A decade after the Virginia Tech shooting put college campuses on alert about active shooting threats, shootings on college campuses have more than doubled in recent years.
Colleges have improved their preparedness for these potential incidents, as Congress amended the Clery Act to require colleges to adopt procedures for notifying the campus of an immediate threat. While mass notifications are effective at spreading the word about threats, students and faculty still need training to know what to do in a shooting incident.
“Schools should make students aware that it can happen,” said Tim Kuchac, training director for V5 Systems and a former San Jose Police Department lieutenant. “They need to think about it and not just rely on police officers. Officers do the best job they can, but a lot of times, students are confronted by the shooter before officers can get there, so you have to have a plan in place.”
Simple Drills Save Lives
Active shooter incidents are unpredictable and they can evolve quickly. That’s why it’s important that everyone in a campus community is prepared, not just law enforcement.
“We have fire drills, we have earthquake drills and nowadays, it makes sense to have active shooter drills,” Kuchac said.
There are many resources available for university officials to create training and awareness, particularly materials from the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS created the video below to give a rundown of response protocol during an active shooter event.
According to DHS, here are some tips and instructions on how to prepare and train students, faculty and administration in case of an active shooter event.
Make a Plan in Advance
Make faculty, staff, and students aware of various shorthand terminology such as ‘lockdown’ or ‘evacuate.’
- Drill lockdown procedures. Students should stay in classrooms, move away from windows, close blinds, lock and barricade the door
- In the event of evacuation, make sure everyone is aware of the nearest exits and pathways to escape
Run and Keep Running
Getting away from the shooter is the top priority, so the first option is to run. Leave all belongings and get as far away as you can.
- Help students and faculty escape when possible, but, if you are not trained law enforcement, your safety comes first. If others won’t comply, continue evacuating
- Warn others and prevent anyone else from entering the area
- Once you are in a safe area, call 911
Hide and Commit When You Do
If you aren’t able to escape from a building or area, the next option is to hide from the shooter.
- While hiding, stay quiet and silence mobile devices. Make sure they don’t vibrate to avoid detection
- Avoid hiding in place that traps you or restricts your movement
- Stay in lockdown or hiding until verified law enforcement gives the all clear
Fight and Fight Hard
The last resort and worst-case scenario is to fight. If you can’t run or hide, you must fight off the shooter.
- Commit to an action and act as aggressively as possible against the shooter
- Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, desks, fire extinguishers, scissors or books
- Be prepared to cause severe or lethal damage to the shooter and do anything to disarm him or her
Technology Can Expedite Police Response Time and Save Lives
While proper training for students and faculty can help save lives during an active shooter event, technology can stack the odds of survival in your favor.
Gunshot detection is a technology that uses sensors to recognize, record and locate gunshots. The sensors notify police of gunfire, which allows them to respond quickly.
Without gunshot detection, police don’t know of a shooting until they receive a 911 call. If students are evacuating the area, they won’t make the call until they’re safe, so that delays notification and response time.
With gunshot detection technology, such as V5 Systems’ Acoustic Gunshot Sensor (V5 GSL), police are notified within seconds of gunfire and know not only the location of the shooting, but also the direction the shots were fired, helping them determine where the shooter is moving. Cutting response time by seconds or minutes can save lives.
The technology also uses machine learning, which leads to more accurate gunshot detection than human verification. These solutions can also come with video surveillance, which adds a visual element to the real-time GSL alert information.
Active shooter events are hard to prevent. If you can’t predict it, you can be prepared for it. Combining appropriate training drills for students, faculty, and administration along with gunshot detection technology can help you increase safety and save lives on your campus.
 Aiming at Students: The College Gun Violence Epidemic. Citizens Crime Commission. http://www.nycrimecommission.org/pdfs/CCC-Aiming-At-Students-College-Shootings-Oct2016.pdf
 The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. U.S. Department of Education. https://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/handbook.pdf
 Active Shooter Preparedness. Department of Homeland Security. https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness