

From a safety person’s perspective, here’s the deal: Bees are a legitimate threat. Swarms of them are very scary, but they’re the type of scary you can talk to a 10-year-old about, unlike an active shooter (for most communities). What’s more? Using that scenario elicits the same response as one might take to an active shooter – well, some of the same pieces anyway – and can be used to communicate and educate without terrifying your audience.

So that’s why someone forwarded me this email. They were engaged enough, retained enough, and made it their own enough that they were able to find humor in it. You just can’t do that when you use the “active shooter” scenario. Well, I can’t, anyway.


Chris Joffe, Chief Executive Officer