Active shooter policy outlined

By Staff

May 5, 2014

School shootings across the country have increased rapidly over the last several years, leaving students and faculty members wondering what they should do when tragedy strikes home. In a report conducted by the group Moms Demand Action, there have been at least 44 school shootings in the last 16 months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. These reported incidences have resulted in the injury of 37 students, and the death of 28. Sixteen of the school shootings have been on college and university campuses around the country. Six of the reported incidences happened in January of 2014, making it one of the highest months of incidents recorded. “You hear about school shootings all the time, but you never expect it to happen where you live,” CNN iReporter Jeff Ooms said in an article posted on the website. Ooms works a few blocks away from where the shootings happened on Purdue’s campus in January. With the alarming increases in violence, such as school shootings across the country, what would happen if something like this happened closer to home? It brings up the question of polices and procedures that have been put in place to help ensure the safety of students and faculty here at Missouri Western State University. “I’m not aware of anything or what to do if something like that were to happen here,” Abby McKern, a sophomore, said when asked if she knew what to do in the event of an active shooter on campus. “It seems like we really don’t have any sort of way to let students know or be aware if something like that were to happen.” As head of risk management at Missouri Western, Tim Kissock is actively involved in emergency management and the development of protocol regarding situations such as active shooters and hostile situations, among other things. Of the many proactive measures that have been taken to help ensure safety on campus, one of the most prevalent is having an armed police force. According to the last survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of campuses with 2,500 or more students and two-year campuses with 10,000 or more students, only 67 percent have an armed police force. “One of the most important things you can have is an armed response team that’s available and ready,” Kissock said during an interview. “And luckily, we have the benefit of having an armed force here on campus. That police force is trained in active shooter response, which is probably our primary tool.” In addition to having a trained campus police force, Missouri Western’s officers also coordinate with local authorities to practice responding to active shooter situations and even train other law enforcement officers. “Missouri Western officers participate in regular training events to prepare, as much as possible, for a variety of events that could happen on campus; active shooter/firearms qualifications are just a couple training areas,” Jon Kelley, campus chief of police, said. Another feature on campus that contributes to safety and overall communication in emergency situations is that of the Griffon Alert system. “It’s probably one of the most comprehensive notification systems of any college in the country,” Kissock said. “Essentially it’s our system that would notify people in our campus community of an emergency situation, whether it’s a tornado, bomb threat, gas leak, or even an active shooter situation, among others.” Part of what makes the Griffon Alert system so unique is that it utilizes many different variations of notification to ensure that the most people possible would be aware of any impending danger. “There are yellow beacons in almost every hallway that would activate [in the event of an emergency]. It’s has an auditory message, which is an actual speaker system that can be heard, there’s a visual message in case someone can’t hear or the noise is too loud.” To increase the efficiency of the Griffon Alert system, each classroom across campus is equipped with a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephone that would ring and notify each classroom of the emergency alert. The Griffon Alert system also utilizes text messaging and PA systems located outside to help ensure that the message gets out. “It’s certainly something that we actively encourage students and employees to sign up for, and currently have over 2,000 people signed up,” Kissock said. “It’s probably the cornerstone of the Griffon Alert system.” While there have been multiple measures put into place to ensure adequate response in the event of an active shooter, there have been equally important steps taken to prevent the likelihood of such an attack. The C.A.S.S. committee, or committee to assist struggling students, was developed after the Virginia Tech shooting seven years ago. The overall purpose of the C.A.S.S. committee is to identify and assist students who may be struggling, or exhibiting signs of dangerous behaviors. In addition to identifying potentially dangerous behaviors, the C.A.S.S. committee also assists with recognizing other issues, such as drug or alcohol abuse. “The C.A.S.S. committee is meant to get in front of situations before they happen,” Kissock said. “We were doing that on an informal basis, but we certainly paid attention to what happened at Virginia Tech and try to get out in front now.” On the Missouri Western campus police website, several helpful tools are available to students and faculty to aid in preparedness for an emergency situation, such as a hostile shooter. Included on the website is a guide on how to respond to an active shooter that is provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as several pamphlets regarding emergency related events. “I believe it is each individual’s responsibility to seek out information and prepare themselves to deal with the emergencies that are most likely to affect them. If you live in tornado alley you should pay attention to the weather, listen for sirens and know what to do in the event of a tornado warning. This same philosophy holds true for any emergency; the University/Police Department can provide information and assistance in preparing for emergencies, but it is the individual who must actually be prepared,” Kelley said. When asked about what students and faculty could do to handle an event such as an active shooter, Kelly said, “Make sure you are signed up for the Griffon Alerts, pay attention to the Griffon Alert information and, if there is information, do as the information dictates.” So how does Missouri Western stack up to similar schools such as Missouri Southern State University in terms of preparedness? Missouri Southern State University has classes called the A.L.I.C.E., an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The A.L.I.C.E. program teaches students how to disarm a shooter through a variety of methods. “Our classes are proficient,” Kennedy said. “If someone walks into the room with hand gun, [the class teaches them] how to pommel them and take them to the ground. It’s our first line of defense.” In addition to the A.L.I.C.E. program, Missouri Southern also has a notification system that utilizes beacons on top of its buildings, blue emergency phones located across campus, and notifications that will go over radio systems throughout campus. Northwest Missouri State University was unavailable for comment.