Emergency responders train during an active shooter drill at Missouri State University. Credit: David Hall
The threat of an active shooter attack weighs heavily on college and university emergency managers these days—more so than even fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and crowd control at sporting events, many say. “Even though there is so much planning in place, it’s that unknown human element that is so hard to control,” Alan Sactor, fire marshal at the University of Maryland and assistant director for the university’s Office of Emergency Management, told NFPA Journal. “In my job, the concerns are whether we got people prepared, and how well we handle an event.”
“The New Normal” the cover story of the September/October issue of NFPA Journal looks into how preparedness for shooting incidents has become a central focus over the years on university campuses—a trend that has accelerated as of late. Colleges and universities have invested heavily in technology, training, planning, and outreach campaigns. At some schools, incoming freshman are even now being taught at orientation what to do if a person opens fire in a residence hall. A new standard, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, is starting to gain traction at some schools where it is being used to bolster existing emergency plans.
The watershed moment most point to was April 16, 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech University killed 32 people with two semi-automatic pistols, at the time the deadliest mass shooting committed by a lone gunman in U.S. history. Since then, the violence has continued. According to a recent study by Collegiate Times, there have been 172 shootings on college campuses since Virginia Tech (defined as one or more people being shot at a two- or four-year college or university), resulting in 122 deaths and 198 injuries.
To learn much more about how this threat has evolved, why protecting campuses is such a daunting task, and the new innovations and tactics being used, read “The New Normal” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal.