In the wake of recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, some members of the SIUE community wonder what can be done to prevent incidents on campus, as well as what the university’s response would be if a mass shooting were to happen here.
Sophomore biology major Claire Farlow, of Lansing, Illinois, said the recent mass shootings, and their frequency, have caused her to be uneasy going into the school year.
“You see it happen so much that you think it’s going to happen to you at some point. I’ve kind of become numb to it honestly,” Farlow said. “I feel like it’s going to happen at some point, [so] I might as well not worry about it. It’s happened to so many people already and they didn’t expect it to happen to them, so you might as well expect it.”
Freshman mechanical engineering major Kyle Richeson, of Waterloo, Illinois, said while there is always a concern in the back of his mind that violent acts could occur on campus, he feels in general.
“I’m not all that concerned,” Richeson said. “With a school this large … it’s a target for people who have those kinds of thoughts and want to commit violent acts, so, in the back of my mind, it’s definitely a concern, but for the most part I do feel safe here and I don’t expect it to happen.”
Campus police undergo
yearly active shooter training
According to Chancellor Randy Pembrook, the university has a response plan in case a mass shooting were to ever occur at SIUE. A large part of the plan is enacted by law enforcement.
For a number of years, SIUE Police has been doing annual department-wide active shooter training. According to SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll, they use a different campus building every year and have role-players act as victims, hostages and shooters. In order to make the training as realistic as possible, airsoft guns are used.
Schmoll said they work with other police departments from surrounding areas on the training, and these multiple-department trainings continue to grow every year. In the event of a real shooting, many other departments would provide assistance.
“If we had [a shooting] out here, we are going to be communicating for assistance, and Edwardsville monitors our radio so they’re going to send officers to help us,” Schmoll said. “Glen Carbon, you name it, they’ll be coming from miles and miles away. All the local police departments — [Madison] County, the sheriff’s departments — they’re going to be here.”
Last year, they brought in the Edwardsville Fire Department to show how to treat victims and how to aid in transporting them to hospitals. According to Schmoll, this is a lesson learned from past mass shootings.
“You’ve seen in some cases — I’m going back to the Aurora shooting, the one out in Colorado with the movie theater — it was taking so long,” Schmoll said. “They had so many victims that officers were putting victims in the back of their swat cars and taking them to the hospital.”
Schmoll said the officers are also equipped with go bags that contain blood-clotting agents, tourniquets and other first responder supplies to assist victims until ambulances arrive.
Before they can begin treating victims, SIUE and aiding police departments must first locate and stop the threat.
“The initial response is to take out the threat; that’s the first thing that we are going to be focusing on,” Schmoll said. “You take out the threat, and then you move on from there.”
Communication on both ends
In an active shooter incident, it may be difficult to contact the police. Schmoll recommends using the Rave Guardian app’s text feature if one is in a situation where they cannot talk to the police.
If an active shooter were to come to campus, Schmoll said the best way to be notified is by e-Lert texts, where information will be released on a limited, need-to-know basis. However, more updates will be provided via email.
“So you’re going to get a text, [and] there’s going to be emergency information. It’s going to be very limited,” Schmoll said. “For instance, it’s going to just say ‘active shooter in Peck Hall, so avoid the area’, or something like that,” Schmoll said. “We get more information out, but we have to push the information out very limited.”
Police offer training to
greater campus community
For the SIUE community, the police teach interested students, faculty and staff possible tactics to employ when faced with an active shooter.
The training is called the 4E program, which stands for educate, evade, escape and engage.
Schmoll said he saw a need to train select officers to be 4E instructors and to offer the class to the campus community after seeing more and more mass shootings in the news. In addition, such training was already being employed in Missouri schools.
“This is something that we use to educate our students, faculty and staff on, because, like I said, these are happening everywhere and in everyday life,” Schmoll said. “So, this is something that I was passionate about; [I use] a number of my officers as instructors, and it’s a service I think that we should provide here at the police department to our university community.”
The program does not instruct participants to take one particular action if faced with a shooter, but rather teaches them ideas for what to do.
Schmoll said in these types of incidents, it is ultimately up to the individual to decide how to best protect themselves and others.
“We give you all these ideas of what you can do, but the decision has to be made by you on what you can do,” Schmoll said. “If you can get away, that’s your first option: evade the whole area. You may not be able to get away, so you either have to lock yourself inside of a door and we’ll teach you how to secure that door, even if there’s no lock in it, using stuff in that room or on your body — a belt or something.”
Schmoll said they usually teach the class in groups, and it usually lasts a few hours. If interested in the 4E training, call the department’s nonemergency number 618-650-3324.
Concerns voiced over lack of awareness of community training
While many see value in classes like this, some raise concerns that the classes are not as well-known as they should be. This includes Farlow, who said she would also like to see a class offered specifically for first aid procedures in case an incident were to occur.
“Even if it’s just one class period or two class periods for one week, they should make that mandatory maybe, and all freshmen have to take that class, like a gen ed maybe, but not the whole semester,” Farlow said.
She also suggested the campus enact training on school violence similar to the Not Anymore program used to educate and prevent sexual assault and relationship violence.
Farlow is not the only one who thinks these classes and the response plans should be more well-known.
Tracy Hancock, a history department secretary and office support specialist, said SIUE should foster more discussions about school violence and make more relevant policies clear to its employees.
“I think it’s something that needs to be gone over for staff and faculty,” Hancock said. “When I went on the web page, it says that they’ve distributed that information. I don’t remember ever seeing it as a staff member, and I’ve been a staff member at the university for almost 12 years. I’ve never gotten anything, but they do training every year for sexual assault, Title IX and all that, which is amazing and great. But I don’t remember ever getting specific information for school violence. Like, what do we do? What should we do? [It’s] not as commonly talked about.”
resources via email
SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook sent out an email Aug. 5, the day after the Dayton, Ohio, shooting, to the SIUE community expressing condolences for those affected by the weekend’s events and the other recent shooting in California.
According to Pembrook, he consulted student groups, faculty, staff, Counseling Services and other groups on campus when drafting the email.
He said the main goals of the email were to show the community where they can go if struggling in the wake of these events and to show SIUE is an environment that does not condone hateful messages.
“I think there is a feeling that when something happens in the world, something that’s not good, that sometimes people don’t quite know what to do with the feelings that they’re having — whether it’s feelings of fear, feelings of anxiety, feelings of helplessness,” Pembrook said. “So, the main thing that we’re trying to do in that is, number one, to make a statement that the things, the situations, the values that lead to that kind of an event — that isn’t reflective of who we are at SIUE.”
The email directed students in need of support to Counseling Services and the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, while faculty and staff were told to contact Director of Counseling Service Courtney Boddie for help identifying local resources.
Prevention efforts include entire campus community
The police meet with the Chancellor and select leaders on campus to discuss their response plans. Pembrook said this conversation has not always been done on a yearly basis, but with the rise in active shooter incidents, he is pushing for these conversations to be more frequent.
“That is something that we haven’t done every year that I’ve been here but is a conversation that we’ve tried to have, and I feel like, given the things that are going on in the world, that it needs to [be] an annual update,” Pembrook said.
Every Tuesday, the police meet with Housing, Counseling Services, Student Affairs, ACCESS and Title IX. Schmoll said they discuss the contents of their police reports and what departments need to work together to solve issues.
Schmoll said this communication helps to prevent potential problems and prevent existing problems from becoming larger.
“We work closely together, so hopefully we never have a dangerous situation,” Schmoll said. “We take care of small problems so we don’t have a big problem.”
Schmoll said after the meetings, appropriate actions may be taken, and sometimes this includes separating students or other individuals from the university.
Boddie recognizes that these meetings will not automatically eliminate all threats, but said working as a team helps to prevent and respond to violent incidents to the best of their abilities.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s within the ability of any department or even person to completely prevent some things from happening,” Boddie said. “Together, we can be thought of as a team that will do what’s necessary to reduce the likelihood that something like this would happen, and in the event that it did, would respond to the best of our abilities.”
Boddie also said even if one does not directly witness a traumatic event such as a mass shooting, they may still develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Because all counselors in Counseling Services are taught using a generalist approach, Boddie is confident any Counseling Services’ counselor would be well-suited to help a student struggling with stressors relating to these events.
“Here at Counseling Services we take the generalist approach, which means that everyone is trained to work with a broad variety of presenting issues, up to post-traumatic stress that we’re discussing,” Boddie said. “So, I feel confident that it wouldn’t matter who a person was assigned to. That counselor would be competent at using trauma-informed practices and helping really to soothe the physiology because, what essentially happens is that trauma is an event that can eventually lead to post-traumatic stress.”
According to Boddie, statistically if 100 people are exposed to a potentially trauma-inducing event, about 20 will experience post-traumatic stress after the fact.
While preventing campus violence is a cumulative effort by many departments on campus, Schmoll said students also play a large role in preventing such incidents from occurring by reporting suspicious behavior to the police.
“A lot of these times people who are associated with these [mass shooters] come out and say ‘Oh yeah, they were exhibiting these signs and he was saying things about harming people or animals,’ or something along those lines. They kind of wish they would’ve said something to law enforcement, but people aren’t so inclined to come forward and provide that information,” Schmoll said. “I think a lot of these could have been avoided if people just came forward and said something, and the police could have investigated it and maybe stopped one of these mass shootings from happening.”
Students, faculty and staff can call the SIUE Police’s nonemergency number, 618-650-3324, to report suspicious behavior that’s not a threat. To sign up for e-Lerts, visit https://www.siue.edu/emergency/elert.shtml. More information on the Rave Guardian app can be found under the Campus Safety and Security page on SIUE’s website.