An active shooter situation has to be one of the scariest scenarios that anyone can experience, especially students in class who have an expectation of safety.
Unfortunately, students have been subjected to the tragedies of school shootings too many times in this country. However, it is because of these previous school shootings that schools today are getting more prepared for such scenarios.
Some say Roosevelt University is among those schools.
The real concern here is whether or not Roosevelt is up to code on all of these safety procedures.
Director of Campus Safety Maureen Froncek laid out the university’s plan if something should happen.
“Whoever sees the shooter first, you call 9/11,” Froncek said. “Then, if you’re able to, because your safety comes first, you call campus safety, and let them know what’s going on. If you’re able to, you should help others.
Say you have somebody there who needs assistance, by all means if you’re able to offer that person assistance, try to get them to a place of shelter. No one is asking you to jeopardize your own safety, though.”
Froncek said that an Emergency Operations Plan is required and is posted around campus.
“That is a general overall plan to address various types of emergencies,” she explained. “Higher education is required to have this plan by the state of Illinois, which was mandated after we had the shootings at Northern Illinois University.”
The plan is basically a drill that, should a shooter ever enter the building, would be implemented. But is this plan enough? It would help security catch the culprit, sure, but what would happen between the time the culprit enters the building and the time he is apprehended? In these crucial moments, students are most at risk.
In elementary schools and high schools, most students practice lockdown drills, which prepare them for situations such as these. Roosevelt, however, does not practice lockdown drills.
Erendira Hernandez said the lack of drills concerned her.
“I was thinking about that [Tuesday] during the fire drill,” Hernandez said. “I always wondered about why we all prep for fires but never for lockdowns. The instructions are on all our doors, but we never practice any of them except for the fire drills.”
Froncek urged students to be alert and ready, should an active shooter situation arise, and to make sure that they are in a safe place. She also urged students to help each other out, but only if it doesn’t put them at risk, themselves.
However, Hernandez said she was uncertain of what she would do in a situation like this.
“I know we are supposed to lock all the doors and stay quiet, but that’s pretty much all,” she said. “People would think that with events such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, there would be drills, but no. In all of my years at school, no one has ever drilled for an active shooter.”
While the students may not be prepared for something like this, the security staff at the university certainly is. With semi-annual drills to address unexpected events like active shooter situations, the staff is experienced in hypotheticals.
“When we came up with this plan, we did a training session for people in those groups so they were aware of their role in it,” Froncek said. “We try to do continuing education on emergency response with our administrators.”
She said in an emergency situation, staff would call 9-1-1 and issue an emergency notification message to the Roosevelt community. Emergency notifications include text messages, computer messages and emails.
However, this raises a concern. What if someone happens to forget their phone or computer that day and is not in a classroom? The university does have a broadcast system, but once the police arrive, the decision is theirs whether or not to use it.
“When the police arrive, they are in charge,” Froncek said. “I work with the police. They are the decision makers. I work with them to help them with what they need.”
What can be done to prevent people from wanting to harm others in the first place?
Roosevelt and Froncek created a team specifically designed for that. Named the Behavior Assessment Response Team, or BART for short, the team aims to give help to those who really need it, before it’s too late.
“With many of the school shootings, people always say, ‘Oh, I had my suspicions about him,’” Froncek said. “These people didn’t have a place to go to help the person they were concerned about. So through the BART team, if staff and students have concerns that somebody might hurt themselves or other people by things they’re saying or doing, you can bring that person to the attention of the BART group, and we’ll get to it.
“We’d like to be able to intervene with people who turn into active shooters and offer them help before things get out of hand.”
So is Roosevelt prepared? In some aspects, yes, but not in all.
While the staff surely seems well prepared for something like this, the students are most likely not. While the signs and the emergency messages are helpful, can students really be expected to read those during a disaster?
Hernandez and Froncek said that the university is not prepared, each with their own reasons.
Froncek argued that nobody is ever prepared for situations like these.
However, that doesn’t mean that more can’t be done to better ensure people are more conditioned to act for their safety.
From a student’s perspective, Hernandez said she did not think the university, in particular, was prepared for an active shooter.
“I don’t think this building has ever drilled for one,” she said. “We’ve had fire drills at midnight, but no prep for an active shooter.”
So what is the solution? What can better prepare us as a university to be ready for something like this? I think the only answer is practice. We, as students, need to be prepared for an event like this. That is the only way to prevent a true disaster.