UNION — The public is law enforcement’s best weapon in dealing with the possibility and the reality of an active shooter situation a Union Public Safety officer told a group of USC Union students and faculty Wednesday afternoon.
How to respond to an active shooter situation at the USC Union campus was the subject of an “Active Shooter Training” session held Wednesday afternoon in the Truluck Activity Center. Organized by USC Union Health, Safety and Security Director Tony Gregory, the session was designed to provide students and staff with information on how to respond to an active shooter situation on campus.
The session drew a number of students and faculty members who listened as, first, Gregory outlined USC Union’s active shooter protocol. Gregory said the protocol counsels students and faculty who find themselves in an active shooter situation to, first, flee to safety if at all possible. If flight is not possible, Gregory said the protocol directs students and faculty to then seek a safe place to hide until law enforcement arrives on the scene. If hiding is not an option, Gregory said the next step is to try and fight the shooter, but Gregory said this is the last resort given the danger involved.
In addition to Gregory, those attending the session were addressed by Lt. Kevin Powers of the Union Public Safety Department who outlined how law enforcement would respond to an active shooter situation and what those at the scene should do when they arrive. Both Powers and Gregory pointed out one of the most important things people can do is be aware of their surroundings and what’s going on around them. They pointed out that, in the event of an active shooter situation, this can help those who find themselves in the middle of one ascertain the situation and determine if there is a safe means of escape or if not, if there’s a safe place they can hide.
Powers and Gregory also pointed out that being aware of what’s going on around them could enable students and faculty members to notice any strange activity going on and report it to the authorities to enable them to investigate it. This, they said, could possibly help prevent the development of an active shooter situation.
“You are the best weapon law enforcement has,” Powers said. “Your eyes and ears.”
Being aware of their surroundings is also important for a person in an active shooter situation when law enforcement arrives and begins searching the building for the shooter and evacuating the site of those trapped by the shooter.
Powers pointed out that law enforcement will be requiring the cooperation of those inside the building to help them determine if the shooter is still in there and to provide them with a description of the shooter. He said law enforcement will also need the cooperation of those inside the building as they evacuate it to ensure the safety of everyone including students, faculty and law enforcement personnel.
When law enforcement begins the evacuation process, Powers said those being evacuated should do the following:
• Remain calm and follow instructions from law enforcement.
• Drop any items you have in your hands.
• Raise hands and keep them raised until told to lower them by law enforcement.
• Avoid quick movements toward officers.
• Avoid pointing, screaming and yelling.
• Do not ask questions when evacuating.
Powers said that while he understood that this would be difficult given the circumstance, he reminded the students and faculty members in attendance that the “main goal and objective” of law enforcement personnel conducting the evacuation is “the safety of the students, staff members and our own.”
During his address, Powers pointed out that if there ever was an active shooter event at USC Union or any other school “every law enforcement officer within this county, either on-duty or off-duty, will be responding, so law enforcement presence will be overwhelming.”
Powers pointed out that the response time of local law enforcement “is excellent” with officers able to be on the scene within minutes.
When they arrive on the scene, Powers said the first officers would enter the building and take the following steps depending upon what they found:
• If the shooter or shooters are still actively shooting the officers would run directly to where the gunfire is coming from.
• If there is no active shooting, and the officers don’t know the location of the shooter or shooters inside the building, they will conduct an extensive search of the building until the shooter is located and either subdued or eliminated.
Powers said that additional law enforcement personnel would immediately start setting up a perimeter around the building in order to contain the shooter to one area.
Both Powers and Gregory also said that one action those who find themselves in an active shooter situation can take is to call 911 and let the dispatchers know what is going on. Powers said that if a person in such a situation is able to call 911, law enforcement would need them to provide the following information:
• Location of the shooter or shooters.
• Number of shooters.
• Physical description of the shooter or shooters.
• Number and type of weapons being used by the shooter or shooters.
• Number of potential victims at the location.
Powers said that once law enforcement personnel have secured the scene, they would then evacuate the students and faculty who’d taken shelter. He said the important thing to remember up until that point “is to stay hidden and remain in place until given an all clear by identifiable law enforcement officers.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.