Tragedy, confusion, and controversy have arisen from three college campus shootings this October, at Umpqua Community College on October 1 and at Texas Southern University and Northern Arizona University on October 9. In the wake of this, many schools are practicing lockdown drills with students and faculty everywhere wanting to know what their own campus’ procedures and safety measures are in case there is a suspected or active shooter on campus.
The University of Redlands has an alert system that distributes information through the “Bulldog Alert” system, “Students, parents, and faculty members can sign up and will receive alerts through text messages, phone call, and email simultaneously… [Public Safety] will assess the situation, find out what we have, and we will activate that system.” Marc Taylor, the Associate Director of Public Safety, said. Public safety would also send out updates as the situation became more clear.
Another alert program called Alertus will take over the University computers to display a mass emergency message just like the ones sent to mobile devices and emails through the Bulldog Alert. Only University computers will be sent these messages, so computers only connected to the university wifi will not receive these messages.
The University’s Emergency Services and IT team are currently working to put together a new system that will instead have an opt-out emergency notification system in place of the opt-in system the University uses now (Bulldog Alert). This will allow all students and faculty to be automatically signed up to the alert system upon registration to the school, while also allowing them to turn off the alert system if they so please.
To ensure everyone, even those who aren’t signed up to the Bulldog Alert system, gets to a safe location in case of an emergency, Public Safety staff will be dispatched to drive around campus to direct people.
“We have radio communications with facilities. Student life and facilities can help us direct people,” Taylor said. “We [also] have blue light phones …15 of them have voice communication from Public Safety. We can broadcast messages through the loudspeakers.”
As Public Safety is alerting the students and staff on campus, the police and fire department are contacted as well. Public safety will be giving information to both departments about the location and situation to the best of their knowledge. The police department will search the buildings, look through classrooms, offices, restrooms, and public spaces when necessary.
Public Safety undergoes active shooter training to help them “respond appropriately” in case there is an armed person on campus. The active-shooter training is based on the model “Run, Hide, Fight,” which can be found on YouTube. CA’s, some faculty members, staff, and some students have taken this training “to allow themselves to think, ahead of time, about what they would do in that situation,” Taylor said. Anyone interested in receiving this training can contact Public Safety directly, or contact Student Life to get a group of 30-40 students together for that purpose.
In addition to this training, according to Taylor, “Almost all of our Public Safety officers are retired officers from municipal police departments, ” and have police training under their belts.
When asked about how we can keep ourselves and our neighbors safe from gun violence, Taylor replied, “The biggest way is to be aware of your surroundings.”
Taylor points out that after a shooter is identified, “there are always people who come forward and say, ‘Oh, I had a feeling,’ but never said anything.”
Telling a CA or a staff member about a concerning comment some made or activity someone engages in can help connect that person to resources that can help him/her.
“If we can handle the situation ahead of time — if someone needs to go to the counseling team or needs guidance, we can handle that. Preventative measures are always best.” Taylor said.
On October 9, our President Ralph Kuncl sent out a mass email concerning ongoing gun violence on US college campuses, stating that, “We can discuss and debate these issues, and we should: this growing epidemic of gun violence in our nation demands thoughtful, educated discourse, and an educational setting and community is an important forum for this dialogue.”
Gun violence is a growing problem that has been emphasized in the news and in the government, and we, as a community, should talk about it. But remaining aware of our surroundings and knowing how to act in case of an emergency are very different from worrying.
“I wouldn’t want to see people so caught up [in worry] that they can’t focus on what they’re here for, which is having a great time, having social interaction, and academics. And that’s the focus,” Taylor said. “But at the same time, being a little bit aware.”
[Image courtesy of Joseph Serrano, Redlands Bulldog photographer]