Director of Campus Safety readies St. A’s with active shooter drills

Meghan Schmitt, Culture Editor

As gun violence remains a pervasive issue in the United States, faculty, students, and staff in colleges and universities across America are faced with a difficult situation: What if that happens to me?

Donald Davidson, head of Saint Anselm’s campus security, arranged a faculty presentation for mass shooter preparation in Gadbois on November 7.  The general message included in the promotion for the presentation was “Because we understand that extreme violence can occur to anyone, at any time, in any location; let’s discuss some options.”  This event was organized for Enough is Enough Week, with the understanding that mass shootings are a crisis which impacts faculty, staff, and students.

The meeting began with an hour-long video simulation in which professionals rehearsed proper conduct for the event of a mass shooting. They described the ALICE protocol: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. Most shootings are over before law enforcement can arrive, which emphasizes the necessity for a campus-wide notification system which can alert all personnel immediately.

Many people caught in a dangerous situation panic because they are unfamiliar with the noise of an actual gunshot.  Assume that all unfamiliar sounds are gunshots, and do not second guess.

There are three courses of action outlined in the video: get out, hide out, and take out.  

All experts agree that the consequences will be catastrophic if people are unprepared for an active shooter situation.  A “survival mindset”, as stressed by Davidson, must be developed.

Training can determine the difference between anxiety and panic, muscle memory and disbelief, preparing to act and feeling lost, and also committing to action vs. being vulnerable.  As a general piece of advice, experts want all people, whether in a school, church, or theater, to pay attention to things out of the ordinary. Intuition is to be trusted.

If one is able to get out of an active shooter situation, leave as soon as possible: do not wait for anyone, do not take any belongings. Immediately call 911 and state the location of the attack and any details which can be of use, such as the number of shooters.

Not everyone is able to leave situations such as these.  In these occurrences, the most realistic strategy is to hide well and stay well hidden.  

According to experts, it is best to avoid places which restrict movement.  Doors should be locked and blockaded. Reduce all noise in the room.

One change of protocol from elementary school-level drills is that no people in the room should be huddling, as that creates a larger target for the shooter.  Individuals in this situation should fan out across the room and plan their next course of action as quietly as possible.

Perhaps the most dangerous scenario involving the most training occurs when someone comes face to face with the shooter.  Staying in motion and finding protective cover (perhaps a tree or a wall) is very important. Always assume that the shooter will attack everyone.  Anyone willing to take down the assailant must commit to it. If a group of people come into contact with the intruder, yelling and improvised weapons (thrown books) provides a temporary defense.  

If law enforcement is able to arrive before the shooter leaves, all people must calmly, quickly, and accurately give them necessary information (location and number of attackers) so that they can prevent further casualties.  For coming face to face with law enforcement in this situation, do not present a threat. Refraining from pointing, screaming, yelling will help SWAT teams assess the situation. Raise hands overhead when they enter the room.  

The video also stresses that a hostage situation and an active shooter situation are very different scenarios with different protocol, though one can easily transform into the other.  In a hostage situation, remain calm and follow directions.

From 2016-2017, there were 50 active shooter designated incidents in this country.  It is a matter for which campus security, counselors, RA’s, and professors must all be prepared.  Davidson’s piece of advice for students is “) Always be aware of your surroundings and have a plan that you can initiate if a situation occurs.”

Dean of Students Karlea Marie Joiner also assisted in organizing this discussion between faculty and campus security.  She commented, “I felt this was important for Enough is Enough Week, because we discuss so many important dangers which are prevalent for students in our society.  Even those this really impacts their environment, active shooter doesn’t come up.”

She followed up with, “For me, there’s a constant awareness in the office, we talk about what we would do if this event happens.  Five years ago, we didn’t.”

When asked about how reports of these incidents affects her, Joiner replied.  “It isn’t a numbness, more of a heightened awareness. I am more mindful of my surroundings and what I would need to do.”

Joiner felt that if students wanted drills specifically mimicking these incidents (noting that their protocol is very different from childhood lockdown drills) they should be about to vocalize these feelings to either Reslife or SGA. Davidson confirmed that drills for these incidents have been done and will be done in the past.  

Active shooter training is now a necessity for all Education majors.  Senior Secondary Education major Nina Lukens recently completed training for this scenario and gave her account of the process.

From an interview with Lukens, “I had my training as a part of my student teaching orientation at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. They had us complete an ALICE drill and lead us through three active shooter scenario.

The first was before they taught us the ALICE protocol, and they had us carry out a simple lockdown. The Derry police department lead the training and fired actual blanks in the hallway to simulate what the sound of a gunshot and the smell of gunpowder was like. I came to the realization during this part of the training that this was the first time in my life I had ever heard a gunshot, and the fact that the first time I was hearing it was at my job training as a teacher disturbed me. Certain police officers were designated as “the gunmen” who came into the classrooms and shot Nerf pellets at us. This was done to simulate how many people would have gotten shot in each scenario.

In the second two scenarios, we were instructed to use ALICE protocol in order to barricade the door or fight back against the “gunman”. This lead to less people getting “shot”, and was overall a more empowering experience than simply going into lockdown and not doing anything to prevent people from getting shot. Overall, I felt that while the fact we need this training as teachers is disturbing, it is the unfortunate reality that we live in, and preparing educators and students for the unthinkable allows us to feel more empowered were the unthinkable to occur.”

Long gone are the days when a lockdown drill simply meant hiding in the corner with one’s classmates and following the teacher’s instruction to stay silent.  Gun violence is a tragic epidemic, but one for which everyone must be prepared.