17 lives were taken at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14 of this year. The reality of the situation is that a mass shooting can happen anywhere at any time, including here at Salisbury University.
Salisbury University Police sent out a campus-wide email updating the community on tips for how to act if this type of situation were to occur here on campus after a few students and faculty members expressed concern following the Florida shooting. The email contained a link to a YouTube video titled “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. Surviving an Active Shooter Event,” posted by Ready Houston, as well as a link to a free online course provided by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We are going to act how we are trained,” Lieutenant Sandra Bradley said. “If you at least prepare then you will react that way rather than let fear control you in these situations.”
Luckily, SU is yet to encounter an incident of mass gun violence on campus, but all campus patrol officers have been trained in table talks, classroom settings and tactical trainings surrounding gun violence in event that this does occur. Another tactical training session is planned to take place over spring break.
“In this day and age it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Bradley said. “Preparation is key.”
Students are aware that an isolated incident of this kind can occur when least expected, but sophomore Quentin Loman does not feel SU does a thorough job in communicating proper safety procedures.
“I do feel safe on campus in regards to the threat of gun violence,” Loman said. “This is not because of anything Salisbury University does on the issue, but because I feel confident that the threat of gun violence isn’t very high and I feel comfortable that I can react appropriately both as an individual and with a group.”
Tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 prompted law enforcement nationwide to adapt their responses to such situations. The course of action in the Columbine incident was for law enforcement to contain the situation and wait for tactical teams to arrive, but the outcome showed changes would need to be made.
“Since then and to present day, officers [SUPD included] are trained to quickly take action to stop the threat, particularly if officers hear shots being fired upon their arrival on a scene,” Bradley said. “In active shooter situations officers would not wait for tactical team to make an entry. In these situations, [in] the time it takes for any officer to engage and eliminate a threat or shooter, potentially more lives can be saved through swift action.”
A multitude of information for how to deal with various situations including but not limited to hostile intruders, criminal or suspicious behavior and bomb threats, can be found on the SUPD website. Students are encouraged to subscribe to the text message alert system, a key way the police immediately communicate critical information in event of an incident.
While the threat of gun violence is on alert to the SUPD and campus officials, it is certainly not the only safety concern on campus. The university has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its students in all areas of concern, and thus has several resources in place.
The blue light emergency phones are placed at various locations on campus for students who do not feel comfortable walking alone for whatever reason, typically at night. When the button is pushed, the student is automatically connected with an officer on the other end of the phone and another officer is immediately dispatched to escort the individual home.
The campus safety task force, chaired by Vice President of Student Affairs Dane Foust, developed roughly 10 years ago in response to an off-campus incident that brought concern to students at SU. The committee meets monthly and includes representatives from various offices and departments, as well student representation from the Student Government Association.
The committee discusses various issues ranging from sexual assault and protest policies, medical protocols, tailgating and many others as they are brought to their attention. The discussions that occur during the meetings are what sparks some of the campaigns that are carried out by organizations such as the SUPD and Student Health Services.
“Many of the things you see related to campus have been discussed, vetted and considered through the campus safety task force,” Foust said.
Another committee, the Coordinated Response Team (CRT), meets weekly to discuss specific students in the residence halls that have been reported by their peers to be a possible danger to themselves or the campus in general. The group develops a plan for how to intervene and work with the student in question while keeping the confidentiality of the students involved.
Despite the safety measures in effect, some students still do not feel safe.
“My teacher told us today that we didn’t even have cameras in the hallway by our classroom door,” sophomore Audrey Schirmer said. “There’s no metal detectors and I only ever see cops ticketing and not surveilling the buildings. It would be really easy for someone to bring a gun in their backpack.”
Junior Sarah Wagner transferred to SU last semester and is unimpressed with the safety measures she has experienced in her time thus far.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a campus cop walking on campus,” Wagner said. “Even going through transfer orientation last semester there was no mention of any of that. My old college went over that stuff during orientation in one of those information packed sessions.”
Students, faculty and staff are asked to notify SUPD immediately when they see any suspicious situations occur on campus. The department also provides a safety app, 911 Shield, which allows users to contact the police department immediately and provides the user’s location in case immediate police assistance is needed.
By HALEY DICK
Gull Life editor