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Communication is key amid mass shootings nationwide


Staff Writer

Following the Umpqua Community College mass shooting in Oregon on Oct. 1, caution has risen for many college campuses regarding their own security.

The gunman, a student of Umpqua Community College, entered a classroom with a bulletproof vest and a handgun, according to CNN News.

“He asked [the students], ‘Are you Christian? Do you believe in God?'” Tracy Heu, a survivor of the shooting, told CNN. “And then they said yes and he said, ‘Good, I’ll send you to God. You’ll be visiting God pretty soon,’ and he shoots them.”

In total, 10 people were killed, including the shooter, and seven were injured. A mass shooting is considered thus when three or more people are killed.

“According to the FBI, the number of ‘active shooter’ incidents rose in frequency between 2000 and 2013,” Jessica Lussenhop of BBC News. “It reported that there were an average of 16.4 active shooter events each year between 2007 to 2013, compared to an average of 6.4 incidents from 2000 to 2006.”

So far, the number of mass shootings has exceeded the number of days in 2015, Lussenhop said.

“SUPD is on a steady level of alert at all times,” Lt. Brian Waller of Salisbury University Police Department said. “The reality is that in the world we live in, the potential is always there. There is nothing special about SU that would make us more or less at risk for a mass shooting. It’s the same amount of risk yesterday and there will be the same amount tomorrow.”

In the event of an active shooter, however, SUPD is prepared.

The police department has partnered with Maryland State Police and FBI to go through “realistic high intensity training.”

The former campus establishment, Caruther’s Hall, was used as an “active shooter” course complete with wax bullets. Many officers underwent a 40 hour training to be able to identify signs of mental health, deescalate and communicate.

Ever since the 1999 Columbine incident, protocol has been about the same: officers show up, surround the building, and communicate with the shooter as if it’s a hostage situation. The game plan only changes when the gunman has no intentions of going home, Lt. Waller said.

The reality is, most of these mass shootings can be prevented.

“These aren’t outsiders or strangers (who) are committing the crime,” Waller said. “While often times, victims are targeted at random, the location isn’t random.”

Community-based policing has become a big part of law enforcement success.

In order to avoid the turmoil caused by mass acts of violence, Waller said that everyone encouraged to speak up and remain in good communication.

“Most of the time, others have idea that [the shooting] was going to happen other than the shooter,” Waller said.

He also says these shootings come from the atypical behavior “when a person is mad when everyone is laughing, or laughing when everyone is mad,” alerting comments, or suggestion of harm to self or others.

Campus safety takes “a village.” In order to avoid risk, pay attention. Police would like to be involved before anyone gets hurt. They aim to identify behaviors that are harmful to self or others.

Statistically, the time in between the first and last shot is seven minutes. This includes the time to notify the officers, travel time and engaging with the shooter.

“Folks have to speak up when there’s a problem,” Lt. Waller said. He says students should pay attention, and if anyone seems suspicious, community members are encouraged to alert the University Police by phone or anonymously through the website or contact Student Affairs Office.

Since mass shootings have been more frequent, the White House has pushed more for mass shooting response. Unlike the natural response to “lockdown” when an active shooter is on the loose, campus buildings are not meant to keep people in or out.

The Department of Homeland Security is standing firm in the “Run, Hide, Fight” response, Lt. Waller said.

Though under criticism, presidential candidate Ben Carson was on to something, Lt. Waller said; “What’s he saying is in aligned with Department of Homeland Security to stay safe. If there is a shooter in the building and you can get out, get out. If it’s a last resort, throw what you can.”

In the case of the Umpqua shooting, many people tried to play dead. However, the gunman began shooting them on the ground anyway. Waller says If everyone had fled the scene, it would be harder for the shooter to make contact with so many. When everyone is in a corner, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel” making it easier to wound or kill a larger amount of people.

“He’s only one person. We just got to do something about it or we’re all just going to die,” Heu said to another survivor in midst of the shooting.

Like many colleges, SU has increased their means of communication to keep faculty, staff and students safe. SUPD can take over campus computer screens to send emergency messages and implement mass texts and emails to let students know about their surroundings.

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