Imagine you are walking across campus on a seemingly ordinary day when you receive a text message. Not thinking much of it, you reach for your phone and glance at it. A sickening feeling washes over you. Suddenly, this is no longer an ordinary day.
The text alerts you to an active shooter on campus.
Though hypothetical, this scenario has occurred on 44 K-12 or college campuses since the shooting at Newtown, Dec. 14 2012, according to the Washington Post.
The Miami University Police Department (MUPD), in collaboration with Miami’s Office of Communication and Marketing, has created an online page about emergency procedures with a section specifically dedicated to procedures in the event of an active shooter on campus.
According to the page, when the active shooter is outside the building, it is best to go to a room, lock all windows and doors, turn off any lights and call 911. In addition, have everyone get down on the floor and wait for an official to give an all-clear signal.
If the active shooter should happen to be inside the building, follow the same procedures until it is safe to leave the building, preferably escorted by police officers or other officials.
In the event of a shooter entering the room, try to dial 911 if possible and stay on the line to allow the dispatcher to listen to the situation. Remaining calm and quiet is important and overpowering the shooter with force should be an absolute last resort effort.
Senior Robert Horn said he has a good idea of what procedures to follow in the event of an active shooter being inside the same building.
“I would go into a classroom and if I was unable to lock the door I would wrap my belt around the handle and hold it back,” Horn said. “Then I would turn the lights off and remain quiet while waiting for officials.”
Director of University News and Communications Claire Wagner helped in the creation of the university’s emergency procedure page. She said Miami prides itself on its procedures, but there is more the university can do to increase student knowledge of safety procedures and preparations.
“Here at Miami we have an institutional response team and we meet monthly, more if necessary, in order to have a good communications system between departments, to know how each of us works in our department and to be able to communicate procedures to students in a timely manner,” Wagner said.
According to Miami Chief of Police John McCandless, carrying out procedures the university communicates to students is a major priority for MUPD.
“From a police standing, we have regular trainings where we train with the Oxford police department,” McCandless said. “We’ve made a bigger push to have local police departments acclimated with the campus.”
The university and MUPD also host a Safety Fair every year, typically in the month of September to help communicate emergency procedures along with other safety tips to students.
Today, shootings in public places are becoming more frequent, nearly one incident per day in 2013. MUPD is working to keep up in the modern world and adapt their methods of procedures.
“Times have changed,” McCandless said. “Ten years ago, in a response to a shooter, uniform officers would show up and do a perimeter check and then call in a special weapons team, and obviously that doesn’t work in these times. We now have Quad training, which is the first four officers that show up will go in and try to take care of the situation.”
Although there has never been an active shooter or an attempt on Miami’s campus, preparedness is key, but it is not always easy or possible to be prepared in an unpredictable situation.
“Miami is prepared as any school might be in that you can never predict all the factors, but you can have plans and you can practice those plans and you can communicate those plans to students and staff,” Wagner said.
This is precisely the purpose of the university’s online emergency procedure page. It communicates details of what should be done in the event of an active shooter. The problem is trying to get staff and students to read this page, according to Wagner.
“If somebody misses the pamphlet or memo the day it comes out or fails to read the online page, it’s hard to get the information to them,” Wagner said.
This is an issue for students. According to Horn, Miami should be doing more to communicate emergency procedures to the student body. More safety fairs throughout the year and more frequent reminders on Miami’s homepage to check out the emergency procedures page would help in this communication process, he said.