I walked into Rosse Hall last Sunday at 5:25 p.m., five minutes before the active shooter training session, hosted by the Campus Safety Office, was scheduled to begin. The only other people in the auditorium were on stage — Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper, Campus Safety Supervisor and Emergency Response Coordinator Todd Bell and Director of Residential Life and Assistant Dean of Students Jill Engel-Hellman. Eventually, two more students filtered in and sat down, but a few minutes later with no more attendees, the presenters decided to cancel the session. Of the three students who attended, I was the only one who had not already seen the training presentation.
Campus Safety planned the training session to help members of the student body and the Gambier community prepare in the case of an active threat on campus. The issue has added urgency in the wake of recent school shootings like the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Campus Safety already held training for members of the Class of 2021, recently hired faculty and staff members and students from several organizations, including the Peer Counselors, Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Student Council.
Campus Safety is also working to adjust its active shooter preparedness recommendations in response to recent changes to the campus landscape. Construction projects on campus, for instance, have led the Campus Safety Office and Community Advisors (CAs) to reevaluate some of its rally points—locations where CAs and students can regroup during and after an emergency. Construction projects like the demolition of Farr Hall and installation of modular units on south campus have made some points difficult or impossible to reach.
The training offered by Campus Safety includes a presentation of a 10-video series called “Surviving an Active Shooter.” Bell sent me a link to the videos, which can be found on the Knox County Safety Council website, and I watched them Monday night. They were created by the KCS) in conjunction with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and contain “the most up-to-date information and training methods” for responding to an active shooter, according to Hooper.
The videos, cover topics like rudimentary first aid, law enforcement response and tactics for disarming a shooter. In the case of an active threat emergency, the videos advise that anyone in the area of the active threat follow a “run, hide, fight” strategy.
The “run, hide, fight” strategy suggests running to escape the area as quickly as possible. If escape is impossible, the next-best tactic is to hide in a barricaded space. If those two tactics fail and confronting the active shooter is necessary, one should fight the active threat with “maximum aggression,” according to Mark Maxwell, director of the Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Hooper recommends the “run, hide, fight” strategy in the event of an active threat on campus. “We want [students] running in the opposite direction that they’re hearing shots fired,” he said.
After receiving training, several departments on campus have created department-specific active threat response plans, according to Hooper. He believes students also need to be as prepared as possible in the case of an active threat situation.
“When a situation happens, that isn’t the time to think about what to do,” he said. “Have the knowledge beforehand, think about it, make your own plans.”
During the process of writing this story, I’ve come to agree with him. I had not planned to attend the training session on Sunday until I was assigned to report on it. But having now seen the training videos and talked with Hooper, it worries me that I do not know how the people around me, especially my classmates, would react to an active shooter on campus. Unpredictability could cost precious milliseconds in an emergency, and a lack of planning by any one person could have ripple effects that lead to the harm of others.
Campus Safety plans to continue providing training sessions at New Student Orientation and for new employees of the College. The public session canceled on Sunday could not be rescheduled before the end of the academic year. Campus Safety will look to reschedule it in the fall.