Officers came into the cafeteria to conduct a sweep and circled the room an hour or so later. I don’t remember ever feeling like I was really in danger. Eventually the lockdown ended and we were all released. We learned from news outlets and our university that a former student, frustrated with the difficulty in getting his transcripts transferred, had threatened to use firearms and explosives in order to hurry the process along.
Every time another shooting occurs, I get this feeling: all my abdominal muscles clench and the back of my throat feels thick, as if my airways have become much smaller than they should be.
People are dead.
The closest thing I’ve experienced to a school shooting was when my own university went on lockdown. I remember sitting in the cafeteria and suddenly one of the staff members came out and informed all the students that we were not allowed to leave the room and that we should stay away from all windows. There wasn’t a lot of communication and we didn’t know what was going on.
We stayed put and tried to figure things out using social media and by searching the Web. The cafeteria windows overlooked half of the campus. This allowed us to watch as police cars arrived, full of officers wearing protective gear. Then we were promptly told to get away from the windows.
When the young man was apprehended later, he explained that his words spoken in frustration were more of a joke and not an actual threat; he had no intention of harming the university or anyone at it. It was also later discovered that the former student had not been on campus grounds at any point either. Students on campus considered the incident a joke. Many started using the word “lockdown” to infer over-reacting to a situation.
“Late for class? Go into lockdown.”
“Out of milk? Go into lockdown.”
“Missed curfew? Go into lockdown.”
But I was not laughing because the very next day after the incident on my campus, another school went into lockdown for a school shooting that took a student’s life.
One student died.
Preparation Can Prevent LossLast Thursday, another school campus went into lockdown because of an active shooter emergency where nine students and faculty members were killed and approximately 10 more were injured (at the time this article was written).
According to Everytown.org, a movement to end gun violence and build safer communities, there have been 45 school shootings in 2015, including the shooting at Umpqua Community College. That’s more than one shooting a week for one school year.
When faced with numbers and tragedies like these, it’s easy to feel helpless and that there is nothing we can do. The damage is already done. But there is something schools, churches, and facilities can do to protect and prevent the loss of life in an emergency situation: create an emergency plan.
My university was prepared for an emergency situation with a plan that went into effect as soon as the threats were reported. But how many schools, churches and organizations are not prepared to respond to an emergency situation?
No one can prevent emergencies from happening, but creating and practicing an emergency plan helps minimize the amount of loss when an emergency takes place. The power of an emergency plan is that it is customized to fit the needs of your organization or ministry. It should ensure not only staff, but also students and members are educated and trained on how to follow the plan in the event of an emergency. Because of the rise in active shooter incidents on church grounds and school campuses, organizations should consider conducting active shooter drills as often as fire and tornado drills. It is vital that your emergency plan include a section on responding to acts of violence.
Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) has several resources and links to help schools, houses of worship, and organizations customize their own emergency plan. Find these and other risk management resources here.
Let’s work together to become well-prepared for any emergency situation and prevent as much loss as possible.