In spring 2015, the department of Public Safety teamed up with Human Resources to conduct active-shooter safety training for all faculty and staff.
The Oct. 9 shooting at Northern Arizona University, which resulted in one death, was the 47tth shooting this year, according to ABC News. On Oct. 1, nine people were killed and 20 were injured during a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.
“It’s just smart to make sure people are aware that there are things they can do if things like (an active shooter event) happen,” David Ross, director of Human Resources, said.
The safety training included a six-minute video titled “Run, Hide, Fight: Surviving an Active Shooter Event,” which was funded by the Department of Homeland Security and produced by Ready Houston, a Houston, Texas, program that produces emergency preparedness material. The video explains three options for an individual to take when found in an active shooter situation: run, hide or fight.
Each resident assistant (RA) watched the video during RA training in August. Junior RA Truett Keener said the video taught the viewers to act more effectively in a situation of shock.
“I think it’s beneficial for RAs and campus leaders to have awareness of the dangers and of the potential risks that come with having such a large body of students,” Keener said. “I think the key point is having a general awareness of the risks and what to do.”
Craig Russell, Director of Public Safety, said the university agreed to have armed officers on campus after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. Every full-time officer is equipped with a hand gun and two officers attend chapel daily to assure a safe worship environment.
“We want to make sure chapel is a safe environment for students to come together and worship and communicate with each other,” Russell said. “(Students) don’t have to worry about safety in that environment.”
Russell said Public Safety officers train regularly by going to shooting ranges and performing monthly drills. He said the officers take time to learn the layout of each building and use guns that shoot paint pellets to simulate active-shooter scenarios.
“We want to do everything in advance to prepare and deter (an active-shooter event) from happening,” Russell said. “Our priority is getting to that person who is the threat as quickly as possible, then managing and dealing with that threat as quickly as possible so that other people don’t get hurt.”
According to a 2014 FBI report, 160 active-shooter events occurred from 2000-2013, 70 percent of which occurred in business or educational settings. The first seven years of the study stated an average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually. In the later half, the average increased to 16.4.
Russell said he has worked at Harding for 26 years and never witnessed an armed gunman on campus. He said the biggest crime is theft of bicycles and materials left in unlocked dorms.
The 2015 Harding annual security report lists zero illegal weapon violations and murders from 2012-2014 but reported a total of 37 on-campus burglaries. Russell said curfew and prohibition of drugs and alcohol “give an enormous advantage” for safety on campus.
“We have a lot of things in our favor because we are a Christian university, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen here,” Russell said. “We are going to do our best to make sure we are doing everything possible to make it safe here.”
According to the Washington Post, the shooter at Umpqua Community College specifically targeted Christians. Russell said having a common faith offers benefits for a safe campus.
“We’re a pretty close-knit community,” Russell said. “We know each other, we care about each other and we take care of each other. I think that gives us an advantage over many other schools that are much less connected.”