Active shooter incidents have been rising in frequency for the past 15 years, according to a recent FBI report, culminating in 23 college campus shootings in 2015.
However, the Associated Press found that active shooter training remains inconsistent in college campuses. In the aftermath of the June murder-suicide on UCLA’s campus, Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Austin Dunn is working on implementing active shooter training for students at USC.
Dunn hopes to create an interactive online program that all incoming freshmen would undergo, similar to AlcoholEDU. The move comes in response to conversations Dunn had with UCLA students following the campus shooting that left a professor dead.
“There were even students who kept their composure who were at a loss for what to do,” Dunn said. “It might seem like common sense, but in times of crisis, sometimes you lose that. I think with something like this, this allows us to provide students with at least an idea of options for what to do.”
The current Safety Training page of the DPS website consists of a video titled “Run. Hide. Fight.” The video, by the Ready Houston program, simulates an active shooter event, featuring graphic imagery of people screaming and being gunned down.
“It’s very in-your-face and abrasive,” Dunn said of the video. “I can’t use this particular company, because that’s super triggering, and we have to think of students’ mental health.”
The video cautions people to prepare a plan in case of an active shooter, to escape if possible, hide if evacuation is not possible and confront the shooter only as a last resort.
“The latter half of that video is actually super educational and helps you put in perspective the options you have in a situation like that, so it’s something that students don’t naturally think about on their own, and it’s something we want to put in their minds,” Dunn said.
In order to instill these principles in students, however, Dunn said he recognizes that any training must be sensitive to students’ mental health.
“Although I think that is effective in some ways, I did realize that I have to take in consideration, as brutal as this may seem, there are students on our campus that are already at risk, and we don’t want this training simultaneously serving in a way that it might be putting the idea of becoming an active shooter in some students’ heads,” Dunn said. “When there’s 19,000 students, I’m unaware of where everybody is at mentally.”
As of now, additional training provided by DPS beyond the video is focused on faculty and staff. In the hour-long presentation, DPS officers go over various safety apps and discuss previous violent situations that have occurred on campus. No further training is available for students, but DPS is working on reformatting that training to be accessible to students through Trojans Alert.
“As the UCLA shooting came up, and then the Orlando shooting came up, there was more of an uptick of requests for this training,” DPS Training Coordinator Sgt. Pablo Ayala said. “In regards to the administration, I know they’re open, and they want the student body to be safe. That’s their priority, and that’s been expressed to me on several occasions. President Nikias is a real proponent of safety, and whatever he can do to keep this campus safe, he’s going to do.”
Dunn and Ayala have discussed the issue together from various angles, including student safety, mental health and student need, to identify potential obstacles to implementation.
Dunn plans to receive feedback from student leaders when he introduces the resolution for active shooter training at next week’s USG Senate meeting.