The University of Illinois Springfield trained students and staff on how to respond in an active shooter situation at an hour-long training session this month.
During the session, UIS police showed a video by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety that demonstrated the many responses to an active shooter situation on campus.
While colleges are all about learning, it’s a sign of the times that this subject is being taught.
"It's increasing all the time," said UIS Police Captain Brad Strickler. "You hear of all the active shooters and school shootings and workplace violence ... so we want to train everybody here on campus what to do, how to prepare for these things."
Later in the semester, the university plans to have its first active shooter drill with no advanced warning. Police say real life shooter situations can happen any day, any time – and students and staff should remain vigilant.
UIS graduate student Rebekah Lange attended the training. The session was held as news broke that a shooting at Central Michigan University left two people dead. Lange was inspired by recent events, including the shooting at Central Michigan, to learn more.
"It makes you feel a lot more vulnerable," she said. "Nobody woke up this morning thinking that was going to happen. We just had Parkland down in Florida happen, so you had one incident happen, what, like two, three weeks ago, one this morning, and it just really makes it real."
The video shown at the training demonstrates various ways to maneuver when in an active shooter situation. According to the video, the important question to ask is “What if?” and to always keep in mind how to survive a shooter situation, both on campus and off.
Once there is knowledge of the shooting event, there are three options to respond: get out, hide, or prepare to fight the shooter. The video recommends trusting your gut instinct.
UIS alerts students and staff of emergencies with alarms throughout campus, announcements over speakers, text messages, emails and through campus landlines.
Students and staff can use the online reporting system to offer tips on the whereabouts of a shooter rather than having to call, which could create noise that attracts the shooter. UIS police advise to remain in a safe location until authorities have control over the situation, even if the shooter’s location is known.
During the training, attendees raised questions about the safety of buildings on campus. Since the buildings were constructed at different times, classrooms have different locking mechanisms, and some unable to lock at all. Police recommend, whether the classroom has locks or not, to barricade the door with everything possible.
Michelle Miller, a professor in the UIS psychology department, feels better prepared having attended the training.
“I care very deeply about my students’ safety, and I very much know that myself and my students need to be prepared,” Miller said. “Hopefully we won’t need this information, but the reality is that we very well might. And I’d rather have students be prepared than just afraid and not able to get through a situation like this.”
While public mass shootings account for a small fraction of gun deaths in the U.S. overall, there have been over 30 active shooter situations across the nation so far this year.
UIS students and staff can access additional resources, including the training video, on the UIS Police Department website by logging in with their university username and password.