By Jessica Landman and Aleksandra Sidorova
University Police conducted active shooter exercises for its officers in late August, as well as training for various groups of staff throughout the summer. This week, UP trained SUNY Plattsburgh faculty by offering active shooter training presentations Tuesday, Sept. 20, and Friday, Sept. 23.
According to UP Chief Patrick Rascoe and an email Provost Anne Herzog sent to faculty, the training consisted of situational awareness, space and threat assessment, run/hide/fight response and emergency casualty care.
“It’s basic stuff. It’s run, hide and fight, but it’s also being aware of your surroundings and assessing your space for what you would do in the event of an active shooter,” Rascoe said. “If it ever did happen here, in this office, what could I do to protect myself?”
If found in a situation where an active shooter is a threat, the first step is to determine if there is a safe escape route. It is advised that whoever may be involved in the situation leave their belongings, keep their hands visible, help others escape and call UP or 911 when the threat has been evaded.
In the event that running is not possible or not the safest option, faculty are told to hide. The best places to do so are behind a locked door and out of view from the shooter. In this event, it is the safest practice to silence all devices and remain as quiet as possible.
The last resort in this situation would be to fight or disrupt the shooter. The faculty have been advised that this course of action should be taken only if running and hiding are no longer options and life is in imminent danger. In this situation, the best option would be to incapacitate the shooter. The best course of action would be to use large objects around you as a weapon and fight with aggression because it could save lives.
Important information for authorities to know when reporting an active shooter threat is the location of the shooting, the number of shooters, number of potential victims and types of weapons the shooter may have. When authorities arrive on scene, it is important for all those involved to stay calm, make slow movements towards officers, keep hands visible and follow all the instructions given. It is also instructed never to leave the area until instructed to do so as the authorities may have questions regarding the incident.
Rascoe said it is important for faculty to complete this training to know how to help students in a classroom in the event of an active shooter. The training used to be offered in the past, but not during the pandemic.
Rascoe said he would like to give students active shooter training as well, but noted it would be difficult to train students in-person. He said he was considering offering the training as an online module.
“It’s hard to give in-person training to 4,000 students, so I’m actually contemplating what the modality would be,” Rascoe said. “I would guess that it’s going to be an online module that students would be able to watch — doesn’t need to be in-person.”
Rascoe said the training was a “necessary evil” for facing the issue of shootings.
“I think they are very important. I really feel that this process or procedure or even the way you go about thinking of what an active shooter situation is, can be applied to wherever you go and whatever incident,” said Michael Caraballo, SUNY Plattsburgh’s emergency management director.
An active shooter threat and other emergencies such as fires are not vastly different in their procedures. Caraballo said that in any situation, even just entering a building for work or shopping, knowing your surroundings is important. He advised to always look for an exit whenever entering a building just in case of emergency.
“I think that being prepared is part of the equation,” Rascoe said. “Prevention is the absolute number one piece of the puzzle that I’m focused on, but that is a piece of the solution — in the slim, slim chance it happens, knowing what to do.”
Focusing on prevention, Rascoe said he has been meeting with a team consisting of FBI agents, City and State Police officers, the sheriff and mental health service providers every other Wednesday since fall 2019 for “imminent risk assessment.” At the meetings the team discusses “concerning behaviors” and learns the warning signs of likely offenders.
Rascoe also said he wanted to bring back other forms of safety training, such as fire safety, crosswalk safety and rape aggression training. However, so much time has passed since the last rape aggression training that the officers giving it may need to renew their certifications.
Although it is unlikely that the SUNY Plattsburgh community faces a threat such as an active shooter, it is important to always be prepared. More information about other kinds of emergencies can be found on the Plattsburgh website under campus emergency procedures.