Elementary school students in Japan are guided through an active shooter drill. Photo courtesy of Noriko Kudo via U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs.
Following the recent spate of gun-related incidents nationwide, it has become more important than ever for institutions like UMBC to prepare students and staff in the event of an active shooter or violent emergency. As it stands, such efforts appear to be lacking.
Currently, UMBC does not hold any sort of mandatory active shooter training for students or staff; this includes physical drills and other types of simulations. It also appears that there has not been any voluntary training or drill within the past few years, at least for non-emergency personnel.
Information about shooter preparedness in general also seems to be lacking. Online information (mainly on the UMBC Police site) is limited, complicated and hard to find at first glance. There is little to no mention of gun safety in classrooms and the majority of students are left in the dark as to what kind of protocol should be followed if an incident arises.
UMBC does have an official Emergency Response Plan, which details general emergency procedures as well as those for “hostile intruders” (though the term “active shooter” is only mentioned once). In an emergency event, alerts will be given through phone calls, radios, pagers, web messages, emails and phone messages.
Additionally, the document lists valuable advice for situations such as kidnappings and intruders in buildings. However, the details are not well-publicized which can make many people entirely unaware of its content.
Further steps should be taken to increase campus preparation. One possible option is to run an online course on it prior to the start of freshman year. At present, there are short, mandatory online courses for both alcohol abuse prevention (AlcoholEdu) and understanding sexual assault (Haven). Having a similar program on the topic of shooter preparedness would be an effective first step in increasing awareness of proper protocols.
It is also important to make information more accessible to students and staff. The presence of online material should be made more readily available. For comparison, Loyola University Maryland and the University of Maryland, College Park both have web pages dedicated to information about active shooter incidents which UMBC would do well to take note of.
Existing information could be publicized in other ways as well. For instance, course syllabi could include short sections on safety and preparedness. Information could also be pushed through email and myUMBC or promoted through physical flyers and brochures.
Lastly, physical drills are another option. While it may not be feasible to run full-scale shooter drills in a university as large as UMBC, they could perhaps be implemented for students who live on campus in a manner similar to fire drills. At the very least, the campus could run a number of well-publicized, voluntary drills every few months for willing participants.
Shooter preparedness alone will not prevent tragic gun-related incidents from happening, and it is certainly important that this issue is addressed through policies and other venues. However, being aware of the appropriate procedures in such an event can help reduce the severity of such tragedies and raise more awareness of the issue at hand.
Update: Residential Life is partnering with the UMBC Police Department to inform students about active shooter preparation. Pizza with Police was scheduled for April 10 in the Apartment Community Center. There will be a second presentation held on April 17.