Recent, tragic events such as shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and Lone Star College provided the University with what Steve Beers, vice president of student development, calls a “teachable moment.” As a result, the Crisis Preparedness Team is providing training to teach students and faculty how to respond to an active shooter on campus.
Beers said the video-based program serves two purposes: to give people direction in what they should do and to give people back a sense of control.
“That’s really helpful because it reduces anxiety so people don’t feel like they don’t know what to do,” he said. “Giving people direction on what to do gives them the hope they could survive this.”
Scott Wanzer, campus safety director, stated it was important to remember ELF:
• Escape if you can.
• Lockdown if you must.
• Fight back if confronted.
The first and last elements are relatively new to public safety. Wanzer said the training previously only focused on lockdown. He added that all of that changed with the shooting at Columbine.
“They realized public safety had been training people to just lockdown, and they hadn’t really empowered them physically or emotionally or psychologically to fight back,” he said. “You’ve got a room full of first graders; they can’t fight back very well. But it’s really not necessary for 30 adults to just sit there and stare at this gunman and be killed one at a time.”
However, people do not have time to think about this in the moment. Considering it beforehand—mental rehearsal—becomes the best preparation.
“We are trying to empower people to think about that decision ahead of time,” Wanzer said. “It’s a little scary, but unfortunately that’s where we are in our culture.”
Wanzer specified that training for a college campus is different than it would be for high school, middle school or elementary school campuses. Everyone is considered an adult, and therefore students as well as professors and administrators are empowered in the same ways.
The training also included steps toward prevention of an active shooter. Wanzer said a similar model is already being used in academics at the University:
Wanzer encouraged students, faculty and staff to be aware of what is going on around them. If you see something suspicious or out of place, it is better to speak up and tell someone.
“God gave us a sixth sense for a reason, and it is good,” he said.
Senior Josh Manning said the video provided very practical advice.
“It was something that I can think about and something to do instead of just freak out,” Manning said. “I’ve sort of thought about it, but this puts it forward and makes it easy to rationalize.”
Bryan Cole, resident director of the townhouses, attended the first training session not only so he can be prepared in such a situation, but also so he can help train his RAs.
“The more students, faculty and staff that prepare and train for a crisis situation like this, the better,” he said. “The takeaways and points that the session make can be attributed to other crisis situations as well, not just the rare active shooter situation. Assuming something like this would not happen at JBU or Siloam Springs is the worst response we can take to the recent increase in violence on campuses.”