Here We Go Again… Another Mass Shooting
Post Umpqua, let’s review the real security and safety solutions you can adopt to protect your campus.
We’re barely into the new school year, and we’ve already experienced another mass shooting at an educational institution; this time in Oregon. Right now, the death toll from the Umpqua Community College (UCC) tragedy stands at 10 (including the gunman), with seven injured. (That doesn’t include the deadly shootings that occured Oct. 9 at Northern Arizona University and at Texas Southern University (TSU), both of which appear to not have involved active shooters.)
Although the full details about the Umpqua shooter and his motives have yet to be revealed, he appears to have a lot in common with other active shooters, including a possible history of mental illness and access to a large arsenal of firearms.
The similarities don’t end there. The public’s reaction to the UCC tragedy is the same as before. On the right, gun rights advocates continue to clamor for civilians to be able to carry concealed weapons on campus, and the left is calling for gun control. The majority of us in the middle are scratching our heads, wondering why there can’t be at least some reasonable limits on the ownership and carrying of firearms at schools and colleges. (A new poll of Florida residents, by the way, shows that nearly three in four of them oppose guns on campus.)
Then there is the usual debate about mental health. The problem is, when it comes to addressing this issue, nothing has really changed over the past several years.
As far as access to guns is concerned, we’re worse off now than before with some states allowing concealed weapons on campus, including Texas where four shootings have occurred at TSU since the start of the school year.
Despite these discouraging facts, Campus Safety magazine is not about to throw in the towel. There are a lot of real solutions you as security stakeholders can adopt to make a difference in a rational, responsible, cost-effective and mostly non-violent way. These include:
- Improve access control and, if possible, build a secure vestibule that funnels all visitors through one entrance. The deployment of metal detectors is also an option for sporting events, concerts, political speeches, etc. They can also be randomly used on K-12 campuses.
- Install locks on classroom doors that lock from the inside
- Train students, faculty, staff and clinicians how to properly identify and respond to active shooters and other campus emergencies
- Regularly conduct drills and exercises that address a wide variety of hazards and incidents
- Install visitor management systems that screen guests
- Have teachers, staff and clinicians carry panic buttons
- Install or update emergency communication and notification equipment
- Create a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team
- Long before an incident occurs, partner with local first responders so they can effectively and quickly respond to a campus emergency
- Hire school resource officers (SROs) or campus police officers, provide them with appropriate training and then arm them
- Adopt Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) concepts
- Train faculty, staff, administrators, clinicians and public safety officers on verbal de-escalation techniques
- Develop policies and procedures to support all of the solutions you’ve adopted
- Deploy security cameras that campus police and/or local law enforcement can tap into during an incident. The evidence provided by video surveillance systems is also extremely useful during investigations of incidents.
- Have on staff enough school psychologists, social workers and counselors so individuals exhibiting concerning behavior get the help they need before they resort to violence
- Develop emergency plans and keep them current
- Develop and maintain relationships with students, faculty, staff, clinicians, nurses and others in the community so that they feel comfortable reporting the concerning behavior of others
- Adopt anonymous tip phone lines or text messaging services
These are just some of the best practices you can adopt to help prevent, or at least mitigate, violence at your institution.
Our publication is also making some changes in an attempt to address one of the possible motivations of active shooters: fame. From now on, whenever, possible, Campus Safety will no longer mention the names of the individuals who carry out these terrible crimes. I challenge other news organizations to do the same.
I doubt there is much we can do about the very vocal and powerful minority of Americans who are strangely obsessed with their guns and unwilling to set any reasonable limits on gun ownership and possession. We, however, can have compassion for them, for they are most likely gripped by fear. We can also can be grounded in reality and adopt the strategies I’ve listed to hopefully reduce the number of shootings on campus.
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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!