Utah State University held an active shooter training Wednesday to prepare emergency crews, coordinate, compare notes, and plan for what they hope will never happen in their campus community.
On the same day students on the Logan campus were alerted to an active shooting during the simulation, students at South Carolina State University received a campus-wide alert telling them to 'shelter in place.’ Police in Orangeburg County South Carolina were responding to an actual campus shooting.
An increase in the number of campus shootings nationwide is one of the reasons Captain Kent Harris and his USU Police Department crew helped organize the multi-agency training.
“So, we want to work out the bugs, in case something does happen, that we know what each other is doing and what our responsibilities are,” Harris said. “The overall goal is to save lives.”
Logan City and Cache County emergency response crews joined Harris and his staff for what was a four-hour training at an abandoned residential high-rise. Valley View Tower is scheduled for demolition in January. On this day the centrally located student housing facility was surrounded by medical vehicles and blocked by orange safety cones and crime scene tape.
Students and university staff were told days before the training to prepare for a Code Blue System Alert test to be sent out at 9:00 a.m. that morning. Telephone and email notices warned the campus community about an active shooter while the emergency communication system was used by dispatchers to describe the suspect in detail.
“We were simulating that the shooter was moving up the floors, which created a war zone,” Harris said.
This set-up allowed crews to locate and care for mannequins placed throughout the building. On the third floor, doors were opened by foot or a shoulder push. This move keeps officers safe as they point weapons first before entering bathrooms, student apartments, and open kitchen areas.
“When something like this happens, an active shooter, officers and medical personnel are going to be here,” he adds. “We are going to have a lot of people. Working with each agency is paramount in being successful.”
Yelling the all-clear signal, the group of rescue team members clumps together before approaching bathroom stalls. There they find a mannequin with a note taped to the front. The information typed on the dummy’s chest outlines the age, gender, and injury.
“In real life, we would have a victim, they would be calling out,” he said.
The only sounds heard now are those of the officers reporting back to medical crews. To better prepare the rescue team who will treat the victims next, the crew simply shouts out the somber facts stating the location of the injured and whether or not they are dead or living.
In the outside courtyard notes are taken, supplies gathered, and crews assembled as medical personnel prepares to play their part in the mock shooting. Standing nearby is USU student Katelyn Rindlisbaker, shaking her head as she considers situations where campus shootings have happened.
“Sadly, today it is a very real possibility,” she said. “So it’s nice to see that they are running these exercises and doing what they can to prepare and keep students safe on campus.”
After reviewing a list of what was learned during the first run of the exercise, some of the officers and medical technicians reacted by placing hands on hips and lowering their heads. Two of the injured victims were still missing. During the second go-around of the active shooter training, they vow to try harder to avoid making the same mistakes.
To better prepare for and become informed about an emergency situation at USU, campus emergency management officials are encouraging student and staff to sign up for the Code Blue Alert.