It’s now been 20 years since the tragic shooting at Columbine High School shook the nation. With similar tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary and Parkland High School, along with dozens of others in recent years, the threat of a school shooting is a major fear for many American students.
There can be a lot of doubt and uncertainty surrounding the subject of a potential active shooter on campus. A major worry for some is knowing what to do should it happen, but students at Missouri State can receive hands-on training to ensure they’re ready.
David Hall, director of University Safety at MSU, recommends that any concerned students or faculty attend an active shooter training session to help answer their questions and prepare them should the situation arise.
These sessions are conducted based on requests, meaning that students, faculty or campus organizations can ask the Department of Safety and Transportation to provide one whenever they like, so long as there are enough participants.
Hall said there has been an increase in the number of sessions held and suggests that one reason for the increase might be the improved simplicity of the new “Run, Hide, Fight” training compared to the previously used ALICE program.
“It’s much more contemporary,” Hall said. “It really gives people actionable information … I attended one of the ALICE trainings right after I got here, and two hours later I couldn’t remember what the acronym stood for.”
Hall compared the active shooter training to fire and tornado drills, suggesting that people might feel safer if they were trained in active shooter events as frequently and as early as other disaster scenarios.
“People just don’t know what to do,” Hall said. “By giving them this training, it empowers them to really have an idea or a sense of ‘At least I know the basic things to do.’”
But the training sessions cover information well beyond the fundamentals of how to handle yourself in the event of an armed intruder. The session on April 16 at Magers Health and Wellness Center, presented by Hall, began with a brief history of school shootings.
After explaining how shootings and preparedness for them have evolved, Hall spoke to the small audience about preventing these tragedies before they even happen.
Though he explained that “there is not a profile for an active shooter,” he did suggest there are a few characteristics that might be useful for determining whether or not someone is a threat to others or, more likely, themselves.
The majority of the training session was spent explaining the ideas behind “Run, Hide, Fight,” a title that, Hall admits, could be somewhat misleading.
“Run” is fairly straightforward. If you hear gunshots at a distance, your first priority should be to get as far away from that noise as possible.
“Hide” more often means barricade. If fleeing isn’t an option, the next best plan is to make it as difficult for the shooter to reach you as possible.
“Fight” is a last resort. If no other options exist, training suggests that you do whatever you can to prevent the shooter from hurting you, whether it be attacking, screaming or moving erratically.
While these plans can certainly seem easy to understand, Hall also said that the pressure of an active shooter scenario can very easily cause people to freeze up and not think properly, which is why training and preparedness is so vital.
The training is a roughly hour-long presentation, which Hall hopes gives attendees the information and security they need. Sophomore history education major Sydney Davis, who attended the April 16 session, said she was a bit more comfortable after the training.
“As an education major, it’s something that kinda scared me going into teaching since you hear about school shootings in the news all the time, but this course made me feel a lot better about it, just being prepared and realizing that there are more school fires than there are shootings,” Davis said.
Senior criminology major Sam Butler was also at the session. She came out of concern stemming from recent mass shootings.
“For me, I didn’t really think about it until Parkland happened because I was watching it live as it happened,” Butler said. “I was thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in school right now. That’s very scary.’ So I wanted to be more prepared.”
During the session, Hall said “there is a greater chance to survive than ever,” emphasizing the importance of learning what to do before anything bad actually happens.
“There needs to more emergency-preparedness training of all types for faculty, staff and students,” Hall said. “The time to know what to do for an emergency is before an emergency happens, not after it happens.”
While there aren’t specific requirements for active shooter training at MSU, university faculty cover some scenarios at their orientation in a general preparedness training, and, according to Hall, there has been talk about adding something to the school’s GEP courses to prepare students as well.
Along with increased student preparedness training, MSU might soon have the option to designate full time employees as campus protection officers, who would be allowed to conceal carry firearms on campus.
Hall said House Bill 575, which has already passed in the Missouri House of Representatives and is under review in the Senate, would allow MSU’s Board of Governors to select officers who would be trained based on requirements set by the state Department of Public Safety.
Although he’s fine with the core legislation, Hall said MSU takes issue with an amendment to the bill which would allow for broad concealed carry on campus.
The MSU Board of Governors currently decides who is allowed to conceal carry and where. Hall said that taking that discretionary power away from the board could lead to issues with individuals carrying firearms when they simply wouldn’t before.