On April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School shooting changed the entire perception police had about active shooting training. Prior to Columbine, police were trained to surround the perimeter and wait for backup. Now police immediately go into a building as fast as they can, back-up or no back-up, armed or unarmed.
At the second meeting of the Citizen’s Police Academy, Sgt. Michael Flanagan and Officer Paul Hanrahan talked about an active shooter response. Today we live in a post-Columbine world, one of which is an all new response to an active shooter presence. The traditional view was to hide under a desk, but today it is based off of a new three-step system.
The first step is to avoid. This involves being aware of your surroundings. If you hear something suspicious, respond and do not assume it is something else. If there is an active shooter presence, use cover and concealment to get to the nearest accessible exit and escape. If you cannot get out, the next step is called Deny. Deny access to your area, this includes locking and/or barricading a door, turning off all lights, silencing cell phones and staying out of sight. If you cannot deny access or if locking the door does not work, the third step is Defend. Defend means to act if the attacker is close enough. This includes being aggressive and fighting dirty. Use any objects near you in a creative way to defend yourself.
In April 2013, there was a report of a gunman in Chafee Hall.
“The first URI police officer was [at Chafee] in one minute,” Officer Hanrahan said , “the second officer was there in a minute and a half. Within 90 seconds there were two police officers on the scene.” Officer Hanrahan’s view of the three-step system is not to save you long term. The goal of the three steps is to, “buy you seconds. If you barricade your door and you don’t think it’ll last, what you’re trying to do is just buy seconds.”
The URI Police Department is preparing itself in case an active shooter presence should ever be one on campus. The first step to this was the controversial decision to arm the police officers. The goal of having armed police officers is to hopefully save even more seconds in response time so that more lives can be saved. The next is extensive training; specifically both Sgt. Flanagan and Officer Hanrahan were trained in Georgia by a Homeland Security training system. The goal is to be well prepared for any attack. The last step is to utilize communication and security systems.
Through uses like the URI Emergency Alert System, emails, online trainings and Citizen’s Academy, students can also be well prepared for any active shooting threat.