The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — which left 17 dead and 14 injured — has schools all over the country reconsidering their protocols for active shooter situations. Officials at VCU say they have a plan in place for if anything similar happens here.
In 2016 and 2017, the VCU Police Department hosted active shooter training exercises with local, state and federal law enforcement partners to practice coordinated responses to university buildings, according to police spokesperson Corey Byers. VCU officers also take ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training).
Pete Blair, executive director of ALERRT, said they provide training for officers to protect colleges around the country in the event of a mass shooting.
“We also train officers in how to instruct civilians to react if that situation is to occur,” Blair said. “As time goes by, we review action reports to see what lessons we can learn and how we can prepare in the event of another mass shooting.”
According to Blair, ALERRT follows the “Avoid, Deny and Defend” method in the event of a mass shootings.
“You want to have different options for different scenarios,” Blair said. “The preferred method is to avoid the situation at all costs, but if it comes down to it, denying entry into where you are is the next best solution. The most unwanted, but final option, is to defend yourself against the attacker.”
Campus police also offers safety assessments of work and classroom spaces at the request of faculty and staff members.
“These assessments are a proactive way in which police can work with concerned staff members to help keep their buildings safer,” Byers said. “In addition, VCU Police officers will review ‘Run. Hide. Fight’ active shooter protective training to any group of students, faculty or staff members who request it.”
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, VCU was one of the first schools in the country to use the LiveSafe app, allowing students to send information directly to emergency officials. The university also created new processes for declaring an emergency lockdown to save time.
“We always encourage individuals on both campuses to sign up for text message alerts, so that they can receive directions from police on how to keep themselves safe in any incident that’s an active, ongoing threat to the community,” Byers said.
VCU has a weapons ban on campus by anyone other than individuals authorized by the university. The university also has laws, regulations and preparedness plans in place for any hazardous situation that could take place on campus. The administration releases an annual “Campus Safety Report,” detailing the events that occured on campus in the last year, and any changes to plans or regulations to curb crime.
If an emergency occurs on campus, the emergency sirens on campus will be activated, alerting everyone to seek shelter inside. The emergency message service will also send an alert to anyone registered, updating the messages as the situation continues.
The school urges anyone who notices something out of the ordinary to report it to campus police immediately by phone at (804)828-1234, online at police.vcu.edu, or through the LiveSafe app available for mobile devices.
Logan Reardon, Contributing Writer