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College Health and Safety

Does Your College Students Know How to Respond to an Active Shooter?

Photo: Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao

Campus police departments across the United States have done an excellent job in preparing themselves for a mass casualty event. The departments have trained with local law enforcement partners to prepare a unified response, worked with the local fire and emergency medical services to ensure quick evacuation of the injured and they have purchased the equipment needed to ensure a quick resolution to a threat.

This is all good news for those students who are inside a building that has an active shooter present. However, one question that any parent should ask of their institution is, “What training do you provide my child for how to respond to a threat that is occurring?” It is very reassuring to know that the police are coming to your aid, however, students must take actions to defend themselves while they wait for the police to arrive.

The unique problem that is caused at a college campus is that students come from multiple school districts that are scattered throughout the United States. Each state and district may teach a different style of response. This can cause extreme confusion for students during an active shooter situation. Some students have been taught to lock the door and hide, some have been taught to run, hide and fight while others have been taught to secure, alert, fight and evacuate. When you combine the multiple techniques into a stressed environment within one classroom it is the perfect recipe for chaos.

As you seek an institution to attend, students and parents need to ensure that the institution has a hands-on training program that is mandatory for students to attend. This will ensure that all students, regardless of their K-12 training, have a full understanding of the institutional response plan and expectations for the student response to an active shooter. A website video is not enough, nor is a static presentation. Institutions of higher education need to have hands on training for students to prepare them for a real-life situation.

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