How UC Davis and WNCC Prepare for Campus Shootings

Realistic training and input from community partners is how UC Davis and Western Nebraska Community College ready their campuses for active shooter events.

While it is nearly impossible to fully anticipate the trauma and chaos of an active shooter event, proper training can prepare your sworn and non-sworn officers, students, staff and faculty to react effectively. Providing thorough and realistic exercises for your officers and regular drills or instructional presentations for campus personnel and students can help to ensure that effective procedures are followed, reducing the likelihood of fatalities or injuries.

In order to cultivate an adequate response, basic training should be held routinely and in-depth exercises should be dynamic and well-planned. An effective campus active shooter plan will encompass communication between your institution and first responders, lockdown procedures and mass notification.

Training Prepares Students, Staff
At a college or university, each school year can bring hundreds of new students to campus who are unaware of the policies and procedures in place to protect them. To guarantee each student the opportunity for instruction pertinent to active shooter events, regular training is a must.

At the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), students, faculty and staff as well as other community members are the recipients of an annual 90-minute presentation on active shooters.

“Our training approach is…a two pronged approach,” explains Lieutenant Matthew Carmichael of the UC Davis Police Department. “Not only do we continuously train with our sworn staff, we also train our community.”

Read about how utilizing community partnerships can improve your active shooter response.

The presentation was developed after the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 and has been viewed by thousands of attendees, according to Carmichael. In addition, the department puts on multiple smaller-scale presentations throughout the year at the request of community groups.

The UC Davis PD must prepare both the university campus and the UC Davis Medical Center — located in Sacramento — for such an event.

“We have provided rapid response, first aid training at that medical center,” says Carmichael. “As a matter of fact, as of [March 2011] it’s now mandatory for medical students to attend these survival strategies for active shooter incidents.”

Drills Not a ‘Big Joke’
Similarly, at Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC), disaster preparedness is part of the incoming student orientation process.

“We give an orientation on lockdown, fire safety and tornadoes when new students come to campus and then we’re also doing training with the students on a monthly basis,” says Bob Hessler, safety coordinator for WNCC.

To heighten student awareness, tabletop exercises specifically aimed at coping with active shooter events are conducted on campus during regular school hours.


“The biggest challenge I have with these drills is dealing with the students and getting them to comprehend the seriousness [of an active shooter event], and that it can happen,” explains Hessler.

In April, the college will hold a bomb threat drill on its Scottsbluff campus, where an active shooter drill was held previously. In the fall, an active shooter drill will be conducted at the college’s Sidney campus.

During these drills, the campus is put on lockdown using the incident command system. Individuals are then systematically evacuated. During the college’s first active shooter drill in 2008, the entire Scottsbluff campus was evacuated within 30 minutes.

“When you’re 18, 19, 20-years-old, it’s a big joke. That’s why we try to make it as realistic as we can with the gunshot sounds and the explosive devices on the campus,” adds Hessler. 

Realistic Exercises Work Best
Both UC Davis and WNCC utilize student and faculty volunteers in drills and exercises. This creates more realistic exercises and better prepares officers for what might occur during a real shooting.

“The suspects who have no prior police training, no tactical knowledge, they’re kind of doing what someone potentially would do [in that situation],” says Carmichael.

View a video of UC Davis’ full-scale emergency exercise.

In addition to its annual presentation, the UC Davis PD puts on a full-scale active shooter exercise every three to five years. This intricate exercise requires nine to 12 months of planning.

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